Attitude Awards 2013 – The Fashion Report

Photo: Monika Neuhauser and myself at the Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour hotel prior to the Attitude Awards (held in Auckland this week)

Attitude Awards 2013 – The Fashion Report

Celebrities, politicians and sportsmen turned up in the hundreds on Tuesday night at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland to celebrate the success and achievements of those living with disability at the 2013 Attitude Awards.  The annual awards evening is held to celebrate the successes of those living with disability in New Zealand.

As this was a black tie affair the dress code set the standard and those attending this annual event did not fail to impress with their lovely gowns and suits.

Chiffon proved to be a popular choice of fabric in a variety of colours this year. Whilst most ladies worry about their bottom looking big in their frock or the dress is the correct length to show off their legs to maximum potential, potentially those with a disability have other issues restricting their choice in fashion apparel.

For example those is a wheelchair have to keep in mind certain aspects – for the ladies a billowing gown is not entirely suitable as the wheels on the chair can’t be compromised with a dangling piece of fabric. Likewise the gentle men need to take special attention to the length of their trousers; if too short the pants do not sit nicely over the shoes so this has to be kept in mind when purchasing or hiring their tuxedo.

Youth Award finalist Olivia Shivos wore a stunning vibrant shade of pink in a light and flowing fabric with nude coloured platforms. “My dress and cute clutch was from Ted Baker. The lovely people at Ted Baker who have a beautiful shop in Britomart in Auckland said they would love to dress me for the night. I was so excited – and grateful!” said Olivia.

Olivia went on to say “In terms of dressing up when in a wheelchair – I think comfort is key. When you’re sitting down there can be a lot of extra material hanging around. So with this dress I tucked the material behind me instead of it bunching up in front. I think it also looks nicer that way too.”
AA Olivia and Loren
Photo: Olivia Shivos and Loren Corbett

Youth Award winner Loren Corbett also chose a flowing fabric in a pale baby blue colour that had intricate beading to the v shaped neckline as well as under the bust. The dress, purchased overseas earlier this year fell mid-calf which is on trend at the moment. On someone else ‘taller’ the dress would have sat mid thigh but for Loren it was ideal.

Another lovely young lady choosing a pale baby blue flowing fabric was Artistic Achievement Award winner Alisha McLennan. Her lovely dress had V shaped straps that were adorned in silver beading and complimented by her choice of a silver clutch purse. Alisha performed as the opening act at the Attitude Awards this year and it was inspiring to see her ‘fly’ on stage before changing into her evening wear.

Photo: Artistic Achievement Award winner Alisha McLennan

Olivia Cartwright took to the stage to collect her award in chiffon gown that flowed beautifully as it trailed behind her and looked extremely striking. The combination of the stand out red colour and fabric was a vision when Olivia walked on stage for gaining The Attitude Awards Trust Communications.

Olivia’s mother Pauline Cartwright was able to share some information with me on this lovely dress: “The colour of her dress was a deep blood red of chiffon and a roused bodice of satin with the bra cup being finely pleated. It had wide straps and back of the bodice having small sequins in a swirling patterned. The rear of the dress fell to a small train trailing along the ground as she walked.”

Photo from Attitude TV: Craig Foss, Olivia Cartwright and Olivia Shivos
(Pic via )

Pauline added “Olivia felt like she has found a new extended family and feels so welcome and encompassed into the fold of Attitude Trust. She is so very excited to begin her studies at AUT and working with the team at Attitude TV – everyone is so lovely!”

Both Judy Bailey and Dame Rosie Horton looked stunning in off white and gold tone evening dresses as the two ladies at different times during the night were on stage to present awards. Judy’s tan beautifully set off her dress and as always Dame Rosie was groomed to perfection as we have all come to expect.

AA Lizzie and Rosie AA Lizzie and Judy

As for the men – they did not disappoint! Attitude Awards producer Dan Buckingham looked extremely dapper in his traditional black tuxedo with black bow tie as did Attitude Awards MC Simon Dallow who had taken the night off from presenting the 6.00pm TV1 News. People’s Choice Award winner Gary Endacott also put his best fashion foot forward with his tuxedo and Auckland Mayor Len Brown looked the part as a special guest at the Attitude Awards.

