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CELEBRATING LEGACY: The fifth annual Port City Rip the Runway fundraiser welcomes back Frances Weller, moves locations

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Fashion is at the forefront of the Bigg B Weekend, set for January 8-10.

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Fashion is at the forefront of the Bigg B Weekend, set for January 8-10. Since 2011 Coast 97.3’s Brandon “Bigg B” Hickman and his wife, Suprena (also known as “Team Hickman”), have hosted Port City Rip the Runway. This year’s event is scheduled for Sat., Jan. 9, and they decided to make a few new moves—literally—in its constant evolution.


FASHIONABLE FUNDRAISING: WECT’s Frances Weller is among several local celebrities returning to the catwalk for the fifth annual Port City Rip the Runway fashion show. Photo by PressMark, LLC.

Last year’s event was packed at the Hilton Riverside, with standing-room only for their guests of about 800. In their fifth year, they’ve made the move to UNCW’s Kenan Auditorium.

“We’re expecting about the same [attendance], but we want it to be more comfortable,” says Brandon, also nominated for an encore Best Of award for Best Club DJ. “The stage is the biggest [difference]. It’ll be more ‘show’ than ‘runway,’ but we’re going to have runway models and surprise performers. It’s going to be fun.”

Hickman wanted to add a video aspect this year, too, which would have been difficult had they not made the move. The video montage will revolve around participating celebrity models, featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Plus, Hickman will honor his mother, Lillie Ann Heggins.

Team Hickman started Port City Rip the Runway in honor of Mrs. Heggins, whose legacy was built in education. After her death in 2011, however, Hickman uncovered another passion.

“When we were cleaning out my mom’s house after she passed . . . we wound up with about 10 55-gallon trash bags full of clothes, and then there were another three or four bags of shoes,” he reveals.

“At that time we hadn’t realized how much she actually loved fashion,” Suprena adds. “After she left us and we sat down and reflected, [we realized,] yes, she always changed her shoes [and had a] purse to match it. She really enjoyed those things, and she passed it on to her son … he has more shoes than I do!”

The Hickmans hunkered down in the last six months leading up to 2016’s weekend festivities: securing local celebrity guest models, designers and vendors. Returning to the catwalk from last year is local philanthropist and encore’s 2015 Best Volunteer Bo Dean and WECT news anchor Frances Weller.

“This is a big year for us because we have Chief Evangelous [of the Wilmington Police Department],” Suprena adds. “I know he’s excited about it, especially since he’s not wearing Speedos [as he was jokingly concerned initially].”

Among a few other surprise guests will be a collection of national and local stores sponsoring the show—from Coastal Kicks and Cape Fear Formal Wear in downtown Wilmington and The Dressing Room on Carolina Beach Road, to New York and Company and Lane Bryant. Likely the youngest sponsor is ‎King Ron Skate Co. featuring 12-year-old CaRon Emerson’s T-shirt line.

“We also have designers from the area, like Alicia Jenkins from ‎Perfit Couture and County Lines Clothing’s Louis Maynor,” Brandon adds.

Returning from Maryland for the fourth year is designer Rhonda Jabari Alyvia Paul of Jus Jazzy Couture. She will be featuring a crocheted swimwear line.

“We all went to college with her, but she actually likes the show and how it’s organized,” Suprena says. “There’s a lot of moving parts, so it’s nice to have that feedback from designers.”

The fashion, however, is just one stitch in the fabric of this fundraising event. Heggins was a highly active leader and advocate in the education of youth.

“If you really knew Lillie Ann Heggins, you couldn’t say she went one day without talking about education,” Suprena says. “She was an active member and officer of [North Carolina Association of Educators] . . . and we wanted to make sure to continue that in her legacy.”

Heggins was a lifetime educator to her family and the state of North Carolina. She believed everyone should have the opportunity to go to college if they wanted to, which is why this event helps support a scholarship fund in her honor. The Lillie Ann Heggins Scholarship Fund offers qualifying high-school seniors in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties help with continuing their education. Recipients are typically awarded $1,000. This year’s application will be available on March 1 at and awarded in May. Eight to 10 students typically apply annually, and two were awarded the scholarship last year. Team Hickman would like to see applicant and recipient numbers increase after this year’s fashion show.

“We set goals each year, and this year hopefully we’ll double that amount,” Suprena says. “We’re not just a fashion show; it’s more about uniting the community.”

In addition to Saturday’s Rip the Runway event, there are two free events taking place over the weekend: A  Bigg Mixer gets underway at Giorgio’s Italian Restaurant (5226 S. College Rd.) on Fri., Jan. 8, from 7 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., with  food and cocktails available for purchase.

“They’re going to have select drinks specials, appetizers and meals specials for the night as well,” Suprena adds. They’re also planning to reveal more guest celebrities.

The Kids Trunk and Talent Show at the Coastline Conference Center (501 Nutt St.) on Sun., Jan. 10, from 3 p.m. – 8 p.m., will wrap up the weekend events. About 15 vendors from the show will gather in the convention center to offer various deals on their products, while enjoying local performances from young singers and dancers.

“The reason we created the trunk show is because there’s no room for vending at [Kenan Auditorium],” Suprena explains. “We wanted to create an event to highlight the vendors, and we always want to do something for the kids—Brandon’s a sucker for the kids.”

The fifth annual Port City Rip the Runway fashion show will take place on Sat., Jan. 9, at 6 p.m. at Kenan Auditorium and is open to all ages. To purchase tickets, or to donate to the Lillie Ann Heggins Scholarship Fund, visit or visit Kenan Auditorium’s box office.

Bigg B Weekend
Jan. 8 – 10

Bigg Mixer
Fri., Jan. 8, from 7 p.m. – 9:30 p.m
Giorgio’s Italian Restaurant • 5226 S. College Rd.

Port City Rip the Runway
Sat., Jan. 9
Doors at 5 p.m. and show at 6 p.m.
UNCW Kenan Auditorium • 601 S. College Rd.
Tickets: $30

Kids Trunk and Talent Show
Sun., Jan. 10, from 3 p.m. – 8 p.m
Coastline Conference Center • 501 Nutt St.

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