Applying acceptance

A local dress shop provides SHS girls with a positive outlet

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Contributed by Hannah Cooper

Some of Sophia’s XO Babes take a picture to celebrate the upcoming prom season. Senior Hannah Cooper (bottom right) says that working at Sophia’s has introduced her to new friends and opportunities.

As sophomore Kaitlynn Miner filled out the application in November to have the opportunity to work with Sophia’s Bridal, Tux, and Prom, excitement and anticipation grew until she got the message  “You’ve been accepted.” Although this message meant Miner would now be modeling for Sophia’s, her initial acceptance into the program was so important to her. 

“I have learned that I am beautiful and that I do have it in me to do big things,” Miner said. “When I got accepted, I was like ‘This is a perfect opportunity for me to learn how to pose  and find my inner confidence.’”

Miner and other SHS students, senior Hannah Cooper and sophomore Olivia Graphman, have also experienced the excitement firsthand. All of the girls have been working together at Sophia’s for four months now, and they have already seen the number of benefits this opportunity has brought them on top of real work experience, like increased self-esteem and self-love.

When owner Jessica Limeberry bought Sophia’s from the original owner in 2014, she had a mission to make it a welcoming, safe place for girls to feel loved and accepted. Sophia’s ambassador program, which began in 2007, is called “XO Babes” this year. 

Limeberry says that XO Babes is a program where they find girls from different high schools and recruit them for their campaign. Each fall they send out applications and pick the applicants that best fit with their mission. 

“This is a very welcoming group of all types of people,” Limeberry said. “And so we want this to be as diverse as it can be and all people from different schools, backgrounds, sizes and styles so all get to participate.”

Sophomore Kaitlynn Miner poses in one of Sophia’s floral prom dresses. Minor says that having photoshoots makes her feel more confident. (Contributed by Kaitlynn Miner)

Those who are chosen to be an XO Babe get to model for the prom season, which would typically be from November through April. The models do fashion shows, photo shoots and make videos in the dresses to promote Sophia’s. They have to sign up to do the photo shoots so their schedule is all up to the time they are able or willing to give. 

When applying to be an XO Babe, Graphman was very excited to potentially model for Sophia’s because she has always loved dresses and dressing up. One of her friends decided to apply with her, making this something they could do together. 

Like Graphman,  Miner was unsure of what her application would lead her to. But to her surprise, she was accepted into the program that very quickly felt more like a family. 

“I was really surprised because there were so many that applied, and I didn’t think I would fit, but I did,” Miner said.

Limeberry says that they have a sweet spot for the Southport community, and since Southport is one of their main locations, it is no surprise that SHS students are a part of that sweet spot. She says that she loves  getting the opportunity to work with SHS students whenever they get involved or participate with Sophia’s.

Although this opportunity has led to many benefits for everyone involved, some of the biggest

include real work experience, meeting new people and making friendships that will last a lifetime. Cooper has been able to not only model occasionally for Sophia’s but has also been working in sales there for over a year now.

Cooper says that working at Sophia’s has improved her people skills, relationships and even her self confidence. Although she considers herself to be more extroverted, she struggled with connecting to the customers while selling dresses. But overtime she has learned  to be more personal with the customers she interacts with.

Sophomore Olivia Graphman is strutting her newly-found confidence. She says that trying on dresses brings out a side of her that she never knew. (Contributed by Olivia Graphman)

“It is definitely the most professional job I have worked,” Cooper said. “Like it is still a teenage, part-time job, but it comes with a lot of responsibility,” Cooper said.

Limeberry hopes that the experience of working at Sophia’s is an empowering one with an open environment where girls can get to know new people and meet new friends. Meeting new people is a shared experience for Cooper, Graphman and Miner, and they are all very grateful for it. 

“It has opened many doors for friendships,” Miner said. “There are so many girls from Indiana and people who have similar interests.” 

Cooper says that she is still close friends with some people that she has sold dresses to and is in good relations with her coworkers. Along with that, she is working with some people she has known for years through school, but now she has the chance to get to know them even better.

The XO Babes have also been empowered by girls they meet during fashion shows, photo shoots and even from day-to-day. The environment and atmosphere created during this is one all the girls love and appreciate. 

Limeberry believes that in order to create this kind of atmosphere, she must lead by example. She does this by making sure to encourage her models and let them know that they are each beautiful individuals. She says that inclusiveness, acceptance, love and kindness are their main core values.

Miner says that this is one of the things she values most about this company. She loves all things related to fashion, art, acting and modeling. So she viewed this as an incredible opportunity to gain experience in a lot of those areas, and learning more about herself and her worth has made it that much more worthwhile. 

Similarly, Graphman has always been more introverted and shy, but modeling at Sophia’s  has really pushed her out of her shell and taught her how to be more confident.  

“When you put on a dress, I can’t describe it, but it made me less shy,” Graphman said. “It is kind of my time to be more vibrant than I usually am.”