Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Fashion over Forty: Style File Leesa Kassler

Leesa Kassler made the decision in her 50's, to pursue her life long dream of becoming  a fashion designer.  As a young girl, watching "The Sonny and Cher Show", Leesa was intrigued by the designs of Bob Mackie. She loved the intricacy of the patterns and bead-work. To make this dream a reality, Leesa enrolled in the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where she achieved, with honors, a Bachelor of Science degree in Fashion Design. 

Her designs were in demand at local fashion shows, while still a student, and continued to gain her featured spots after the completion of her education, in Style Week Pittsburgh, Fashion Alley, Fashion at the Fairmont, Fashion for a Cause, Lights, Glamour, Action,  Design Competition, just to name a few.  Her work has received great acclaim and she has been nominated for the prestigious "Gene Kelly Award", for best costume design for a high school musical, in 2017, for Elizabeth Forward production of "Anything Goes".

Leesa's talent also earned her nominations for Designer of the Year, Style Week 2016 and 2017, and  Style and Glam Fashion Awards.

She has triumphed  and been recognized as one of Pittsburgh's top designers, and has further expanded her career by opening 2ND AVENUE BOUTIQUE, in her community of Elizabeth. Leesa has put her lovely sense of style to work in both ready to wear retail, as well as customer designs.  Her entrepreneurial spirit, earned her an Inspiring Women in Business Award from Inspiring Lives Magazine in June 2018.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Fashion over Forty, Style Profile

Dr. Shellie Hipsky in a couture gown by Xiomara Hernandex, Xiomara Creations.  Photo by Denis Rodriguez

Shellie Hipsky, fashion philanthropist, CEO, author, television and radio host, has graced the cover of over sixteen magazines, and is featured in countless more, she is truly a super model in Pittsburgh and is branching out globally.  

Dr. Hipsky has modeled on the runway for Fabulous Forties Fashion Show, Fashion Alley, Fashion for a Cause, The Pittsburgh Zoo, Susan G. Comen, The American Heart Association Runway Show, St. Baldrick's Cancer Center, and Animal Friends, to name a few.  Representing such lines as W by Worth, Etcetera, Anatomie, and Primadona Collections, her performance and runway skills are continually in demand by local designers and fashion shows. In her forties, she has proven that beauty is ageless, sharing the runway with models in their 20’s.

The CEO of Inspiring Lives Magazine, and the President of the non-profit, The Global Sisterhood, Shellie has raised over $100,000 for The Homeless Children's Educational Fund and has also served on the HCEF Advisory Board and volunteered at the shelters. Among her numerous awards and recognition, Dr. Hipsky was inducted into the Pittsburgh Fashion Hall of Fame in 2014, for her accomplishments in the fashion industry in Pittsburgh.

Dr. Hipsky modeling at "Fashion for a Cause" June 2018 in a custom design by Beth Shari, Hollywood Glam

Rachel Sovyak Dayoub, Samantha Barna, Alice Beckett-Rumberger, Dr. Shellie Hipsky, Michele Lynn, Kelly Frost at Fashion Alley


Sunday, October 7, 2018

Fashion over Forty

From Left to Right:  Olivia Weber, having studied Musical Theater at Point Park College, Olivia had a successful career as a singer with "Bitter Delores".  She has been modeling for designers locally for three years and has also acted in "The Chronicles of Deadlands", as well as a political commercial she filmed with her son, Greyson.

Dr. Michele Lynn Langbien is a tenured Professor at Point Park University, and also writes for "Thunder Road Magazine".  She is a mom, an advocate for autism, and a model, volunteering at many area charity events.

Lisa Freeman...I have modeled since 18 and have continued to do so for area designers, fashion shows, and television commercials.  I am a VP of a Real Estate Company, a Director on the Realtor's Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh Board of Directors, and President of the RAMP Foundation.  My favorite role, that of grandmother to my five grandchildren.

Mindy Miller has been in the modeling industry for about two years, walking the runway for many area designers.  She is also part of Pittsburgh's booming film industry, acting  on both movie and television sets.

Tiyonda Duvall holds a Masters Degree in Education and has a career rich in community involvement. She has modeled for several area fashion shows and is continually pursued by area designers and fashion show to contribute her skills on the runway.  She has modeled in bridal shows, Garbage Bag Gala, Fashion for a Cause, just to name a few!

The Photographer:  Michael Goltz is a fashion, portrait, and event photographer  who works throughout South Western Pennsylvania. His talent has been publishes in many magazines, including Whirl, Thunder Road, and Inspiring Lives Magazine.  Along with his love of photography, he is also an artist who works in the genres of modern art and  byzantine iconography.  He can be reached at

When Olivia Weber was turned away from a photo shoot, because she didn't fit the "Demographic" she decided to take action.  Olivia, 40, along with fashion photographer Michael Goltz, assembled a group of professional models, all over 40, for a group photo shoot, in order to show the beauty of more mature models. Along with Olivia, her group featured Michele Lynn Langbein, Tiyonda Duvall, Mindy Miller, and myself, Lisa Freeman.

In an era where youth is a highly valued commodity, it is a refreshing change to see the infiltration of models over 40, not just in health care commercials, but in New York Fashion Week and representing high profile designers.