(Pic via )

Photo from Attitude TV: Gary Endacott and Dan Buckingham
(Pic via )

Many of the ladies hearts would have started to flutter as Benji Marshall took to the stage to present an award. The sporting great was there primarily to support his cousin Mia Amai who fittingly won the Courage in Sport Award. Whilst Mia may have been shy in her acceptance speech, it was her smile that spoke volumes and her true beauty shone through.

Sophie Pascoe gracefully walked the ramp to accept her Sport Performer Award in a stunning black strapless evening dress. Her toned arms were the perfect accessory for this dress but it was her hairstyle that caught my attention as it was beautifully done.

AA LIzzie and Sophie
Photo: Sport Performer Award winner Sophie Pascoe

As I said at the beginning of this blog, comfort can be the main reason for a decision with what to wear and I myself was no exception to this rule as I wanted to survive the evening without any unnecessary distress or anxiety. Another factor was cost so the end result was that I had a friend, who happens to be a very clever dress maker, sew for me a 1952 Vogue pattern in a black sateen cotton fabric that had a bit of stretch to it.

The ‘dress’ actually had an apron at the front with the back of the skirt surrounding it to make it look like it was billowing as I walked as it was clinched in at the waist with a double knot to the fabric. The top of the dress had a very high sitting collar which required a bit of bling in the form of earrings (that didn’t dangle), bracelet, rings and a head band that sat just in front of my signature ‘mega bun’. The bling was needed to lighten up the darkness of the gown which is why I used a black & white chequered clutch to shake things up a bit.

More photos from the 2013 Attitude Awards can be viewed on their Facebook page:

The Attitude Awards 2013 – the night of nights!

Tuesday 3rd December 2013 had been marked off in my diary and calendar for several months having received the phone call that I would be a finalist in the annual Attitude Awards. This black tie awards evening was held at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland City saw a glittering array of both abled and disabled members of New Zealand’s high society, politicians and sports stars dressed in their best to celebrate those individuals in our country that do extraordinary things despite living with a disability as well as those businesses that create employment opportunities for people with disability.

AA guests at event

Photo: The 2013 Attitude Awards

It was an honour to be acknowledged as a member of the Attitude TV Family by being a finalist at the 2013 Attitude Awards and my thanks to Drake Medox for their kind sponsorship of the Spirit of Attitude Award. The Attitude TV episode on my life with a head injury that screened in 2010 has been personally one of the most progressive tools with raising awareness of head injury in this country – for that I thank everyone at Attitude TV and also for their on-going support of my campaigning for awareness and the prevention of head injury.

Link to the 2010 Attitude TV episode on me for Head Injury Awareness:

Photo: Enjoying some bubbles at the Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour hotel with Marieke Esveld & Loren Corbett before the Attitude Awards on Tuesday night

One of things that make the Attitude Awards so special is that the team at Attitude TV think of everything to ensure that their VIP finalists enjoy the evening. This year the finalists were able to stay at Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour hotel which is a lovely place to have accommodation for when you are in Auckland and it was just down the road from the awards venue. All of the finalists were driven from the hotel to the Viaduct Events Centre which removed a lot of stress for all concerned and we were given guest ticket for a friend/caregiver to attend the event – again another thing that can help a person with a disability to enjoy a night out. My dear friend Monika Neuhauser (Mother Monika) attended the Attitude Awards with me as she had previously done when I was a finalist in 2010 at this event.

AA Monika and Lizzie

Photo: With my babysitter for the evening, Monika Neuhauser

It is damn near impossible to pick out the highlights of the awards as the entire event from start to finish was awesome, but in saying that the night started off with the announcement of the winner of the Youth Award which was of particular interest to me having sent in a nomination for Loren Corbett who was named as a finalist. Attitude Awards MC Simon Dallow took delivery of the winning envelope from Ambassa-dog ‘Chance’ on stage and he announced the winner to be Loren. This was an extremely special moment as both Loren and I have known Simon for a number of years and it was lovely that he was there to welcome her on stage to accept her award.
AA Lizzie and Simon

Photo: Backstage with Attitude Awards MC Simon Dallow

To all of the finalists that I have had the pleasure of getting to know, I celebrate your wins, feel for you in your losses and I look forward to learning about your future endeavours. I wish you all the very best in life as well as your families that share this journey with you.

