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Speaking of ‘Project Runway,’ ‘Orange is the New Black,’ and Girls On the Run

Tim Gunn, Laverne Cox and Molly Barker highlight CMU Speaker Series

Contact: ​Jeff Johnston

An Emmy-winning co-host and producer, an Emmy-nominated transgender actress, and an innovative nonprofit leader will headline the 2017 Central Michigan University Speaker Series.

Featured speakers for this series, which is free and open to the public, are:

  • Tim Gunn, fashion mentor and “Project Runway” co-host;
  • Laverne Cox, equal rights activist and “Orange is the New Black” star; and
  • Molly Barker, author and founder of The Red Boot Coalition and Girls on the Run.

The goal of the speaker series is to bring to campus a diverse group of speakers to educate, entertain and inspire the campus and community, said Misheaila Neil, director of University Events.

Tim Gunn
• 8 p.m. April 22
• Finch Fieldhouse

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Gunn is the Emmy-winning co-host and mentor for Lifetime’s “Project Runway,” where he also serves as one of the show’s producers. He and co-host Heidi Klum won the 2013 Emmy for outstanding host for a reality or reality competition program. In addition to his television prowess, he served as fashion dean at Fifth & Pacific, where he was responsible for attracting, retaining and developing the creative talent within the portfolio of brands. Prior to his office at Fifth & Pacific, he was the chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne Inc.

Gunn served as a member of the administration and faculty at Parsons School of Design for 29 years and has a rich and deep history with the institution. He has lectured widely on fashion and lifestyle design and Parsons’ profound role in putting America on the global design map. In August 2000, Gunn was appointed chair of the department of fashion design at Parsons. Upon leaving Parsons, Gunn received the title of honorary chair of fashion design at the school, and Liz Claiborne Inc. endowed a scholarship in his name. He is a published writer and New York Times bestselling author of books including “Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style,” has appeared on countless television news shows, and covered the red carpet for major awards shows. He also is the executive producer and star of “Project Runway: Under the Gunn” and “Project Runway Junior.”

Laverne Cox
• 7 p.m. April 24
• Finch Fieldhouse

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Cox is an Emmy-nominated actress, documentary film producer and prominent equal rights advocate who is making history in her career and significant strides in her activism. Debuting on the scene in the groundbreaking role of Sophia Burset in the critically acclaimed Netflix original series “Orange is The New Black,” she was the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show and now is expanding her presence on the small screen with the much-anticipated CBS legal drama “Doubt.”

Cox is an advocate with an empowering message of moving beyond gender expectations to live more authentically. She has earned numerous honors and award nominations for her work and advocacy, from being featured on the cover of Time magazine, to an Emmy nomination for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series. Among other accolades, Cox was named as one of Glamour magazine’s 2014 Women of the Year, one of The Grio’s 100 Most Influential African-Americans, one of the Top 50 Trans Icons by the Huffington Post, and was honored with the Courage Award from the Anti-Violence Project and the Reader's Choice Award from Out Magazine.
Molly Barker
• 6:30 p.m. April 25
• Finch Fieldhouse

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Barker is an author and motivational speaker who founded The Red Boot Coalition, which is dedicated to spreading the message of compassionate listening. It has grown from one meeting location in Charlotte, North Carolina, to nearly a dozen cities across the nation. Successful adventures like The Red Boot Coalition are nothing new to Barker. In 1996, she started Girls on the Run, a program to help young girls embrace their individual strengths and successfully navigate life experiences. Girls on the Run, which incorporates training for a 5K run in its plan, has reached more than 1 million girls and has chapters in more than 225 cities. Barker retired in 2013.

The native of North Carolina has been featured in countless national publications including Runner’s World, Glamour and SHAPE. Barker also has received several prestigious awards including the Alumni of the Year Award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was recognized by President Barack Obama and President George H.W. Bush at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., as a Daily Point of Light. In 2015, Runner’s World honored her as one of the “Top 50 Most Influential People in Running.”

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