Subway Fashion Show Features Condiment Inspired Couture

NY Daily News

A little lettuce goes a long way.

Veggie couture was good enough to eat at the second annual Project Subway fashion show Tuesday, where spinach, onions, tomatoes and peppers made their modeling debut at Eyebeam Atelier in Chelsea.

The sandwich chain challenged up-and-coming designers and Fashion Institute of Technology students to construct one-of-a-kind pieces inspired by vegetables found at Subway restaurants. A celebrity panel of judges — Bella Thorne, Nastia Liukin, Russell Westbrook and Johnny Wujek — devoured the looks.

“I was thinking, ‘How are they going to make a design out of a vegetable?’” All-Star gymnast and Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin told the Daily News.

As the lights dimmed, the first model laced in lettuce-looking ruffles donned a fierce olive green frock followed by a red haute tomato-inspired dress.

Next, a banana pepper-clad model worked the runway in a lime-green high-low dress that had the front row doing a double take.

“My favorite was the onion, but my second favorite was the banana pepper; we were torn between the too!” says Liukin, whose go-to Subway order is a 6-inch turkey sandwich on flatbread with cucumbers and banana peppers.

“There were so many different colors and layers just like a real onion. I loved the head piece,” the athlete said of the black, white and purple dress with tons of tulle.

This isn’t the first time Subway got crafty with food and fashion. Last year, it challenged designers to create looks out of sandwich wrappers, napkins and gift cards.

The winner took home a lot of green — a $1,000 cash prize and her original design will be displayed at a New York Subway restaurant.

With Classroom Champions, Students and Athletes Truly Connect

Team USA

There are 24 athlete mentors — all Olympians, Paralympians or Olympic/Paralympic hopefuls — for the 2014-15 school year. Each athlete adopts three to 10 classrooms per year in kindergarten to eighth grade from around the United States and Canada.

Each athlete mentor focuses on their own personal journey and teaches about the hard work of training, goal setting, competition and perseverance. Using video lessons and live video chats, students are engaged with their athlete mentor at least once per month.

“I love being with children and working with them,” said Olympic luger Erin Hamlin, who is one of four athlete mentors in her third year with the program. “I’ve spoken to a lot of schools over the years, and (Mesler’s) idea behind it was spot-on and makes a lot of sense, so I was excited to jump on board.”

Classroom Champions has grown substantially in its five years since it launched in the 2009-10 school year. Mesler originally started the program as the lone athlete with nine classrooms. By 2012, the number increased to 25 classrooms. For the 2014-15 school year, Classroom Champions will have a presence in 120 schools across the United States and Canada and also has a partnership with the National Olympic Committee in Costa Rica.

In the United States alone, Classroom Champions has directly mentored 3,000 kids since its inception.

In order for a classroom to be considered for an athlete mentor, the school must be high needs or lower income, where 50 percent or more of the students must be eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch. The teacher then has to apply and say why their classroom should be chosen. For a classroom that makes the initial cut, the teacher has to go through a couple rounds of answering questions such as, “How would you foresee implementing Classroom Champions?” And, “Why are your students good candidates for Classroom Champions?”

Once a classroom is selected, the athlete mentor starts working with the teacher to implement new lesson plans and subjects each month. The athlete mentor will send an introduction video to the class to relate with the students.

One time per month, the athlete mentor will send their classroom a two- to three-minute video with that month’s lesson. The athlete mentor will relate the subject to their lives, giving examples of what they do, and encouraging the kids and giving them a challenge.

Each athlete mentor also shoots to do two live chats per school year. Classroom Champions donates digital technology to the classrooms, including iPads and tablets. Last year, Hamlin Skyped with each of her classrooms separately in the winter and spring.

“It’s pretty amazing to see the even the slightest impact you can have on a kid,” said Hamlin, who is a three-time Olympian and in 2014 became first American singles luger to medal in the Winter Games, where she won bronze. “Last year I actually got to visit one of my classrooms and to see them so excited about the Olympics, have their attention and energy focused on something so positive was really exciting. They spent the entire year following my career and my season and learning all these things that maybe they wouldn’t have learned if an Olympic athlete wasn’t talking to them.”

The impact the athlete mentors have on the students they work with is phenomenal. According to metrics data collected by Classroom Champions, 84 percent of students say the program helped them do better in school.

“I remember right after I won my medal, I Skyped with a bunch of classrooms and I held up the medal in the view of my camera on the computer, and it was like a big wave of, ‘Wow,’” Hamlin said. “Everyone was so excited, it was cool feeling.

“Just seeing the impact and having a strong role model for them is really neat.”

Nastia Liukin’s Second Act

Team USA

Six years after winning the 2008 Olympic all-around gold medal, and two years after retiring from gymnastics, Nastia Liukin returned to the P&G Gymnastics Championships in late August and, for the first time, she didn’t feel like she wasn’t supposed to be out there competing.

“I feel like I found my place in my life and really realized and learned who Nastia is outside of gymnastics, and I think that’s been the biggest thing that’s happened in the last year,” Liukin told TeamUSA.org.

Liukin has been to every U.S. championships since 2002, and even though she didn’t compete in 2010 or 2011, she was still a gymnast with hopes of competing in London in 2012. Since her last competition, the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, Liukin has finally and truly begun turning the page to the next stage of her life.

