You look ‘chronically fabulous’ darling

Kate Smeltzer, one of the many people who have benefitted from a Chroncially Fabulous makeover and fashion shoot
Kate Smeltzer, one of the many people who have benefitted from a Chroncially Fabulous makeover and fashion shoot

A few years ago Lisburn photographer Debbie Deboo teamed up with model Felicity McKee to create ‘Chronically Fabulous’, a project aimed at making people with chronic illness and disabilities look and feel fantastic.

They run ‘Chronically Fabulous Days’, giving a completely free makeover and photo shoot to those who have been nominated to attend. So far they have given these makeovers to over 50 local people.

The Chronically Fabulous team

The Chronically Fabulous team

With the help of a team of volunteer professional photographers, stylists, hairdressers and make-up artists, Debbie and Felicity give the attendees the star treatment, and they really do feel and look like stars! As well as getting a complete makeover and digital photographs, the models also get a goodie bag with some special treats, which are donated by local businesses.

This project is about fun, fashion, feeling good, looking good and helping everyone to understand that being ill or disabled doesn’t mean either that someone has to be hidden from view or can’t be every bit as glamorous as the healthy and the able-bodied.

“With a top-class makeover, the models, who of course do not have to have any previous modelling experience, get the chance to express their identity, talk about their chronic condition, which can then be shared on the project’s Facebook page, and dress as glamorously and fashionably and however they want to - the important thing is that the model feels good in what they’re wearing and which makes them look good,” explained Debbie, who hosts the ‘Chron Fab Days’ at her photographic studio at her home in Ballinderry Upper, outside Lisburn.

“This is all about people coming together in a positive environment that supports and promotes those with illness or disability being seen, being visible, and being able to express themselves and their identity. After the session, the models have the opportunity to purchase high-quality photographs as well as, of course, continue to participate in the ever-growing Chronically Fabulous community on social media.”

In addition to the Chronically Fabulous Days, the team also sends out free pamper packs containing gifts given by local businesses. As well as being given to those suffering from chronic illness or disability the packs have also been sent to carers as the team recognises that those who provide care can often be forgotten.

Chronically Fabulous has also been on the road with a fundraising roadshow. One of Debbie’s friends Anna Murphy of AA Music received a makeover and she was then inspired to write the song Chronically Fabulous Tonight, based on an old poem of Debbie’s, which was professionally recorded at Ben Reel Studios and released as a single. This was then performed at a fundraising night together with live performances from other acts who support the Chronically Fabulous project including Charlotte Sullivan, Dale Armstrong, The Belfast Blues Brothers and Dublin-based rock band Elevation Falls. Chronically Fabulous are on the look out for photoshoot venues, models and volunteers. Debbie and Felicity are intending to offer ‘Chron Fab Days’ in other locations and are looking for venues, which can be used for free, throughout Northern Ireland.They are also keen to have a pool of volunteers to help with the days, including photographers, make up artists and hairdressers. If you think you can offer your services or a venue, log onto the project’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/chronicallyfabulousNI.