BE-Style: So tell me how you got your start in the industry?
RL: Well as you know, I was a young mother in Morehead City, NC. I had a beautiful daughter and created a way to be self reliant. So I took my training as a dancer and open a ballet school there, which I ran for ten years. I was also fashion model and work a lot for Belk department stores in North Carolina. The company would of ten have in-store promotions and weekend events, where I was asked to model and later to coordinate the events. In working with Belk stores, I was asked travel to Greenville and other areas as event coordinator. I figure that I had decent taste and I could handle it. So I did. The industry grew on me and my interest rapidly grew. By this time, I figured that it was time for me to leave NC. I mean, I loved the laid back beach lifestyle but Tiffany was getting older and I wanted her to experience more culture. I thought to myself, well I really don’t want to move to Macon even though my parents are there, so I moved us to Atlanta. Once being here, I modeled for ten years throughout the country.
BE-Style: You mentioned your modeling, what agency were you represented by?
RL: I was with Elite, formally with The Talent Shop, and Ford Models out of L.A. I had great representation and I worked all the time. I was able to travel all over and was happy doing it. But as I got older, I realized that I would not be able to work forever. The industry just doesn’t allow it. So I always, I began to plan for my future. I literally started CatWalk Productions during that ten year span. Cassandra Wilson (who is now with Macy’s) and I started the company about 20 years ago. We had a request from Cumberland Mall to do and event for them. So we thought, let’s form a business and provide these services. It has been none stop since then.
BE-Style: So would you say that the creation of CatWalk Productions and your success was a natural progression?
RL: Yes definitely, all of it was natural for me, from the ballet – to the runway – to coordinating. I think that one good thing for me was as a former model, I know that it is impossible to do anything without. I know what it is like to be one of them. And sometimes feel like models do not get their dues. They are sometimes treated unfairly and are expected to work under strenuous condition.
BE-Style: Is it safe to assume that your work experience with Elite helped to foster the relationship you currently have with the agency?
RL: Yes I believe so, I do like to shop other agencies but mostly use Elite and Click. I haven’t found many other agencies here in Atlanta that have the caliber of models I like to use in respect to the talents and grooming of the models. There may very well be beautiful model here but there is also a missing link. The models are bot ttaught the simple elements of being a great model. For instance, you are to show up at a show or shoot with a shoe bag, full of different types/colors of clean shoes just in case.
BE-Style: Of course, I remember meeting you when I worked at Bloomingdales, as I assisted you with “pulling” for a shoot and we immediately had this connection. Then again at Nordstrom, which lead to me actually working for you on Jeffrey Kalinsky’s Fashion Cares. How did you form a relationship with him?
RL: You wouldn’t believe that I actually modeled in Jeffrey’s first show, in-store. It was a small show in the back of his store with this tiny runway. But it was so much fun and very successful. So I modeled for him every year after that, until I stopped modeling and he asked me would I coordinate the event for him. This was about 18 years ago and I have been doing it every since. I even remember when he starting in the meat packing district of NYC. I stated that he loved for the customers to come through the blood and gure then right into his beautiful store.. (smile)
(Randi Layne & I backstage at Jeffrey Kalinsky’s Fashion Cares 2008, ’07, ’06)
BE-Style: What other services are available from CatWalk?
RL: Of course, we provide any kind of Fashion Show Production, store opening – provide a great mailing list of clients and shoppers, talent booking, choreography and event services, as well as corporate narratives. Kim Singer is apart of Catwalk and she is great with Closet arrangements for our individual clients. It’s a good thing to have someone in your closet with you at least once a year. There are millions that could use the clothing we will never wear again. And that’s my impatous, to be able to help someone with something they will be able to use.
BE-Style: What are you favorite periods in fashion?
RL: I must say that I really loved the 40’s. It was a time when women really dressed. I don’t think there has ever been another time like. The women were chic. They could hardly put their feet on the floor because their tendons were to short from always wearing a heel. They wore beautiful hats and silk flapper dresses.
BE-Style: Now you are also the President of the Chelko Foundation, tell me about that.
RL: The foundation was formed in 2005 by Paul Chelko in memory of his wife Debbie. She was fighting breats cancer and Paul took care of her while she was sick until she passed. Paul was also fighting his on struggle with non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. Paul and I were friends for many years and he wanted this foundation to make a differnce in the lives of women around the world. He believed that no woman should have to suffer. The foundation obtained it not-for-profit 501(c)3 in 2007.
BE-Style: I am intrigued by some his artwork. He is definatley was a talented!
RL: He was one of the most amazing artist and now his dream is being realized. I would ask him, what am i supposed to do with the foundation and he would just say, “just relax it will reveal itself.” And let me tell you, it has truly been a blessing to me and those we help. He was alive long enough to see his dream come to fruition. He completed a calendar and a few other projects that raised a lot of money for the organization. After he passed, I figured why reinvent the wheel, we decided to
go in a different route. We are now an “arm” for other foundations to raise money for their causes – women’s issues.
BE-Style: With the Chelko foundation, what’s your most recent event?
RL: We have participated with V-Day Atlanta, Men Stopping Violence, Authentic Beauty, and Chayil Inc. just to name a few.
BE-Style: So this is our “YOUTH ISSUE,” we feel that it is essential to help the young minds that follow in our footsteps. Do you offer internships at CatWalk?
RL: Yes we always get some really good interns from all over. The best time for us would be after Christmas or in the fall. You know thats when everything is happening and its the busiest times of year.
BE-Style: What do you want CatWalk and Chelko to BE?
RL: I love what I do and would love to continue. I would love to expand the business with our online servies. We just redesigned the website and it shows what we have been able to do. Personally I would love to continue with the Chelko Foundation. The believe I was born to run my own business and aid in the lives of other through charity. I have always been self-employed and don’t know how to work for anyone else. The ventures have been successful thus far and I hope to continue in that path.