When we think of runway models and fashion shows, we likely don’t picture the models strapped with firearms. We also don’t tend to envision normal, everyday American men and women of every shape and size “doing their little turn on the catwalk,” as the lyrics of the Right Said Fred song, “I’m Too Sexy,” say. That is exactly what Amanda Suffecool and the producers of the NRA Carry Guard saw in the potential for a firearms fashion show. This entertaining and educational “Concealed Carry Fashion Show” came to life at the first NRA Carry Guard Expo last month in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I wanted to learn more about the people who put this event together, how the crowd received the event and what is planned for the future.
The Flame is sponsored by AZFirearms
Amanda Suffecool played an instrumental role in the fashion show. Amanda is an engineer by trade, but also co-hosts a radio show with her brother, Rob, called Eye On The Target Radio, and she is the founder of the non-profit called REALIZE Firearms Awareness Coalition that teaches Constitutional values as connected with firearms.
Cheryl: How does an engineer find herself producing a fashion show?
Amanda: The skill sets I trained for as an engineer really help in producing a show. You need project planning, troubleshooting, collaboration and continuous improvement. I have spent years in the manufacturing/industrial field in project planning. This was a natural transition to use those skills when we determined a need for a fashion show to demonstrate how to carry.
As part of my not-for-profit REALIZEfac.com and its radio show, Eye on the Target, we respond to people’s questions on a variety of topics pertaining to guns. After trying to answer questions on the radio about how to conceal and how to keep it from printing, what products were offered and how you wear them, question after question, we decided to put on a fashion show in Cleveland in mid-2014. The concept was not to exclusively use the stereotypical tall, thin, size-2 models, but instead, use real people of every shape and size (including tall, thin, size-2 ladies), and teach them how to model. The show was a huge success and is available on YouTube in 3 separate videos.
Using resources of family, friends, and supporters, I set out to learn how to produce a show. The key to me is the timing and coordinating of the whole event in order to have it come off professionally and without a hitch. My cousin, Jan Strimple, works in the fashion industry in Texas and was home for a week, which luckily provided me with some “consulting” time with one of Texas’s best. Jan was willing to hear my ideas and to give me pointers. So, after a 45-minute consult, I was off and running.
Cheryl: How did you come to work with the NRA on the Carry Guard EXPO?
Amanda: The invitation to work with the NRA at the Carry Guard EXPO came because of work that took place in February 2017 with the local chapter of the Greater Cleveland Friends of NRA (GCFNRA) and their annual raffle/auction fundraising event. The group asked if we thought that there would be some synergy between both the fashion show audience and the members of the GCFNRA, and asked if we would be willing to put on an event in advance of their banquet.
I agreed to do it and not long into the planning, we were approached by the VICELAND TV producer of the fashion series, States of Undress. VICELAND used our fashion show, and other footage, as the basis of its episode titled “Packing Heat In Heels.” Generally speaking, the VICELAND program tends to portray issues that align with politically liberal ideas and we were not sure what “spin” they might put on our event. I am pleased to say that they appealed to their audience, while also being non-judgmental about firearm ownership, ultimately covering the topic with a goal to strive to understand.
The show became its Season 2 opener and hit the digital airwaves in early June. The timing just happened to line up perfectly to the planning of the inaugural NRA Carry Guard EXPO. That is when the NRA reached out to see if I would be a consultant during the planning process for a concealed carry fashion show at the Expo, as well as co-emcee, and of course, as a Life Member of the NRA, I was honored and said yes.
Cheryl: I understand that you had a packed house at the event; can you elaborate why you believe people seemed so captivated by the idea?
Amanda: The show is a new thing, instead of the same old, same old. People of all ages, sizes and shapes that carry a gun have a mutual concern. … This show mixes that concern with the new growth in concealed carry accessories, holsters and other products that hit the market in the last few years and so, a great match was made. The entire project, whether behind the scenes or out front from the audience’s viewpoint, was fun and educational at the same time.
Cheryl: While the concept of the “Concealed Carry Fashion Show” may have been done before, you have “written the book” on producing Concealed Carry Fashion Shows. So, added to your list of credits, you are now an author, too?
