What if your professor gave you a task that you originally thought would be as easy as walking in your seven inch heels every day to class?  A few months ago Professor Dudkowski was sharing the necessity of hiring a guest speaker for our annual fashion seminar that takes place in the early part of the fall. The opportunity seemed very intriguing so I went ahead and took on the role of becoming project manager. My initial thoughts were that I just had to find a celebrity guest that was influential and well known in the fashion industry but yet still remained within our budget. This task was not as easy as I first anticipated it to be! After days of research, I still could not find a speaker who was right for the event. I wanted an individual who was empowering and someone that I admired. This was such a tough thing for me to do, and I will admit that the task did become a little intimidating,

     One night as I was researching and I almost gave up because I was not receiving any responses from the celebrities that I previously contacted and I began to lose all hope. I decided to call it a night, in hopes that in the morning I would have the perfect celebrity in mind.  When I woke up…I had it!  As soon as Anya Ayoung-Chee, winner of Project Runway Season 9 came to my mind, I knew I had to close the deal and get her to speak at the fashion seminar.

     I knew that Anya would be a great candidate for the event. She’s young, talented, and a very unique individual.  Anya was often looked upon as the underdog on Project Runway because she did not know how to sew, but taught herself as each project progressed. She’s such an inspiration and an inventive achiever! When I finally received the approval from her representative, I was beyond excited to finally announce that she would be speaking to us.

      Being the project manager, I had many responsibilities to deal with; booking the client was just the beginning. For the next month I would be working closely with the marketing executives at the school and college officials to make sure that the event was well promoted, and that we represented the affair to the highest of our capabilities. I created unique flyers presenting our guest speaker and the date in which the event would be held on. I had to create a detailed itinerary for the event to make sure that entirety of the day ran effortlessly.  I also had to converse with Anya’s representative on a daily basis regarding the specs of the event to make sure that every detail was addressed.

       This event began to consume my life, and I truly felt like I was living out my dream job! Colleagues began questioning me asking where I have been and why I would take so long to get back to them. I would simply reply and say that I was busy getting ready for my big event, and could not afford any interruptions.

      Being a design student and trying to plan a big event is a lot of work. Taking 21 credit hours, working on campus, designing and consulting with my clients, and still try to balance my social life takes such an extensive amount of effort and energy, but I love every minute of it. Professor Earhart encourages students to eat healthy because she knows how much vitality goes into our busy lifestyles.

     The morning of Wednesday October 23rd, I received the notification that Anya was on her way! I called my assistant Arianna and from then on it was show time. I stuck to the proceedings that were planned for Anya such as exclusive meetings, a catered lunch with our Vice President, Dean of Students, Director of the Fashion program, and fashion professors Mr. Dudkowski and Mrs. Earheart. I also made sure she was at the media moment in the Roz Steiner Art Gallery that was conducted by Donna Rae Sutherland, where interviews were set up with the Daily News, Wingin’ It Buffalo, and the Batavian, and also scheduled photo ops with President Sunser.

     What I originally thought would be a simple assignment turned into me producing a remarkable event here at Genesee Community College. There were countless positive reviews about the event and how much everyone enjoyed hearing from Anya. I could not have done it without the encouragement of my professors to take  this event on with  full confidence. I am so thankful for the opportunity that was given to me and I could not have wished for a better experience!


My name is Candace Cooper, and this is what my life is like in the FASH lane.

My day with Anya



On Wednesday October 23, 2013 Anya Ayoung Chee- Project Runway winner, the former Miss Tobago winner, and now entrepreneur/designer came to GCC and had an event filled day. She gave amazing advice to our students, faculty and visitors.

Anya arrived at GCC at about 9 a.m. Project Manager Candace Cooper and Professor Dudkowski greeted Anya and her assistant at the clock tower. Candace Cooper and I put together a great breakfast spread for her to enjoy. Anya and her assistant went over her PowerPoint presentation and speech until about 11:00 when we escorted her to the administration luncheon. In attendance were Professor Dudkowski, Professor Ehrhart, Dr. Kate Schienfen, Jennifer Newell, Dr. Rafael Alicea-Maldonado(Dr.Ram), Candace Cooper and I. At the luncheon there was a large salad bar (One of Anya’s favorite foods!) with a lot of variety, toppings, and sides. During the luncheon Anya talked about the opportunities she has had growing up, and gave Candace a lot of great advice from one designer to the other.

After the luncheon at 1:30 Anya went to the Rosalie “Roz” Steiner art gallery where she was interviewed by Buffalo and Batavia news anchors about her current events, and upcoming projects. Anya also posed for a few photos after her meet with Dr. James Sunser, Genesee Community College president. She spoke about her website (  Anya sat in her dressing room while all the students and facility members took their seats. Candace went and got our celebrity key speaker. Anya’s presentation was extremely inspiring.