I would like to acknowledge all the work of family, friends and care givers that assist in the day to day life of those living with disability. I personally feel these people are the unsung heroes in our country. They might be assisting in the day to day life of a disabled person, helping them reach their goals in life, excelling in the sporting arena and for some, literally climbing mountains.

A big part of my head injury awareness campaign has been about supporting the caregivers and family members that look after those with a disability. I’ve said hundreds of times in the years gone by, take a step back from the individual with the disability and look at the family and the close friends that have been left to pick up the pieces. These people need support as their lives changed overnight when faced with this new situation of ‘disability’. For every finalist at the Attitude Awards there was someone sitting beside them that had stepped up to bat and helped their loved one strive for success. As you can imagine there were plenty of tears being dabbed at with the linen table cloths on Tuesday night during the awards.

On Sunday 8th December 2013 at 8.30AM there will be an hour length TV show on the Attitude Awards and I encourage all New Zealanders to tune in and watch the show; however I do recommend that you have a box of tissues on hand. If you don’t shed a tear or even feel a tug on the old heart strings you are possibly not paying proper attention. My fellow finalists at the Attitude Awards are truly inspiring people and it was an honour to be able to share the night with them.

Eleanor Roosevelt was once quoted as saying – ‘A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.’ Personally I’ve found new strengths within myself following my head injury, as have many of the people at the Attitude Awards that are living with their disability. It’s that personal strength that makes you get out of bed in the morning despite knowing the day ahead won’t be a box of fluffies … that’s just life I guess but it’s your ‘Attitude’ with how you approach life that can turn a bad day into a good one for either yourself or other people around you.

Attitude TV Website:

The full list of winners from the night is:

Youth Award – Loren Corbett

Making a Difference Award – Robyn Hunt

Artistic Achievement Award – Alisha McLennan

Courage in Sport Award – Maia Amai

Sport Performer Award – Sophie Pascoe

Spirit of Attitude Award – Vanassa McGoldrick

Employer Award – CCS Disability Action Canterbury West Coast Branch

Hall of Fame Inductee – Alexia Pickering

People’s Choice Award – Gary Endacott

Supreme Award – Robyn Hunt

Here are the finalists in the 2013 Attitude Awards

Sport PerformerSponsored by Invacare New Zealand
Cameron Leslie, Mary Fisher, Phillipa Gray and Laura Fairweather, Sophie Pascoe

Courage in SportSponsored by Westpac
Mackenzie Kench, Maia Amai, Neil Cudby, Phil Thorn

Spirit of AttitudeSponsored by Drake Medox
Elizabeth Charleston, Margaret Alden, Vanassa McGoldrick

Making a DifferenceSponsored by Ministry of Health
Gary Endacott, Glynis Collins, Robyn Hunt

YouthSponsored by Wayne Francis Charitable Trust
Jordan Milro,y Loren Corbett, Olivia Shivas

Artistic Achievement Sponsored by IHC Foundation
Alisha McLennan, Phil Spring, Tiffany Collett

EmployerSponsored by ACC
CCS Disability Action Christchurch Fairfax Media NZ Ltd Justin Allan of Uzabus

Plus Size Fashion Tips: ‘To wear or not to wear – that is the question’

Just over a year ago I was at my heaviest weight – like ever. I did a ‘Plus Size’ shoot for a New Zealand magazine and I just about died of embarrassment when it came out in print. When I saw the photos I came to realise just how big I had gotten due to stress and health problems – some of my close friends didn’t even recognise me in the magazine.  I couldn’t get away with saying I was big boned or carrying a bit of extra weight – I looked and felt HUGE compared to my former self.

photo (1)

However because of my journey in life I accept why I got that big. Stress is NOT your friend – simple as that. If you are serious about losing weight there are certain issues you will need to acknowledge and address.  Only then can you empower yourself to go about making some changes in your life if you wish to try and improve your health. Its not about getting into a size 6 bikini, its about improving your health and wellbeing to get the maximum potential out of your body.

