Teri Vancetvance@nevadaappeal.com

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February 16, 2013
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Fashion show promotes self-esteem

With both of her parents unemployed, Nicole Bertholf's childhood was marked by poverty. “We had no money; we were living in the projects,” she said. “I went to school with holes in my clothes, and sometimes wore the same clothes two or three days in a row.”The school she attended in Florida also housed the wealthier children.“They knew by my clothes, I was poor,” she said. “I got bullied a lot. That was really hard for me.”But things started to change, she recalled, when a charity organization gave her mother an outfit to wear to a job interview, where she was later hired. By the time they moved to Carson City when Nicole was in the fourth grade, the family was on its way to getting financially stable.“That meant so much to me and my family's livelihood,” Nicole said. “We were able to get new things because they gave her that outfit.”Now, Nicole, 17, wants to give other children the same opportunity. As part of her senior project at Carson High School, she is organizing a Self-Esteem Fashion Show, with the proceeds going to buy gift cards to be dispersed by the Salvation Army.“It will help them feel like they're not so different from everybody else,” she said. “And by using a gift card, nobody knows where you got it. You don't have to feel ashamed that it's not your money.”The fashion show, she said, will be less about fashion and more about raising self-esteem. Models will wear their own clothes, choosing what makes them feel most comfortable. “They will walk any way they want to walk,” Nicole said. “Pose any way they want to pose. Smile, don't smile. Be yourself up there.”Nicole said she wanted to emphasize self-image because she knows what poverty can do to a person's sense of self. With few resources, she said she ate mostly junk food as a child. Her peers teased her for being fat and unattractive. “When you're told so many times you're ugly, you start to believe it,” she said. “That's when the downward spiral happens.”She thinks she was about 8 when she first started being bulimic. And although her financial situation improved over time, the emotional wounds were harder to heal. It wasn't until last year, she said, that she got the condition under control. “I love myself now,” she said. “There is not anybody else in the world I love more than me. You can't truly love anybody until you love yourself. You have to be comfortable with yourself, and I am now.”Nicole has lined up her models, local sponsors and raffle items. For the rest, she's relying on the community.“The audience is where all the profits are coming from,” she said. “If I don't have an audience, I'm not going to be able to donate anything. Right now, that's my biggest fear.”With a promising future — she plans to study a year abroad in Korea then pursue a teaching degree — she hopes to also inspire others to share their struggles and gain strength from one another. “People struggle with so many things,” she said. “When you hide it away, people can't relate to you. But when people relate to you, you have that community and you're able to heal through it. “I know if I can change my outlook, anybody can change their outlook.”

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Feb 17, 2013 04:36AM Published Feb 16, 2013 03:03AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.