Diamanté is an ever-changing mosaic of collective and diverse joy

April 13, 2024

Design by Tina Solki

All of Georgetown’s campus is a runway for Akil Cole (CAS ’24). “I find myself practicing my walk on my way to school. I’ll have my book bag, people might see me locked in with my face, and I’m doing my model walk,” he said.

Cole is a two-time model for Georgetown’s annual Diamanté Fashion Show, and cites his tendency to sashay to class as a welcome side effect of practicing for the after-hours role.

Every Sunday evening, models prance down the labyrinthine hallways of Gonda Theatre, the show’s clandestine rehearsal ground. Despite facing in opposite directions and walking to different beats, they manage to strut in perfect sync, never colliding with each other. The crew’s remarkable coordination mirrors an orchestra playing in a click-clacking of stilettos and a chorus of cheers and snaps that echo through the halls.

Founded in 2018, Diamanté is Georgetown’s first and only Black-run, student-led fashion show. This year, the show will take place at the McDonough Arena on April 20. Diamanté features collections curated by designers all along the East Coast and has grown to include participants from other D.C. universities, including Howard, George Washington, and American University, an expansion reflective of the dynamic network Diamanté has tirelessly built up over time.

Beyond their adornment in designer pieces and addictive, strut-worthy soundtracks, Diamanté’s supportive community is essential to helping models build their confidence. Members foster a powerful energy in rehearsals by hyping each other up and bringing out each other’s inner confidence. 

“I think the main thing about Diamanté is confidence in yourself and confidence in the group,” model Kayla Balabanis (CAS ’24) said. “Everybody in Diamanté is so talented and that confidence is contagious. So when you’re watching people do their thing and express themselves, [you] kind of feed off of that and are able to do it yourself.”

Several models, like Balabanis, come to Diamanté with no prior modeling experience. Under the hot lights and imposing cameras, hitting the runway can be an intimidating experience. However, the community fostered within Diamanté works to calm these nerves and uplift students—especially those younger or newer to the stage—to embrace their own confidence.

“[Diamanté was] really nerve-wracking at first,” Balabanis said. “But the more you go, the more you realize that everyone’s just so supportive no matter what. I think it just takes practice. It takes exposure. It takes looking at yourself in the mirror and becoming comfortable in what you see in the reflection. And after enough times, you kind of take yourself less seriously and you let yourself do more.”

For others, breaking past their comfort zone is one of the most fulfilling parts of the journey. “If I feel a little bit uncomfortable, I might be doing something right, because I’m learning something,” model Cole said. A sense of collective growth and encouragement accompanies the process of pushing boundaries. 

Cole, for instance, is trying his hand at styles typically reserved for female models. “[I’m] trying to learn a lot from the women who have much more complex choreography, generally, than the men do,” Cole said. “Role modeling is huge in modeling.”

The Diamanté community is as diverse as it is supportive. “Diamanté is far more inclusive than typical runway modeling. You know, not everyone there is thin, white, and like six feet tall, which is cool,” Cole continued. 

Diamanté isn’t just a diverse runway, though—it’s also a necessary safe haven for creatives of marginalized backgrounds, and that commitment to diversity has been at the heart and soul of Diamanté from its inception. 

“Diamanté started off as a queer, Black fashion show,” Rams-Lyne Thomas (CAS ’25), the show’s modeling director, said. “Everyone that does come, they see themselves and they envision themselves to be so much bigger than they are in the mirror and on the runway.” 

“In the future, I see Diamanté being bigger, being queer, being Black, and just emphasizing the love of fashion and passion,” she added.

Diamanté has already grown to be something much greater than a fashion show. Thomas said this year’s executive team has put extensive effort into lowering the barrier of entry to professional modeling and bringing Black culture to campus by hosting panels with industry professionals, pioneering a voguing series, and promoting DMV-area modeling auditions.

Industry grandeur aside, however, Diamanté allows Georgetown students to step away from their deadlines, classes, and internships and escape into a creative space for a few hours. According to creative director Lily Tom (CAS ’24), Georgetown doesn’t foster enough opportunities for students to be imaginative and let external stressors temporarily melt away. 

“When you come here, yes, we’re working on a deadline, but most of the time it’s like, okay, let’s create,” she said. “It’s where you’re coming to really have fun and just create and let everything loose.”

Diamanté isn’t just any artistic community—it’s a unique and valuable incubator on Georgetown’s campus for creatives of color, one that simply didn’t exist prior. 

“There’s very few [opportunities for] access, especially for minorities, for safe space to create. I feel like, as a minority, certain spaces that you’re in, you’re automatically on edge. So when you walk into a room with people that look like you, people that you know, people that you’ve seen in your affinity spaces, it’s like, ‘Okay, I’m amongst people that already accept me, or I’m amongst people who are in the same boat as me,’” Tom said. 

A happy consequence of nurturing a community of creative minds, Diamanté is inherently shaped by its constantly evolving and visionary team of talents. Acutely aware of this free-flowing adaptability, the executive board is dedicated to building the necessary technical and logistical foundations that will allow students to fashion the show how they see fit. The hope is that future productions will continue to break boundaries, both in theory and in practice.

“It changes every year according to the people who make it, and that’s the fluidity of it all. It’s really up to the people who are making it,” Tom said. “The ideas and possibilities are endless. The world is yours for real.” 

Diamanté will take place on April 20 at 7 p.m. in McDonough Arena. Tickets can be purchased on CampusGroups beginning at $20. 

Eileen Chen
Eileen is the Halftime Leisure Editor and a sophomore in the College studying political economy. She likes dirty chai lattes, pretty flowers, and making playlists for every minor inconvenience.

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