Junk Kouture is a competition series that brings together the art of fashion and the practice of sustainability. In the show, 13–18-year-old participants design, create and model fashion, made entirely out of recycled items.
What should have been the opportunity of a lifetime, turned into a nightmare for one New Jersey teen.
CJ and his cousin Jazzlynn spoke about how excited they were to be competing on the show.
“We had just gotten through the pandemic, and we wanted to give a salute to nurses and healthcare workers because they were a lot of people’s angels,” CJ said about the piece they planned to enter in the competition, which took them over a year to perfect. The design, called “Nightingale,” is made entirely of donated medical waste products and discarded pool insulation.
In January, the international Junk Kouture competition was held in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Despite being assured that CJ and his design would be protected from the anti-LGBTQ laws and customs of the UAE, government officials arrived at the event and demanded that CJ be barred from the competition.
CJ had traveled all the way to the UAE, only to be told he would not be able to take part in the competition and show off the couture he designed.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a notoriously unsafe place for LGBTQ people with UAE law prohibiting men from wearing “women’s clothing.” People who violate this law could face imprisonment. “It was a forced withdrawal,” King said. “There was literally no other option.”
After this, CJ and his team immediately left the competition and returned home. This was of course a very distressing, disappointing, and frightening experience for CJ. So, on Thursday, June 29th, GMA3 is hosted a sustainable fashion show, where CJ was finally able to model his and Jazzlynn’s design!
He then offered CJ a spot at his upcoming fashion show in New York! CJ was at a loss for words. But that wasn’t the only surprise the GMA3 team had in store for the young designer.
Legendary designer Todd Oldham took the stage to compliment CJ’s design and offer him his mentorship as he enters the world of fashion and design. Fans should be on the lookout for a possible collab between the two down the line!
After having some time to collect himself after all this excitement and opportunity, CJ finally graced Times Square with his incredible runway look.
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“I hope our viewers find some of themselves in C.J.’s story and also feel inspired to follow their own dreams,” GMA3 executive producer Cat McKenzie told GLAAD.
“We all face obstacles at times making those dreams reality, but everyone deserves a chance to make their dreams come true.”