"What are you wearing?" It's an exciting question you hear over and over again on the red carpet and at fashion shows. Yet it's also the same inappropriate words that are all too familiar for survivors of sexual assault. Civil rights activist Amanda Nguyen, who penned her own rights into existence after her rape as a college student, wants to reclaim that very question as both a survivor and lover of fashion.
"I realised I'd heard this question before in my life, after my rape. The exact same words, but in dramatically different contexts."
When she first attended Fashion Week, she had a "light bulb moment," Amanda, who's the founder and CEO of Rise, a social movement accelerator for civil rights activists, told POPSUGAR in a recent interview. "I realised that one of the most popular questions to ask is, 'I love your outfit, what are you wearing?' I realised I'd heard this question before in my life, after my rape. The exact same words, but in dramatically different contexts." That's how Amanda was inspired to confront this victim-blaming question, and use fashion to empower herself, as well as other survivors. "How do we, as a community, reframe stigmas against rape survivors? Because it shouldn't matter what the survivor was wearing during the assault, right?" she continued.
Through Rise, Amanda is dedicated to providing activists in all spaces, including sexual assault survivors, with the tools to pass their own legislation. Recently, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who's a fan of strong, empowering, and thoughtful designs by the likes of Phillip Lim, Alexander McQueen, and Dapper Dan, shared Rise's plans to produce a survivor fashion show in partnership with a United Nations campaign. "Survivors are going to be walking the runway and reclaiming that statement, 'What were you wearing?'" she said. "And the best part is, it's going be survivors walking along with a celebrity ally or the first lady of their country." While an exact date is contingent on COVID-19 restrictions, she revealed the event will likely take place either this upcoming New York Fashion Week in September or the following, in March 2021.
For Amanda, fashion is just one of the many joys that inform her activism. "You can absolutely take parts of your life and use it to make the world a better place," she told POPSUGAR.
If you or someone you know would like to speak with someone who is trained to assist sexual assault survivors, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.