On July 29, 2017, the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza was transformed into a vibrant celebration of San Jose culture at the 10th annual FAME, or Fashion Art Music Exhibition.
The FAME headliner was R&B singer Goapele, who dazzled the crowd with her hour-long set inside the theater. Acoustic singer-songwriter Jeremy Passion, known for his song “Lemonade,” opened for her. While guests had to pay for a separate ticket to enter the performance, there was plenty to see in the rest of the outdoor plaza. At the tiled waterway, artists like Russ Coson and Beats by Velma performed short sets on a bridge of boards propped over the calm water. Guests sat around the edge of the intimate stage, listening to the artists and munching on bánh mì sandwiches and tacos from the food vendors. Later in the evening, they pulled out paper and pens to sketch models, or “muses,” posed over the water.
Around the perimeter of the waterway, artists worked on live murals. One, titled “Doodle 2017,” included “FAME” in whimsical, block-like letters and a cartoon figure flashing a peace sign. Another was a five-board collage featuring asymmetrical black and white photos. Another featured only letters, spelling out phrases like “risk being seen in all your glory” in a black script backed by highlighter-hued colors.
There was art and fashion of all kinds for sale, with vendors spilling out to nearly every area of the venue. Guests could pick up old records splattered in paint, playful stuffed plushies, and prints—everything from a pixelated Frida Kahlo to a cartoon boba drink wearing Yeezys and shrugging with “Pro-boba-bly” written across it. Bay Area pride was a common theme, like t-shirts with “SFOG” and “Born and Gamed in San Jose” printed on them.
Inside the beauty pavilion—a square, open-air building—were aisles of vendors selling woven swimsuits, eccentric pins, jewelry, sunglasses, and makeup. In the center were the makeup artists and body painters. Guests could watch the artists curling and pinning hair, painting on extravagant mouths, eyebrows, and “clothes,” and attaching pieces like an abstract animal head and an eyeball hanging from its socket. In the makeup competition, three different artists worked within a Tim Burton theme. The winner, Lian Ulloa, transformed model Hope Kersten Price with a look inspired by a familiar toothy cat—but with a bloody twist. “I love watching Alice in Wonderland, and my favorite character, of course, is the cat, the Cheshire Cat,” Ulloa said.
Price’s arms, legs, and neck were covered in pink and white stripes, but she wore a white lace dress haphazardly marked with blood-red swishes. The cat’s signature, exaggerated smile with pointy teeth was painted across her face, but a bloody gash drew a crescent-like shape around her temple. Pieces of cards and butterflies were tangled into her pink-tinted, messy bun. Ulloa said her mom, also a fan of the famous cat, helped give her the idea for the look, which took about five hours to create.
Other artists who partook in the Tim Burton-themed contest included three body painters from the Human Art Collective. A theme makes it more fun to create, they said. “Even in body paint competitions, you can try to say a specific theme and all the body paintings look totally different from each other because the artists get inspired and do their creative thing to express themselves,” said Jeshka Yurash, who painted her model solely in black and white.
But if guests wanted to watch something else, there was plenty to see at FAME’s runway. Stylish old cars were parked along the perimeter and artists like No Water After Midnight performed throughout the evening. The evening closed with a fiery cypher battle and the much-anticipated fashion show. The female models—showing off bright lipstick and flowing tresses—were clad in cropped tops, swinging metallic skirts, fishnet-lace dangling earrings, and ankle-strapped heels. The male models sported denim jackets covered with patches and graphics, camo, ripped jeans, and checkered slip-ons.
And even after the fashion show wrapped up close to midnight, the party wasn’t necessarily over. As vendors started to clean up, music continued to blast and guests made their own impromptu dance circles, making FAME truly a celebration for and by the people of San Jose.
Written by Haley Kim
Photography by Arabela Espinoza