It seems only fitting that a girl with the name “Monalisa” would make a good first impression. At Stanford’s Charity Fashion Show model tryouts, Monalisa Hassan, 17, stood out and stood up for Muslim girls without having to say a word. “I wear scarfs in public because I’m religious. They talked a lot about teaching cultural diversity through fashion (at CFS). That’s one of their huge goals,” Monalisa said. “They took someone who can’t show their hair, to walk on the runway. Can’t show any leg; very, very little skin. As a Muslim girl, as an Arab girl with a head scarf … it means a lot to other Muslim girls.” Monalisa’s impression was enough to score a spot as one of three high school students who will walk the 70-foot runway tonight on Stanford’s campus. Under the sprawling white tent Monalisa and Stanford models will walk in top fashions by Betsy Johnson, Liz Claiborne, Priestess NYC and Raquel Allegra, along with 25 other international and up-and-coming designers. A hijab may not scream runway fashion, but first-time model Monalisa keeps it fresh — tieing the silky patterns in pretty and unique ways. “I’m sort of known for that at my high school.” Plus, her head scarves are cute and beautiful, she says. “It doesn’t have to hinder fashion.” Stanford’s annual event has been called West Coast’s biggest fashion show, but fabric and thread aside, it’s held to promote the arts, ethnic diversity and a sweat-free fashion industry. Not by promoting sleeveless spring dresses — but by featuring international designers (and locals) who steer clear of sweatshops and keep multicultural kinship in mind. This year’s donation will go to Doctors Without Borders, who help war-torn areas around the world with emergency medical aid. The attention to diversity by nonprofit CFS is wrapped into a fun night of fashion, dancing and mingling — a place where Monalisa has found a second family in fellow models and the CFS team at Stanford. “It’s been amazing, to be completely honest. I know I’m going to keep in touch with them forever,” she said of her new Stanford “brothers and sisters.” In rehearsals since January, Monalisa’s new friends forever have helped answer questions about college and reaffirmed her ambition to apply to Stanford for a pre-med major. As a first-generation American (her parents came from Egypt about a year before her birth) Monalisa said she didn’t have the resources from her parents about the steps it takes to get into college in the U.S. The CFS has helped her in ways she didn’t expect and given her new contacts. Her Pennies for Peace club to help build schools in Afghanistan, that she started at JFK High School in Fremont, will see updates thanks to CFS coordinators, Thom Scher and Wayne Hwang. “I’ve been watching them, how they run things,” Monalisa said. “They’re really, really successful. The show is sold out I think. So I’ve been stealing their ideas, trying to learn as much as I can.” With a name like Monalisa and smile to match, look for her to steal the show Saturday night and make her parents and her Muslim community proud.
By LINDSAY BRYANT DAILY News STAFF WRITER SOURCE: Hey Hijabi