With Lauren Hutton's successful campaign for Alexander Wang in 2015 and her recent contract with H & M, she has proven, at 74, that age is just a number.

Also joining the ranks at 66, Isabella Rossellini has regained her spot as the face of Lancôme. Helen Mirren at 73, was chosen to represent L’Oréal.  Tyra Banks (44), Cindy Crawford (52), Claudia Schiffer (48), and Elle Macpherson (54), all continuing with their established careers.

The amazing Daphne Selfe, who began modeling in 1940 at the age of 21, is still going strong and not giving up any day soon.  Selfe, actually has an online modelling and confidence course at where she shares her knowledge and wisdom of the industry.    She continues to grace the pages of major fashion magazines, and was quoted as stating "I don't do retiring”, on July 1, 2018, her 90th birthday.
What does this mean for local area models?  Hopefully, a continuation of looking for the beauty, regardless of age, that results in each woman's individuality and uniqueness. With over 110 million people in the United States over 50 years of age, women will want to identify with models both on the runway and in print. 


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

An Excursion to the Exotic! Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium's Gala

An Excursion to the Exotic, the event title says it all!

Over 600 guests arrived on June 9, for the "Excursion to the Exotic",  the biannual Zoo Gala chaired this year by Deborah Bergen Garlock with Bryan Garlock.

The collective work of the zoo gala committee and the staff, resulted in a delightfully, unique zoo experience.

Guests were treated to animal encounters with a father-son Fennec Fox  duo, and Laverne the alligator (her roommate is Shirley) to name a few.  These animal ambassadors assist in educating on important issues such as a better understanding of how to protect the species in the wild.

The signature Cocktail, "Safari at Sundown", was served as patrons mingled and sampled delicious hors d'oeuvres by Taste, the official  caterer of the Pittsburgh Zoo, before being transported to the main event.

The exotic theme carried over to the evening's entrees which included Ramp Pesto Ruby Rainbow Trout, Roasted Carrot Salad with Fromage Blanc, Coffee Stout-Braised Beef Brisket , followed up by Mini Baked Alaska dessert.

The decor, by LUXE Creative promoted the exotic theme throughout the event.  Lanterns, baskets, and candles set the mood, as guests made their way to the Elephant Encounter and a chance to feed the giraffes.

Reed Dancing (partnering with LUXE Creative) created an amazing highlight to the evening, a light and dance performance.  DJ Samuel Andres kicked off the dancing, where guests partied into the night. (Even the giraffe was dancing the night away! Turn up the volume and See the video below).

To learn more or donate to the Pittsburgh Zoo please visit:

Bryan Garlock and Deb Bergren Garlock 

Jackie  Dixon at the Elephant Encounter 

Maris Bondi with Robert Dauer

Dr. Barbara Bake, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium

Gabby Boldizar and Carey Abdulovic

Ed Goncz with Paula Goncz and A.J. Racioppi

Honorary Gala Chairs, Jerry and Diane Holder, with Dr. Ginger Sturgeon, and Laverne the Alligator

Dr. Ginger Sturgeon with Laverne

Carey Abdulovic with Dr. Joseph Gasparo
Virginia Flaherty with Brinton Motheral

Martin Potoczny, LUXE Creative

Maria Brady, in Wight Elephant design with  Melana Mears


Monday, May 7, 2018

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Spring Hat Luncheon celebrates 20 Years

Highland Park was a colorful sea of hats on Saturday, May 5th for the 20th Annual Pittsburgh Park's Conservancy Spring Hat Luncheon.  With picture perfect skies and warm weather (which is always a variable), more than 600 patrons celebrated the achievements of the Parks Conservancy.In it's 20th year, the organization has made major strides throughout the city parks, with continued renovations, construction, and beautification.

Our new Parks Conservancy CEO Jayne Miller,  greeted each guest as they arrived for the event.  Beautifully dressed  patrons sipped mimosa and strolled through  Highland Park, admiring the  orchids, foliage, flowers, as well as the hats!  The event was executed flawlessly due predominantly,  to the work and attention of the Parks Conservancy Staff. 

Greatly missed  this yeare was long time supporter of the Parks Conservancy, Mrs. Nadine Bognar, remembered by her friend and event co-founder, Ritchie Battle.

The event raised over $500,000 for our city's parks, with the 20 year total at over $100 Million.

Gorgeous in Gold! Jenn Dailey, Director of  Marketing and Communication, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Erin Copeland, Senior Restoration Ecologist, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

Sophie Gage, Event Coordinator and Kathleen Gaines, Director of Development, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy 
Fred and Lana Neumeyer

Kristen Well's hat done by Hens and Chicks

Kristen Wells

Cathy Qureshi with Keira

Sam Badger with Lana Neumeyer

Debbie Norrell

Heather Sage, Director of  Community Projects with Peri

Mary McKinney Flaherty, Mollie Hanna Lang, Emily Mack Jamison, Jimmi Sue Smith, and Ramsey Lyons, Event C0-Chairs

Sophie Gage, Event Co-ordinator

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy CEO Jayne Miller with Sally Wiggin


Sunday, April 29, 2018

JDRF Promise Gala raises $1.7 Million for research

The Wyndham Grand Hotel, was the setting for the 26th Annual JDRF Promise Gala. The evenings 800 Guests were personally welcomed by Gala Chairs, Nancy Glynn and Kim Trinkala, who both have children affected by Type 1 Diabetes.   Leroy M. Ball,  President and CEO of Koppers, serving as the evening's corporate chair, was instrumental in  developing a donation program that benefits JDRF.

