Next month at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Houston, anti-abortion rights advocates will gather for two hours of prayer, lunch and spring wear -– all made possible by Dillard’s Memorial City of Houston, which will be fitting a team of 10 Heroic Media supporters to model nautical-themed outfits -– all to raise money that will fuel an anti-abortion campaign in the Houston area.
There are nine Dillard’s stores in Colorado.
The event, scheduled for April 9, will be the second fashion show the Fortune 500 company, headquartered in Little Rock, Ark., has sponsored for Heroic Media, the Austin, Texas-based anti-abortion media group that creates television, billboard and Internet advertising targeted at pregnant women and, lately, specifically aimed at African Americans. The previous show was held in Austin last fall.
Both Heroic Media and the Dillard’s branch insisted that the partnership is not political. Dillard’s Memorial City manager Stephen Brophy said the store accepted the request to sponsor a fashion show because another branch had done one at a previous store and it was successful.
“We try to not get too political,” Brophy said. “We’re about fashion. We try to appeal to the masses.”
Brophy said he didn’t know much about Heroic Media and didn’t seem to be aware that its focus was on abortion issues. For example, he asked The American Independent if Heroic Media supports abortion rights.
Last month, a now-infamous billboard erected in Manhattan by Life Always — owned by the founder of Heroic Media and headquartered out of the same Northwest Austin location — was deemed so controversial it was taken down almost immediately. The billboard, which featured the message “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb,” has been linked to a media campaign accusing Planned Parenthood of specifically targeting African-American babies for abortion. The mother whose daughter became the face for the billboard demanded the image be taken down; Life Always had legally used the image it purchased from a stock photo supplier.
A similar billboard was placed previously in Jacksonville, Fla.
As The Texas Independent has reported previously, Heroic Media founder Brian Follett has likened Planned Parenthood’s abortion work to genocide, but that has not stopped potential GOP presidential candidates Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin from speaking at high-priced Heroic fundraisers.
The L.A. Times reported last month that Sarah Palin spoke at four Heroic Media fundraisers in 2010. The paper noted that the Jacksonville billboard about the supposed dangers for African-American babies in the womb was paid for by proceeds raised at a Palin event, and the language on the ad was inspired by a statement the former Alaska governor made, urging the audience to protect “our littlest sisters in the womb.”
Heroic Media spokesperson Kimberly Speirs said the guest speaker at next month’s fundraiser in Houston will be an African-American woman who decided not to get an abortion. Speirs also noted that the guest was once voted teacher of the year at a Houston school district but would not release the woman’s name.
Last fall’s sold-out Dillard’s fashion show in Austin was attended by nearly 200 people and raised approximately $45,000 to go toward an Austin-focused campaign, Speirs said. She wouldn’t speculate on how many attendees are expected at next month’s fashion show in Houston –- registration is still open through March 31 –- but Brophy said
he is expecting between 400 and 500 attendees.
Heroic Media is charging $50 to get into the event and is asking attendees to purchases flower-themed sponsorships: A $5,000 “rose sponsorship” secures eight tickets to a private reception before the event, as well as the opportunity to model in the style show; though Speirs said any Heroic Media supporters can model, as long as they are supporters of Heroic Media’s mission. A “firewheel sponsorship” costs $2,500 and pays for six tickets to the private reception before the style show. A “Indian paintbrush sponsorship” buys four tickets to the private event, for $1,500. Attendees also have the option to sponsor tables for $350.
Brophy said Dillard’s does not usually make a profit at these sort of events -– which the Houston store has previously sponsored for the likes of Houston’s Lakeside Country Club -– but they usually break even. He said that often the models end up purchasing the clothes, which at this event will either come from Peter Nygård’s or Antonio Melani’s fashion lines.
“It’s a win-win,” said Brophy, noting that in exchange for free entertainment, the store gets free advertising.
Dillard’s corporate office did not return TAI’s attempts for comment.
For its part, Heroic Media just seems to be a fan of Dillard’s style.
“Everyone loves Dillard’s,” Speirs said and noted that the corporation was chosen for its respectable brand and for the quality of its clothes.
The event will be about clothes, Speirs said, but it will also be about furthering Heroic Media’s mission — talking women out of abortion.
“We do not ever tell anybody what to do,” Speirs said. “We show alternatives [to abortion] through education and positive messages.”