Amanda: Funny thing is that the book was intended to be a 20-something-page-long booklet to be included with the DVD of the show. The original idea being to offer the DVD as the “watch and learn” and the booklet as the finer-points to it the process. Instead, as we started writing, it grew and grew. The end product is a 150-page book titled, Your Guide to Produce a Concealed Carry Fashion Show that can stand on its own, or can be purchased in conjunction with the DVD.
As an engineer, I am big on lists, functions, and order. I was blessed that my friend, Elayne Cross, had experience with writing a book and stepped in to save me from myself. It looks as good as it does because Elayne took the “In my head, it looks like this” and turned it into statements and flow that makes sense to the reader.
Cheryl: By writing a book helping others, step-by-step to put on these shows, are you worried you are helping people “compete” with you?
Amanda: We are all in this together. Education and safe firearms handling while promoting the Second Amendment should be on all our agendas. I am more concerned about people trying to do this alone and doing it badly, and by this, I mean, think of the train wreck that national exposure would have if the models were not well-trained and were improperly handling firearms. The story of the Second Amendment, both good and bad, would be told in a series of soundbites and photos.
I want to promote empowerment through the safe use of a firearm. We learn more and gain more by being the teacher instead of holding it close to our chest and dying with the secret untold.
Cheryl: I have included several photos in this article to help people see how engaging and fun this event was. Do you have a favorite moment from that day?
Amanda: I was so lucky to be co-hosting the NRA Carry Guard Expo “Concealed Carry Fashion Show” with Chad Franklin, from the Friends of NRA. Chad was so nice, easy to work with and ultra-professional. He made the hosting of the show such an easy part and seamless.
I also worked closely with Amada Gauldin, of the NRA’s Shows and Exhibits. She was the energy and the mechanics behind the NRA Carry Guard EXPO’s first show. What a blessing and what a professional. The show was all that it was because Amanda G. is, and produces, a class act. Amanda and I had worked for 2 months on the show and had not met face-to-face until meeting at the show itself, yet it was like meeting an old friend.
Therefore, my favorite 2 photos include these amazing people. The one of Chad and me just before the event captures us with all the possibilities of the day still twinkling around in our heads with the NRA Carry Guard Logo over our heads. And with Amanda G, Chad and me on the stage after, with the smiles of a wildly successful show spread across our faces. Two great photos commemorating a great weekend and the NRA’s first ever, concealed carry fashion show. I can’t wait for the next one.
Cheryl: You do so much to help people feel more connected to their Constitutional rights. One of those things is your non-profit, REALIZE. Can you tell us more about that?
Amanda: REALIZE is an Ohio based 501©3 not-for-profit that focuses on firearms education. We host a series of events, including promoting firearms safety for women, mothers, and the heart of the family. We support the Second Amendment with education-based programs ranging from the radio to free firearms appraisal fairs, church self-defense programs, and Woman’s Day on the Range.
REALIZE hosts an annual “Preppers Ball” where there are prizes, seminars and an overall day of learning and winning as our annual fundraising event.
Cheryl: Is your radio show geared toward Constitutional values as well? When and where can we listen to “Eye On The Target” Radio?
Amanda: Rob Campbell and I host Eye On The Target radio show weekly on 2 different stations. Both are accessible through the website, EyeOnTheTargetRadio.com, and can be listened to via live Internet when the show is live and via the archives to give you a full library of what we have produced.
Cheryl: You are such a go-getter and an inspiration to others. Thank you for spending this time with us. What would you like to leave our readers with as we wrap up?
Amanda: Ultimately, what I hope to do is to help people gain an interest and a hunger to research and study for themselves about self-defense and about our rights. Studying history, language and the Constitution helps us each to better understand our founding documents for ourselves, which means that we will not have to rely on politicians and network news pundits to interpret these things for us, and will make us better citizens and stewards of history for future generations.
Visit Eye on the Target.
Cheryl Todd, owner of AZFirearms.com and cohost of Gun Freedom Radio, has more than 30 years of experience in the firearms industry. She holds undergraduate degrees in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership, which allows her to bring a unique voice to the gun world. View all posts by Cheryl Todd