Me(Ariana Sneed), Professor Ehrhart, Candace Cooper, Anya Ayoung-Chee and Professor Dudkowski (In Order) posing for pictures in our Rosalie “Roz” Steiner art gallery.

Some of the great advice she gave was (Direct quotes from Anya):

  1. “Whether you believe it or not you have this life and just this life, and in these moments, I owe it to myself to live it all the way up.”
  2. “Something we all have to do different at some point but like trusting that you can do it, That you are gifted and that you are extremely talented.”
  3. “Risk being yourself fully.”
  4. “You know it in your heart you’ll feel it, just do it.”
  5. “Old friendships build complementary business”
  6. “(Mentors) you offer them something as well, you inspire them, you allow them to see their strengths and so I think a mentor is so key.”


I hope you all will take the inspiration Anya is planted in me, and do whatever makes you happy. “You know it in your heart you’ll feel it, just do it.” Even if you’re not in the fashion program I hope you were able to catch Anya Ayoung-Chee’s incredible speech in T102. Anya’s a beautiful person inside and out.

“(Blogging) is a deeper way into a person’s life.” -Anya Ayoung-Chee


Anya and I in her fitting room here at GCC.


Project Runway Winner Visits Genesee Community College


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“I knew I wanted something else, something bigger,” explained Project Runway season nine winner Anya Ayoung Chee as she spoke with fashion students on campus Wednesday afternoon. Offering advice and sharing her journey in the fashion industry, Anya Ayoung Chee chose a more candid and relaxed approach to her presentation. While engaging students in conversation, Anya outlined her rise to fame from unknown to internationally acclaimed designer through the hit television program Project Runway.

Photo Credit: Howard Owens Used with permission from

Photo Credit: Howard Owens
Used with permission from The Batavian.

Growing up in Trinidad, Anya Ayoung Chee had limited career options and felt as though she was expected to pursue a traditional career by becoming a doctor or a lawyer. It wasn’t until Anya traveled to Tokyo, Japan with her family at the age of fifteen that she realized her true passion – design. Anya recounted how mesmerized she was by the technology and innovative designs illuminating the streets of Tokyo. It was this experience that influenced her in choosing to study graphic design at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. Anya eventually left Parsons during her junior year and studied at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, England. Upon graduating, Anya worked a string of jobs ranging from film production studio assistant to luxury perfume packaging designer, until her life was suddenly rocked by tragedy. In 2007, Anya’s younger brother Pilar died in a tragic car accident at the age of eighteen. Following this tragedy, Anya embarked on a “soul searching” journey that eventually led her to the Miss Universe Pageant in 2008 where she represented her home country as Miss Trinidad and Tobago Universe. Representing Trinidad and Tobago provided a platform for Anya to begin designing clothing and promoting her own designs. In 2011, Anya Ayoung Chee auditioned for the ninth season of Project Runway and was chosen as a contestant in the final round of casting. Anya recounted the weeks leading up to Project Runway, describing her motivation to be a part of something bigger than herself and the encouragement she felt as “almost divine.” Anya did, however, suffer a lapse of faith when she received a call from Project Runway producers and initially turned down their offer for casting in season nine, fearing she would embarrass herself and her family and friends. Eventually Anya did accept the offer from producers and the rest is history.

Anya Ayoung Chee with fashion students.

Anya Ayoung Chee with fashion students and professors Mr. Dudkowski and Ms. Ehrhart.

Today, Anya Ayoung Chee is working on her eponymous line in addition to her street wear line PILAR, created in memorial of her brother. Anya’s Spring/Summer 2014 line showed at fashion weeks in South Africa, New York, and London. Anya also recently launched “The Canyaval Shop” showcasing her designs inspired by Carnival which feature strong Caribbean influences. Anya Ayoung Chee is still very involved with The Tallman Foundation, a charity that her family founded in memory of her late brother, Pilar.

Anya Ayoung Chee credits much of her success to her “light-hearted approach” to the industry and her mentor who taught her everything she knows about the technical side of design. Anya offered the same advice to fashion students during her presentation: find a mentor to foster and develop skills and take calculated risks. Anya enforced the ideals of self-respect, positivity, determination, and tenacity in setting out to achieve greatness. When asked to impart her best piece of advice for young designers and professionals trying to break into the industry, Anya left students with the following words of encouragement:  “Celebrate yourself and risk being yourself fully. It’s never worth not knowing.”

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Anya Ayoung Chee signs autographs for fashion students following her presentation at Genesee Community College on Wednesday.

Check out some of Anya Ayoung Chee’s designs here!