The Passion Behind the Red Dress Fashion Show

A couple years ago, I stumbled across a TED talk about female heart health. The speaker – C. Noel Bairey Merz – talked about the growing need for women to realize that they, too, are at risk of cardiovascular disease.

I was fascinated by the numbers, and by my ignorance. Obviously, I knew men were at risk for heart attacks… but women? The prevalence of heart disease among women was entirely new and staggering to me.

I grew up drinking Coca-Cola before converting to Diet Coke in high school. About the time I started buying Diet Coke in bulk, I decided to study communications in college and found myself obsessing over corporate-customer relations, branding and marketing. Social media became a productive fixture in my life, and I connected with some of my favorite companies, actively digesting their campaigns. Diet Coke was always the most likely to interact with in interesting ways: pulling me in as a consumer of their product and their brand at large, which is what ultimately introduced me to The Heart Truth campaign.

Diet Coke

I lamely participated in the 2012 “Show Your Heart” photo competition. When I heard about its recurrence this year, my competitive side came out. “Show Your Heart” became a part of my daily thought. I tried to become Diet Coke, internalizing the purpose and style of the campaign and its previous winners.

The endless consideration of hearts and Diet Coke is really the only inspiration I can give for my picture. The simple motion of putting on my new lipstick was just enough like the top of a heart…so I immediately knew what my picture would be. One trial application and a couple of photos later, and off it went into the world of Instagram hash-tags.

heart health

Hilary's winning photo in Diet Coke's Heart Truth "Show Your Heart" photo contest. "The simple motion of putting on my new lipstick was just enough like the top of a heart…so I immediately knew what my picture would be."

It’s still hard for me to believe I won.

I flew into New York City last Tuesday night and received a welcome call from my Diet Coke contact. Early Wednesday evening, I met up with the winning group to head to the pre-show event. Because this was my first fashion show, and I had few details as to what we would be doing specifically at the events, I jumped into our limo with full abandon and few expectations.

The venue provided a large backstage area where we watched the models prep for the show as we enjoyed drinks through heart-stamped paper straws and chatted with various people involved with The Heart Truth. I was delighted to discover the variety of women dedicated to the campaign. I chatted with one federal employee who was in charge of the medical information provided by The Heart Truth and who helped provide the foci of the campaigns.

heart health

Hilary at the Heart Truth Red Dress Fashion Show

As I waited for the resident nail artist to paint the Diet Coke logo on my finger nails, one of the intriguing activities provided, I chatted with a couple representatives from nonprofit partners, such as the James Beard Foundation.

I could easily say the event was inspiring, but what gave the evening its pulse and left me amazed and motivated were the women. Every lady I talked to was interesting, kind and intriguing.

The fashion show itself started with a short video about The Heart Truth and as each model walked down the runway, her reason for supporting heart health was projected for everyone to read. One of the models was not a celebrity; she was a woman who took The Heart Truth campaign literally to heart…and changed her life. She and a group of women – who went crazy from the balcony when she took the stage – worked together to apply heart health into their daily lives. In nine months, she lost 77 pounds, lowered her body mass index by 11 points and decreased her blood pressure. While the other models represented the inspiration behind The Heart Truth Campaign, this woman represented the result of everything the campaign accomplishes.

I respect Diet Coke’s and The Heart Truth campaign’s efforts. The red dress and heart symbols are far-reaching and slowly becoming as prevalent and motivational as the breast cancer awareness campaigns. In fact, as I was passed my in-flight refreshment on my trip back home from New York – Diet Coke, of course – the first thing I noticed was a red “Show Your Heart” logo stamped on the napkin.

heart health

Hilary Jarman is a people-person by birth and a communicator by trade. She spends her time obsessing over creative marketing strategies and eating her husband’s homemade pizza. She loves cold Diet Coke on a hot beach. Follow her on Twitter at @hurststatus.