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Known for her in your face bold (DE-FI)ance, GRIT, giving, big heart, caring spirit, yet no non-sense accountability, tough love, and disciplined approach to business and everyday life; Caressa is probably best known for her resilience, tenacity, and perseverance. Her story has served as the foundation for (DE-FI)'s programming.
Suffering from low self-esteem as a child, Caressa's mom, also a former model, worked several jobs to put her into modeling school so that she could learn how to walk with confidence. After the first class, the instructor pulled Caressa and her mother aside and offered to continue to train Caressa free of charge because she believed that Caressa was the only person in her class that had what it took to make it in the industry as a professional model. It was later discovered that this decision had not been approved by the modeling school's owner who gave Caressa's mom the option to pay back the money owed or withdraw from the school, due to financial barriers, it was decided to withdraw from the school.
With newly found confidence and a new dream of becoming a model, Caressa spent a lot of time hanging out in the bookstores at the local malls reading fashion magazines and fashion based books looking for model searches, studying posing, reading interviews from top models and designers, and totally immersing herself into all things fashion. At the age of 12, Caressa signed her first modeling contract, unfortunately shortly after, her mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. As a result, their already strained financial situation worsened; Caressa's dreams were put on hold to become the caregiver for her mom, a title that 30+ years later, she still holds.
Shortly after graduating from high school, Caressa once again pursued a career as a model after attending a model conference where she scouted and offered a contract with Click Modeling Agency in Atlanta. At the time, she was working at General Motors Truck & Bus and was making good money, while also putting herself through college, and still caring for her disabled mother. Struggling to carry the load of being a full-time first generation college student, caring for a disabled mother, working 50+ hours a week at G.M., and chasing her dreams, she struggled to get to Atlanta to meet with her agency, once again her dream slipped away. A few years later, she became a Regional Semi-Finalist in the iconic Elite Model Look Competition and was offered a contract with Elite Chicago where she again struggled to make it to Chicago to meet with her agency. It was then that she realized that just being able to afford to pursue a dream is not enough, she also needed a support system, which she did not have.
It ultimately took her 9 years to complete her degree; years later, Caressa who has also been a loyal community volunteer and activist since the age of 12 created the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator (DE-FI) LLC using community outreach as the foundation and requiring talent to volunteer in their respective communities in exchange for (DE-FI) services. As a result, (DE-FI) eliminated financial barriers and provided the needed support system that individuals seeking careers in fashion need to find success within the industry.
And success they have found!
(DE-FI) has grown every year since 2013 without ever having to scale down or veer off course. She is an industry builder. Under Caressa's direction, (DE-FI) Global INC has working relationships/partnerships with multiple colleges, universities, and high schools around the state of Ohio as a result of the unmatched and unparalleled number of success stories that have emerged from the community outreach focused (DE-FI) Global INC.
To date, (DE-FI) has working relationships with staff, faculty, and students at The University of Cincinnati, The University of Dayton, Miami University, Kent State University, The Ohio State University, Bowling Green State University, and Hocking College. Locally, (DE-FI) has the pleasure of working with a number of area high schools and their students including Dayton Regional STEM School, Horizon Academy, Alter, Dayton Early College Academy, Ponitz, and Jefferson. And we've made it happen in the most (DE-FI)ant and disruptive way.
From fashion, media, entertainment, business, and more, (DE-FI) alum have successfully done it all and they've done it all on a global scale. Making Dayton and the Southwest Ohio region the Fashion Capital for the development and success of fashion based talent across multiple disciplines. (DE-FI) Global INC ultimately fosters a viable, nurturing, independent, and self-sustaining fashion community in Southwest Ohio.
Always with the community in mind, Caressa started Veggie Soul: The Farmers’ Market in 2019 as a way to teach the residents of west Dayton (where she lives) and Trotwood how to garden and become more self-sustaining and self-sufficient in the midst of the food desert, and she offers her services free of charge. Her future plans are to open Noirquility which will be an urban retreat/homestead bed and breakfast.
With a focus on removing barriers, particularly the financial barriers that prevent many from succeeding in the fashion industry, (DE-FI)'s work is inspired by the financial struggles and lack of support system that Caressa faced in her one time promising career as a model; her story has served as the foundation for (DE-FI)'s programming.
In 10 years she has expanded her initial company the Dayton Emerging Fashion Incubator, better known as (DE-FI) into an internationally recognized and highly coveted brand which consists of an interdisciplinary fashion incubator that focuses on the business of fashion, the first-of-its- kind one stop interdisciplinary fashion co-working space that focuses on team and brand building, the House of (DE-FI)ance, a modeling agency, (DE-FI) Models, Dayton Fashion Week, and more.
Previously, Caressa has served as a Trustee for the Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District, Community Voices producer for NPR affiliate 91.3 FM WYSO in Yellow Springs, and contributor to Dayton Most Metro now Dayton 937.
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Referrals are required for deserving students to receive a custom made prom dress or suit from a (DE-FI) Designer. Referrals must be submitted by school personnel or social worker. Students who are currently experiencing financial are personal need will be given priority, while supplies last. The deadline for referrals is February 29th.