On Aug. 17, dozens of local models will walk the catwalk, showing off the works of local designers during the sixth annual Runway Renegades fashion show.
The lineup includes collections called Girls with Guns and Boys with Bombs, Leather and Lace Dripping in Gold, Kizmet, Walk of Shame, Smoke and Mirrors, and Record Couture. The latter is created by Kelly Lynch-Chevalier, of Chevalier Designs, who is all about “owning it.”
“I was raised by a strong mother who always told me not to let anyone say that I can’t,” she said. Lynch-Chevalier can, and she does so without fear or hesitation; she is a burlesque performer, a faux queen (a woman who impersonates a drag queen), a model and a designer.
Lynch-Chevalier grew up in south King County and attended Kentridge High School.
“I was always a bit of an exhibitionist,” she said. “I started participating in talent shows in kindergarten and in high school I was in pageants.” Three hundred pounds at her heaviest, Lynch-Chevalier never considered her weight a hindrance. “It’s about spunk and personality. Size doesn’t matter.” Her peers didn’t always see it that way.
At 16, after years of being bullied, she wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper in response to an article on racism.
“I wrote about a specific student who was very cruel,” she said. After the letter ran, “others admitted to being bullied by him and he ended up leaving the school because the tables turned.”
Lynch-Chevalier, 35, gives her mother credit for her strong sense of self. Her parents divorced when she was 9, and her mother to raised two daughters alone.
Her mother had a day care where creativity and ingenuity were encouraged. Her mother’s friends included drag queens with strong and exaggerated personalities.
It was only natural that Lynch-Chevalier followed suit, but what she learned the most from her youth was acceptance. “I don’t look kindly on injustice or bullying,” she said.
In 2007, Lynch-Chevalier moved to Spokane with the man she married in 2009. Since moving to the area, she has let her creative flag fly; performing with the burlesque group Pasties and Paddles and in drag shows under the name Ginger Mae Chevalier, and creating fashion and accessories from things like cassette tapes, pop tabs and record albums.
Her current line, Record Couture, will debut at next week’s event and will include a long-trained bustle made of albums and wings made of hand-formed and carved record album pieces, all worn by models of all shapes and sizes, including a drag queen or two.
Lynch-Chevalier’s résumé includes modeling for last year’s Runway Renegade show, creating fanciful bras for Beyond Pink, and photo spreads as a pinup model wearing vintage apparel from her line called the Retro Vixen.
Currently, she is organizing fundraisers to get 14 performers to Seattle for the burlesque conference called Burlycon.
“It’s about taking ownership of who you are and always striving to be a better you.”