Gennie and models
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • Designer Gennie Catastrophe chats with her models before showing her collection onstage at Reynolds Coliseum.

Audience members cheered and roared for N.C. State’s student designers and models Wednesday night in Reynolds Coliseum. But what the audience never sees is how much hairspray, cookies and ironing go into putting that line out on the runway.

I shadowed designer Gennie Catastrophe and her models in the hours before as they prepared for their moment in the spotlight.

2:15 p.m.: I arrive at eco-friendly Bottega-A Hair Studio on Glenwood Avenue, where Catastrophe has scheduled her models for their hair and make-up. The salon is especially full because Laura Mazzurella’s models are there at the same time. Catastrophe greets me wearing jeans and a white hoodie with a button proclaiming her to be a “B.F.D.,” and introduces me to her models.

Katie Stewart’s curly hair gets teased and volumized, and a stylist clips in thick braids of similar thickness and twists tiny braids of her hair. Debbi La Rue’s hair starts out straight, progresses to an updo and ultimately ends up as a side-swept ponytail. Catastrophe speaks with another stylist and points to her inspiration board for guidance, with its photos of soft waves, braids and light makeup.

Lauren Ramsey sits in another room, getting made up by an Afterglow Cosmetics technician. Ramsey closes her eyes as the technician brushes shadow onto her eyelid, creating a smoky-eye effect.

2:30 p.m.: Ramsey’s clipped-in thick braid is shedding long blond hairs.

“I don’t know where these are coming from,” Ramsey says. By the time she leaves, her braid is reinforced, and the hairs criss-cross Bottega’s floor.

Lauren Ramsey, Katie Stewart, Heather Lisseveld
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • Lauren Ramsey watches as Bottega stylist Heather Lisseveld threads tinsel through Katie Stewart’s hair at Bottega Salon on Glenwood Avenue.

3:15 p.m.: Since most models are missing school or work to participate in the show, they’re also missing meals. Most have packed lunches of sandwiches or vegetables. Ramsey brings two large Tupperware containers of cookies, one sugar and one chocolate.

She offers them around, joking to Mazzurella’s models, “We’re trying to fatten you up so we look better on the runway.”

3:30 p.m.: Model Aislinn Pentecost-Farren is ready for the hair chair. She winces at its appearance and tells the stylist, “Gennie told me not to wash my hair for two days.”

Lindsey McEvoy starts getting her hair done. An hour and 45 minutes later, it’s a light-brown cloud.

5:45 p.m.: Half an hour after leaving Bottega, Catastrophe and the models have arrived at Yates Mill Road for a photo shoot. The models take turns posing on rocks near the water and next to the mill.

Gennie and hairspray
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • Catastrophe sprays down Lauren Ramsey’s hair at Yates Mill Pond, while Debbi La Rue and Lindsey McEvoy await their respective turns.

Later, Catastrophe’s father brings box lunches Catastrophe ordered for the models. They take a break from posing and chow down on burritos and chips and salsa from Armadillo Grill.

6:45 p.m.: La Rue, McEvoy and I wait in Leazar for Gennie, who arrives 20 minutes later. (Everyone else is in Reynolds Coliseum.) She dons her celebratory dress, which she’d been working on in the salon, and heels, and irons her cardigan.

7:15 p.m.: Catastrophe and her models cool their heels in Reynolds in a room with Hannah Goff and Kirk Smith’s models. Catastrophe fixes hair and goes over logistics, while Stewart efficiently paints everyone’s nails a matte blue. Everyone gets in a few more bites to eat of their box lunches and the ever-present cookies.

8:15 p.m.: Backstage support comes and retrieves Catastrophe and her models since it’s almost their turn. Armed with hairspray, Catastrophe spends the last moments backstage adjusting hems and hair, and gathers her models in a group to offer encouragement before they go on.

8:24 p.m.: In order, Ramsey, La Rue, Pentecost-Farren, McEvoy and Stewart all go out and strut their stuff. Catastrophe excitedly congratulates each one as they arrive backstage. Then she appears onstage as the designer of the line.

“I’ve never been this nervous in my life,” Catastrophe says.

For the rest of the show, she watches other designers’ lines from backstage and chats with her peers, fielding congratulations and extending the same to others.

9:10 p.m.: Catastrophe takes a final onstage bow accompanied by Ramsey. After the show ends, she takes her models out to meet her father for pictures.

After that, it’s off to the Busy Bee Café for the afterparty, where Catastrophe will presumably blow off some steam after her months-long hard work.