Sold-out fashion competition raises over $20,000 for human trafficking charities in Michigan.
By Erika Repasky
Photography by Paetrah Collins
Human trafficking is a global, multi-billion-dollar industry — and it’s also a major problem in Michigan. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline website, in 2019 Michigan ranked #7 in the United States with 172 reported cases of human trafficking.
Metro Detroit salons are trying to change those statistics.
In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness month, on January 25th several local salons joined with women’s group Soroptimist International of Trenton Area and Pontiac nonprofit Hope Against Trafficking for a hair-and-fashion runway competition. The show, called Battle for Freedom, raised more than $20,000 for local human trafficking charities.
Held at The Prestige Hall in Allen Park, the event packed a full house of nearly 400 attendees. Guests enjoyed appetizers, drinks, basket raffles, and a pre-show that included keynote speaker Janna Snyder from Hope Against Trafficking as well as performances from Trenton School of Dance.
Salons created avant-garde looks to represent this year’s theme: Detroit Style. The main event unfolded with a runway show of hair, makeup and fashion designs created by local businesses including Daybreak Salon and Spa, Instinct Salon, Stylezz Ink, Aubrey Beauty Salon, Glammed Up Inc., Sterling Hair Co., and Volume. Models were styled from head to toe with artistic representations of “Detroit Style,” including Eastern Market Flower Day, The Detroit Zoo, Movement Electronic Music Festival, and more. Each salon’s team brought eclectic talent and a keen eye for detail, with everything from flashy neon ensembles adorned with sparkling lights to dresses constructed from newspapers.
Aubrey Beauty Salon of Riverview took first place, raising the most money from audience cash votes. Its creations, titled “Places To Be In The D,” exhibited looks that highlighted some of Downtown Detroit’s greatest attractions including Corktown, The Heidelberg Project, Mexicantown, Hart Plaza, and Greektown. “These are all places that we actually love to visit,” said the salon’s owner, Sarah Gardner, about the inspiration behind the looks.
This year’s Battle for Freedom marked Gardner’s third time participating in the show, and she plans to continue pursuing the fight against human trafficking here in Michigan. “It’s just great to see the community come together,” she said. “Events like this one are why I love what I do. I get to use my profession to change lives and give back.”
The women from Soroptimist International of Trenton Area are no strangers to promoting public awareness of human trafficking in Michigan. The bi-annual Battle for Freedom is one of the biggest fundraisers the organization holds to support women and girls in the community. A portion of the proceeds from this year’s competition will be donated to Hope Against Trafficking, a rehabilitation program for human trafficking survivors.
“It costs about $20,000 annually to bring a survivor into our two-year residential restorative program,” said Snyder. “This includes housing, medical, dental, and legal coverage, trauma-centered therapy, spiritual and educational support, and life skills training to assist with job placement. Residents receive matching funds upon graduation, housing assistance, and a lifelong sisterhood to stay connected. The funds raised during Battle for Freedom will play a tremendous role in changing the future for human trafficking survivors.”
Given its success, it appears as though Battle for Freedom will be an ongoing event. Abby Premoe, president-elect for Trenton Area Soroptimist, has a lot of ideas for the future, like turning the show into a black-tie event and getting beauty schools involved. “It would be great to see the same type of show done in other cities with the same idea, concept, and cause,” she said. “So that events like this can continue to bring awareness in as many places as possible.”
For more information about how you can get involved in the fight against human trafficking with Soroptimist of Trenton and/or Hope Against Trafficking, visit the Battle for Freedom Facebook page.