The new venue offered a spacious area to display silent auction items, while guest mingled and sipped on the evening's signature cocktail, the Mojito.

Event Planner, Shelly Tolo, of Tolo Events captured the feel of Havana with greenery and tropical flowers by Hens and Chicks. The tables featured exposed wood, with table runners, floral arrangements and candles setting the mood. "Havana" inspired music was featured by the Elite Show Band, to ad to the ambiance. 

.Highmark Heath Systems dedication to improving health care was evident by  David L. Holmberg, Chief Executive Officer of Highmark Health,  being recognized for his commitment  to JDRF. Barbara Gray, serves the community not only as the Senior Vice President of Highmark, but also as the President of the JDRF Board of Directors.

Committee member Lisa Ann Cantalamessa, described the struggles involved with Type one diabetes, which her son was diagnosed with.  From the daily ups and downs, to her genuine concern over why the disease occurs, and furthering research that will result in a cure.

Although great advancements have been made in the management and treatment of Type 1 diabetes, the ultimate goal of JDRF, is finding  a cure.   To donate and learn more, please visit:

Lisa Cantalamessa, Committee member 
Les and Barbara Gray

Nishan and Aline Khoshafian

Caroline Simms (In her 7th year of volunteering)  and Jack Clark, Volunteers at the JDRF Promise Gala

Kim Trinkala and Nancy Glynn, the evening co-chairs, greeting guests

Danielle Vettor, Gillian McTiernan, and Alexandra Glynn

Marcus Bethel with Aisha Walker

Registration Volunteers, Terri Kyles with Carolyn Graham


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Fashion at the Fairmont, Raising Awareness of Lupus

Nearly 250 guests convened at the Fairmont Hotel for the 40th annual Lupus Luncheon and Fashion Show "Fashion at the Fairmont", Saturday, April 7.  Guests were welcomed to the event by Melissa Ferraro, CEO, and treated to an array of silent auction items, a chef created luncheon, and a couture fashion show.

Introductions were made by the events emcee, Larry Richert, of  honorees, Donna Polito, Honorary Chair of the luncheon, and Rosalyn Heleniak, a strong advocate for patients rights and promoting awareness of Lupus, which she was diagnosed with at the age of 28.

Karen Pool, Board Chair, and the daughter of Barbara Vandergrift,  founder of the Lupus Foundation of Pennsylvania, spoke of the organizations goal to promote awareness, education, service and research for those affected by lupus

The couture fashion show, featured local designers incorporating the butterfly, a central motif associated with lupus. The interpretation of this concept resulted in an array of stunning creations with each designer's unique perspective.  Judged by Tom Michael of Larrimor's, Richard Parsakian of Eons Fashions, and Marcus Robinson of the Pittsburgh Bullets, Jamie Miller took home first prize at the competition, with second going to Bradford Mumpower, and Laurie Pascuzzi, third.  The winning designs will be available to view at Larrimor's, 249 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, 15222.

Artist, David Connelly, created a custom mural for the Lupus Foundation of Pennsylvania.  His work can currently be viewed at the Cyclops Cafe in Bellevue. He will also accept commissions to create custom art work.

Affecting 1.5 million Americans, Lupus is a chronic, inflammatory disease in which the body's immune system fails to protect normal functions and antibodies form which attack healthy tissue and organs.  The disease is more prevalent in Woman, with about 90% of those affected being young women. To learn more visit The Pennsylvania Lupus Foundation.

Leesa Kassler in her own design and her Lupus Fashion Creation

Eva Dixon's gown appeared to be a black and gold mermaid evening gown, until her model opened her arms to reveil translucent sequin "wings" 
Leesa Kasssler's stunning red, transparent gown, with a full circle skirt, with matching wings.

Jamie Miller's design evolved from a Cocoon to a Butterfly winged sleeve 

Bradford Mumpower's 1950's inspired dress featured 150 butterflies

Jamyce Patterson's creative design transformed into a stunning pant ensemble  modeled by Tamisha Thomas

Lauria Pascuzzi's design was reminiscent of the chaotic feeling which comes following a diagnosis of Lupus.  The disease has touched her personal, with both her Mother and her cousin diagnosed with  Lupus. 

Jamie Miller and her winning design

Bradford Mumpower with Dana Quinn

Lauria Pascuzzi 

Jayden Inge, and Lea Edmunds , mother and daughter team volunteering 

David Connelly's custom created Mural for the Lupus Foundation of Penn

Jamyce Patterson with Tamisha Thomas

Bradford Mumpower with Richard Parsakian

Lisa Korinek with Linda Pokos

Models and Designers

Eva Dixon's design

Artist, David Connelly

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