The 13th Annual Stars Among Us Scholarship Gala, benefitting the Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, was filled with surprises. Celebrity journalists walked the runway at the Westin Galleria hotel Sunday in outfits expertly tailored by immigrant refugees at the Alliance Center Tailoring Services, with the help of fashion designer Simran Rihal.
"My focus is to contribute to the local community by producing here in Houston and I am really overjoyed to see such tailoring talent right here in Houston," Rihal said.
The models included Channel 13 reporter Miya Shay in a flowing bejeweled gown, Channel 2 producer Amber N. Wills, delighted to be wearing a sari for the first time, meteorologist Ayna Sehgal in a colorful dress made from a sari, Huffington Post writer and cupcake queen Reyne Hirsch in a fitted hot pink dress, Channel 13 reporter Sonia Azad in a purple and gold bolero and CultureMap editor-in-chief Clifford Pugh, wearing a bow tie of the same fabric as Azad's bolero. (I also participated, wearing a lovely copper-colored gown.)
Bellaire city council member Corbett Parker emceeded the fashion show and engaged each model in a conversation about the Alliance's many services, which range from teaching new immigrants how to drive to tilling community gardens.
The gala also honored immigrants who have made significant contributions to Houston. Litho Printing Co. founder Abey Girma, Amy Food Inc. owners Phyllis and Victor Hsu, and Mandy Kao, vice president of Titan Management, each praised the city as the land of opportunity.
Among those applauding the honorees were State Rep. Scott Hochberg, Houston city council member Ed Gonzalez and his wife Melissa, legendary tennis coach John Wilkerson, Sugar Land Mayor Pro-Tem Jacquie Chaumette, Alliance board of directors chair Sue Davis, Yu Ru Huang, Chau Nguyen, Donna Cole, University of Houston-Downtown president William Flores, Patrick Leung, Tsige Amare, Kheang Ven, Alweena Cooper and Kristian Carr.
Ingoma Planet, a group of master drummers from Burundi, also delighted the audience with a high-energy performance.
The Alliance promotes the well-being of refugees, immigrants and low-income residents of Harris County in order to provide a better quality of life by making them self-sufficient. Proceeds from the gala are used to fund scholarships for refugees.
Ruchi Mukherjee is a lifestyle feature journalist for TV Asia and host of Lights Camera Action, an online magazine that covers Houston Indo-American society news.