In 2013, she left her hometown of Parker, Texas, to begin classes at New York University. She’s rapidly progressing toward her degree in sports management. After just a year and a half, she starts her junior year on Tuesday and is signed up for 19 credits, well over the standard 15.

“I will be 25 soon,” she said with a smile, “so it’s kind of nice to jump ahead of the boat a little bit.”

Concurrently with school, and with the help of an agent and a publicist, she’s also jumped headfirst into her career. In February, while still taking classes, she traveled to Sochi as a correspondent for NBC at the Olympic Winter Games. In Pittsburgh, in addition to being inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, Liukin provided commentary at the P&G Championships for the second consecutive year.

Then there’s the celebrity angle. Especially now that she’s in New York, Liukin remains in-demand for endorsements, speaking engagements and other appearances, like when she threw out the first pitch at a New York Mets game in August.

What excites Liukin most, though, is her work within gymnastics.

USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny remembers a conversation he had with Liukin shortly after the 2008 Games.

“I want to stay connected to the sport,” she told him.

“She knew that for most of her life she was probably going to be involved in USA Gymnastics,” Penny said. “So she really wanted to put a stake in the ground, and we came up with the Nastia Liukin Cup series.”

The Nastia Liukin Cup is a big reason why Liukin felt excited to be bringing a PowerPoint, not a pink leotard, to Pittsburgh. She has partnered with USA Gymnastics to put on the gymnastics competition since 2010, and in the days before this year’s P&G Championships she pitched Penny some new ideas via PowerPoint.

“I’m not good on the computer,” she said of her PowerPoint presentation, “but put pictures and everything.”

Though Liukin won’t reveal any of her big ideas, she said she hopes to take the Liukin Cup “a few steps further in the next few years.”

The Cup has already come a long way. What began in 2010 as an ambitious event affiliated with a peak-of-her-powers Olympic icon has quietly grown into a staple on the U.S. gymnastics calendar.

Each year, young gymnasts from around the country begin by competing in qualifying meets. The winners move on to the main event, the Nastia Liukin Cup, which is held in conjunction with the American Cup, an FIG World Cup event. So not only do the young gymnasts get to meet Liukin and compete in leotards designed by the gymnastics icon, but also they get to compete on the same stage as the world-class gymnasts taking part in the American Cup the following day.

For some Liukin Cup competitors, the Cup is a (figurative) springboard to their own elite careers.

Maggie Nichols was 13 years old when she finished 20th at the 2011 event.

“It was my first time on a podium and on TV and everything, and I thought it was so cool,” she said.

In Pittsburgh, Nichols, now 16, placed third in the all-around at the U.S. championships. Others have taken it further. A 14-year-old named Gabby Douglas finished fourth in the inaugural Liukin Cup in 2010. Two years later, she won the 2012 Olympic all-around gold medal in London.

The 2015 Liukin and American Cups will be held at AT&T Stadium, the 80,000-seat home stadium for the Dallas Cowboys, which is also a short drive from Liukin’s hometown. While Liukin offers that she plans to make the hometown event “extra special,” the most specific detail she reveals is that the leotards she designs will have “more bling.” Beyond 2015, she said a future event might be held at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where the 2012 event was held.

While Liukin has big plans for her namesake event, the fact that the Cup operates more in the conscience of the grassroots gymnastics community than the mainstream Olympic audience lends credence to her earnestness.

Liukin knows that people have preconceived perceptions about celebrities who start classes at NYU or who lend their names to certain causes or events. She proudly bucks both stereotypes: NYU isn’t just a name she drops in interviews — “I’m not one of those that just skips class,” she said — and the Liukin Cup isn’t just some way to keep her name in the public eye. The former gymnast is involved in even the mundane details of the Cup, such as vetting the gyms that apply to host the qualifying meets.

“That has been something that’s important to me,” she said. “The same thing with anything that my name is on.”

Penny is among those who takes pride in watching Liukin’s post-gymnastics career unfold. In 2005, he presented the then-15-year-old gymnast with her first U.S. title in his first year as USA Gymnastics president. Today, she represents the model for how he’d like the relationship between the organization and the athletes to continue once competitive careers end.

“It’s all about where does she want to go, what makes sense and how do we work together to provide opportunity?” Penny said.

Liukin, who turns 25 in October, is still like many other college juniors in trying to figure out what opportunities to pursue.

Though she’s studying sports management and enjoyed a recent class she took on sports law, she says she’s not particularly interested in becoming an agent. More broadcasting definitely does appeal to her, though. Liukin signed a new contract with NBC that will keep her with the network for gymnastics coverage through the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. After serving as a correspondent for NBC in Sochi, she said she’d be interested in working regularly in such a role for NBC’s “Today” show.

Of course, there’s gymnastics, too. Liukin has no plans to give up her involvement in the Nastia Liukin Cup, and her long relationship designing leotards for GK Elite continued with another new collection out before the P&G Championships.

For someone who has always been busy, though, whether as an elite gymnast, a full-time student or an in-demand celebrity, there’s also some appeal to finishing school as soon as she can, hence the 19 credits this semester.

“I enjoy school, but at the same time I’m ready to focus on my career and have a life outside of school and work,” she said. “Because as of right now, it’s really hard. It’s a hard balance, and it’s a hard adjustment to spending time with friends and doing all these things that I didn’t necessarily get to do when I was training and competing.”