Ava DuVernay can add one more title to her résumé: director, writer, maker, activist, Array originator — fairy godmother.
When DuVernay, 47, went to the Oct. 5 opening of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, she was shot wearing a custom hi-lo red gown from Toronto-based label Greta Constantine. Pictures of her in the dress — styled by long-lasting stylist Jason Bolden — ended up in the web-based life feed of one Ciara Hester, a 30-year-old health care worker in North Carolina, who happened to be scanning for a gown to wear to the Nov. 22 Marine Corps Ball in Myrtle Beach (her husband is a staff sergeant).
“OMG @ava I need this dress for the Marine Corp. Ball,” Hester tweeted with the hashtags #SheWoreItBest #ShowStopper. DuVernay was there to field Hester’s request. “Send me your address,” DuVernay replied. “My DMs are open to you. xo.”
Hester reveals to Rambling Reporter that she originally observed a photograph of DuVernay on Facebook where one of her companions posted red carpet shots from Perry’s A-list opening. “I saw her in this dress and I honestly wasn’t sure who she was at first,” admits Hester. “So, I looked her up and I was like, I just kind of wanted to compliment her on it. I never thought in a million years that she’d even see the tweet.”
Hester says DuVernay reached within 20 minutes. “I looked at [the response] and was like, this is not real.” The two exchanged messages about sizing with Hester on standby like “a nervous Nancy” until the dress arrived in the mail three days before the big night. “I put it on and it fit perfectly,” she says, however she needed to wait for her husband to return home so he could zip it up for her. Wearing it again for the ball demonstrated to be a night she’ll always remember.
“I had been struggling with depression for six months and about three days before I tweeted at her, I finally started to feel like I could pull myself out of it. Then all of this happened,” Hester clarifies, who says that her husband continued recommending different visitors go up to her and get some information about her to look so she could disclose to them the story of DuVernay. “It gave me the extra strength. Her simple act of kindness — I’ll never be able to express how grateful I am to her. I don’t have the words.”
With respect to DuVernay, she tweeted her compliments back to Hester after seeing a photograph of her and her husband at the enormous occasion: “You wore it well. I hope you had a night as lovely as you.” Even the designer’s Instagram account endorsed the gown’s change of ownership. “Fashion, at its core, has the power to bring us together far better than it can ever divide,” the designer’s account posted on Instagram Nov. 27. The label, established in 2006, is headed by the design group of Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong. “And to think that a piece of fabric, some stitches and kindness was all it took.”
Hester plans to keep the kindness chain moving. Brought up in the foster care system until she matured out, Hester says her plan — she offered to return it to DuVernay and didn’t hear back — is to prop the great karma up. “I am going to find a foster child who can use it for their prom. I know how hard it can be, especially for older teens, to be in the system. The dress made me feel incredible and I want to give them that extra sparkle.”
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