Find Your Passion: Using Beauty to Build

By Deidre Stalnaker

Abigail Hardin
Hardin, a student in UA's College of Human Environmental Sciences, holds a scrapbook, one of several she made from materials salvaged from the Tuscaloosa Hobby Lobby destroyed in the tornado. She later presented this scrapbook to representatives from Marie Claire and LOFT. (Samantha Hernandez)

From children's book author to fashion show coordinator, University of Alabama student Abigail Hardin uses her interest in fashion to promote good in her community.

Hardin's love of fashion and style started early in life. Born with a birthmark on her right cheek, she was taunted by classmates and often asked if she had been hit in the face.

"As a young child, I saw fashion as a way to express my inward beauty," she says. "Also, I learned how to artistically apply makeup and fix hair to enhance a person's features."

Focusing on the positives, she later wrote a children's book "Look At Me; I Am Just Like You" to help children understand and appreciate how differences in others shape children's character. And, also while in high school, she started the Open My Eyes Foundation to do the same.

Model on Runway
A model walks down the runway during Marie Claire magazine's Front Row Challenge, a fashion show produced and styled by Hardin. (Samantha Hernandez)

Hardin decided to further explore the fashion field at the UA College of Human Environmental Sciences. Here, she's been involved in numerous honoraries and started a UA student organization to bring awareness to the Foundation and expose college students to other ways they can get involved.

Last summer, Dr. Virginia S. Wimberley, an assistant professor in clothing, textiles and interior design at UA, encouraged Hardin to apply for Marie Claire magazine's Front Row Challenge, and she did. Hardin was one of four college students nationwide selected to host a fashion show in their respective college towns.

She was flown to New York City in August and given a crash course in fashion-show planning. Hardin worked tirelessly with faculty, staff and fellow students to make sure the show was the best it could be.

"Honestly, I cannot imagine another University being more supportive both in and out of the classroom than UA," Hardin says. "I've learned patience, diplomacy and how to face overwhelming challenges with confidence as I have watched my mentors at the University show me by example."

Hardin produced and styled the fashion show in November at the Jemison-Van de Graaff mansion, using clothes from Ann Taylor LOFT, make up from Rimmel and hair stylists from Tera Lane Salon in Tuscaloosa.

Marie Claire donated $10 per show attendee for a total of $5,000 to Project Blessings, a Tuscaloosa based non-profit organization dedicated to helping low-income and underprivileged homeowners repair their homes and achieve a better quality of living.

Fashion Show Conclusion
Hardin, center, speaks to the crowd near the fashion show's conclusion. The show raised $5,000 for Project Blessings, a Tuscaloosa based non-profit organization. (Samantha Hernandez)

"This show was an opportunity to not only use my training I have received at the University but to be involved in a rare opportunity to bring national attention to our University and how we are helping the continued efforts to rebuild our community after the devastating tornado," Hardin says. "Just recently, being a part of the 'dedication' of one of the homes that Project Blessings has been able to help as a result of our event, brought home to me afresh what was shared by the homeowner when she said, 'I realized even though I had lost everything, God was more concerned about me than things.'"

Upon graduation in May, Hardin plans to continue work in the fields of fashion and service.

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This story is part of the Find Your Passion feature section of the UA home page. For more stories, please visit Find Your Passion or Crimson Spotlight. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.