Alumna Focuses Energy on Popular Fashion Event in the Midst of Pandemic Shift

The show must go on and will go on Friday, Oct. 16, ticket info below
models in the latest fashions on stage

Celeste Lupercio (B.A. ’95, sociology) graduated from UMKC and began her career working in children’s psychiatric care in Kansas City. Using the extensive skills she’d developed, Lupercio shifted mid-career to event management and is currently the senior director of sales, marketing and events at the College Basketball Experience. The COVID-19 pandemic meant a different kind of transition; this time into fashion.

She’s been working from home since the spring, but Lupercio has also focused her energy on the West 18th Street Fashion Show: Summer in Hindsight. This treasured community event airs Friday at Boulevard Drive In.

Tell me what transitions you made personally because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The College Basketball Experience closed March 16, and I’ve been working at home since then. It’s challenging though. I am used to being engaged in the community. I’m involved in a lot of volunteer positions – some at the board level. And I feel very lucky to be able to focus on the West 18th Street Fashion Show.

How did you make the transition to event planning from social work?

I worked as a case management liaison at a psychiatric hospital for children for 18 years. I wasn’t burned out, but I needed a different challenge. A large part of my responsibilities was communication, reorganizing priorities and case management liaison tasks. I thought event planning at a not-for-profit organization would be a good fit for my skills. I did some contract work for a while and then ended up interviewing at The College Basketball Experience. The CEO was kind enough to listen to me and recognized how my skills would apply. I’ve had several promotions since then. It’s been a great experience.


How did you become involved in the 18th Street Fashion Show?

Last year the founder, Peregrine Honig, asked me to come on board after I helped manage the patron party. I love the event and thought working on it would be great. Peregrine was studying the Bauhaus movement last year and reading a lot about it. It inspired this year’s theme, Summer in Hindsight.

You thought you’d be planning an event outside on 18th street in the Crossroads District. How did the shift to filming the event take place?

This is the 20th anniversary of the show. The logistics were in place. No one wanted to cancel the show, so we shifted so we could work to keep everyone healthy. The new plan was to film each designer separately and create a film.

We scouted different locations and ended up with 19. Most were willing to participate for free. We shot each designer in a different location over the course of two weeks with nine intense days of shooting.

We were fortunate that everyone was on the same page as far as the virus is concerned. We all believe in science. We all wore masks. We worked with a skeleton crew to minimize interaction. A colleague loaned us powerful portable air filters to clean the air on location.

Besides being a film, what will make this year’s event stand out?

[Singer and musician] Calvin Arsenia, this year’s star, performed last year and received a standing ovation. His energy is so great. After last year’s performance he said, “I want to be musical director next year.” He’s composed music based on what each designer is doing and has helped with editing the movie.

It has always been a diverse group of designers, but with the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, we made a point of making sure that every level of the event had diversity – the designers, the producers, the board.

The film will debut at the Boulevard Drive-In Theatre on Friday, October 16. What do you think the experience will be like for the viewer?

Usually, spectators are physically outside on 18th Street sitting in chairs or standing.  I think it’s possible that this may be a more focused experience for the viewer as they will be in their cars – their own private space. Also, they won’t be standing, or hot.

Even people who have gone to the show before will be surprised. No one knows what to expect. I think they will be on the edge of their seats. Besides, we are all missing live performances. This will be closer to that.

Is there one showing? It appears the movie can be booked for private events.

The film will be shown at the Boulevard Drive-In on the Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. But I do think if an organization wanted to host an event, Boulevard’s owners may be receptive to that.

We will have cameras there that night and re-edit the director’s cut that will include behind the scenes footage. We are hoping to submit that version to film festivals. We haven’t done that before, but we will figure it out!

West 18th Street Fashion Show graphic

This sounds as if it’s been an incredible amount of work at a very challenging time.

This has been the most altruistic thing I’ve done. It’s been exhausting, but amazing to work with such dedicated and talented people.

The whole experience has been so fulfilling and intense. We will all have to focus on maintaining our emotional health with the lack of all that energy and activity once it is over.

Summer in Hindsight will premiere at the Boulevard Drive-In Theatre. To purchase tickets or donate to the organization, visit West 18th Street Fashion Show.

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Published: Oct 12, 2020

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