Two programs in Jersey City seek to empower, uplift, and motivate the people of Jersey City, and they show no signs of slowing down.
Strike A Pose Modeling Studio & Social Graces, created by Jersey City native Tori Carter, a Hudson County detective in the Community Relations department, was designed to boost the self-esteem of grammar and middle-school girls in Jersey City, primarily those in the inner city.
Jersey City Fashion Week is a program of the Desha Lang Jackson Give to Live Community Foundation. Founder Desha Jackson, who coordinates the event, has offices in Jersey City.
“We encourage building self-esteem, confidence, motivation and leadership,” says Tori Carter.
The program teaches girls discipline, motivation, and modeling tips such as photo-shoot poses, posture, and poise exercises. Training classes are also offered in proper social etiquette, manners, and effective communication.
“Many girls do not receive the proper guidance in molding them into womanhood,” Carter says. “This program is changing all of that.”
As a child, Carter was involved in many community fashion shows as well as the Girl Scouts and was also enrolled in the Barbizon School of Modeling, which has locations in New Jersey and New York.
Carter began her 18-year career in law enforcement as a juvenile detention officer in 1996 before becoming a sheriff’s officer in 2004. During that time she was appointed to run a gang-resistance program which trained participants in decision making and leadership skills. But Carter wanted to create a program specifically for girls and so Strike A Pose was born on Dec. 4, 2010.
Carter received additional training from the Juvenile Justice Commission by the State of New Jersey.
Launching the Programs
The idea for Jackson’s Jersey City Fashion Week came about as a result of a discussion she had with a friend who was an entertainment attorney.
“We were discussing different projects and it was realized that while there was a fashion week for the state of New Jersey, there was not an individual fashion week for just Jersey City,” Jackson says.
Jersey City Fashion Week was launched in 2012 with help from the United Charitable Program.
Although Jackson is not a native of Jersey City, she practiced law in the city for a number of years, and she wanted to help and give back to the people of Jersey City.
“Jersey City is diverse so I wanted Jersey City Fashion Week to reflect that,” she says.
The show, which will run Sept. 24-28 this year, features people of all races and sizes. This year’s theme will focus on health and wellness.
As for the launch of Strike A Pose? It was challenging.
“I started the program from the bottom using my own financing, but it grew over three years and had 80 girls come through the program,” Carter says.
One of the teachers in the program, Brianne Croswell, is currently enrolled at Drew University’s early-education program and has volunteered her services for the past four years as a runway coach.
Carter’s childhood friend, Tasha Hoagan, who works in finance, is the program’s business director.
“The heart and soul of the program is the guidance of girls,” Hoagan says. “Many girls are running rampant, and it’s our responsibility to take control of that. We have to focus on the family again because it all starts in the home with the family.”
Strike A Pose has trained more than 4,000 students in the Jersey City public school system under the umbrella of the G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education & Training) Program.
Since the program’s inception, participants have appeared in music videos and radio shows, and performed at an Earth Day celebration in Liberty State Park.
The culmination of the training classes is the program’s annual Glitz and Glam Fashion Show Extravaganza in which graduates execute the social graces and modeling skills they have learned during the 10-week program.
The program has received substantial support. Sharaya Howell, a Jersey City native, was the first modeling instructor at the studio and she is now working with hip-hop artist Missy Elliot. Freddie Robinson Jr., another Jersey City native, has supported the program from its inception and has worked on the reality TV show Love and Hip Hop.
This year, the studio will offer Fashion Academy Boot Camp, which will run until Aug. 2, wrapping with a commencement ceremony at Saint Peter’s University.
Carter has also been asked by Jackson to coordinate the Jersey City Fashion Week Children’s Event in September, which will feature girls ages two to 18.
Carter, who is married with two sons, says her parents had a huge impact on her life and are great supporters of her work. Her mother is her “right hand” at all of her events.
She is extremely excited about everything the program has done and wants to continue helping girls from the community she grew up in.
“The girls keep me inspired,” Carter says.
“I enjoy Jersey City Fashion Week,” Jackson says. “I started it with absolutely nothing. It is a labor of love.”—JCM
Training sessions for girls ages five to 18 at Saint Peter’s University cost $20 a session. For more information, call (888) 885-7673, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit facebook.com/pages/Strike-A-Pose.
This year’s Jersey City Fashion Week will be held Sept. 24-28. For more information, visit jerseycityfashionweek.com.