During the shoot I made a few comments to the magazines fashion editor on what its like to be a bigger person and the fashion related obstacles that can present themselves.  The conversations that day resulted in a request for me to put pen to paper to help out a few of my fellow plus sized friends in New Zealand with some advice. Below is the un-edited version of what I supplied to the magazine:

photo (2)

Make sure you have some classic items of clothing in your wardrobe that can take you from day to night time that you always feel confident in when you slip them on.  You need to have a fabulous pair of jeans, a stunning pair of black pants with a matching blazer and a gorgeous black skirt that balances out your bottom half to show your legs to their best advantage. Spend your money on these classics in good fabrics that will last you for a few years that create the foundations for a successful wardrobe.

Don’t make the common mistake of hiding in black from head to toe to appear thinner.  Add some colour to your wardrobe and wear them with confidence.  This season has some wonderful prints and colours coming out which should be taken advantage of.  But before you put your hand out to grab the clothes hanger in the shop that is sporting the latest ‘must have’ colour of the season ask yourself “does it suit me’? If not and you still really want to give it a go, why not compromise and look for a different shade of this colour?  This colourful item doesn’t have to be a shirt or pair of pants so why not add the colour by way of accessories?  Fashionable bangles, a pair of earrings, a scarf or a belt might be what you need to inject some colour into your outfit.  To really make a statement why not add a pair of must have fluoro pumps or sandals to your outfit this summer for a bit of fun?

If done correctly, layering of clothes works well on the fuller figure. But be wary of adding layers that add bulk to your frame.  Embrace your figure and show it off in a fashionable and elegant way!  A plain camisole or tank top that finishes just below the widest part of your thighs will greatly improve a situation when you add a piece over the top of it.

Work with what you have got.  Do you have great legs? Then show them off.  Is your waist a feature? Then work it – don’t cover it up with layers of clothing.  Instead try wearing a stunning belt that draws attention your waist.  A wrap dress is a wonderful style for many women and a personal favourite of mine.  It can cover the upper arm area which can be an area many plus size women like to cover up; it flatters the cleavage, emphasizes the waist and it falls nicely over the hips and thighs finishing just below the widest part of your calves.  If you feel daring and you are fortunate to have a stunning pair of legs then the length can be a bit higher.

Since converting to being a paid up member of the ‘Supportive Underwear Club’ I now would not wear certain outfits in my closest without my shape firming under garments. These supportive types of underwear come in various styles and there is something for everyone. Personally I’m very fond of the kind that go down to my knees and reach up to just under the bra. It is a miracle cure for smoothing out the bulges around the waist and tummy area. Also invest in a good bra that holds you in and supports one of your best assets. When you try a bra on at a shop make sure you put it through its paces. Jump up and down then lean over and give the girls a shake. If you burst out over the top then this is not the bra for you. If possible ask for a personal fitting at your lingerie store. They have people trained to fit your bra and these people know boobs.

What you wear on your feet is the finishing touch to an outfit.  Be wary of shoes and boots that visually close your legs off from your feet which will make your legs appear shorter than they are and can highlight if they are slightly bowed.  Your shoes will work best if they appear to elongate your legs.  Also to note, have a good long think before you purchase the in vogue peep toe high heels this summer. 100kg of weight trying to escape through the opening of your peep toes can lead to a fair bit of pain which may ruin a night out on the town, a day at the races or put you in a bad mood after a day at work. You have been warned!

Just because a certain style is in fashion does not mean it is going to suit you.  Work with what you have got and make the most of the good points of your body.  Do you have lumpy fat upper arms that you don’t like? Then cover them up – yes it’s that simple.  Puppy dog ears (that piece of flesh that hangs over your bra between your breasts and armpits) are not something you want to show off. Puppy dog ears look cute on a puppy, not on a plus size woman.  As for cleavage – no, not your breasts, I’m talking about the back cleavage that can appear when wearing a strapless dress, if they appear to be bigger than a B cup then why not add an item of clothing like a fashionable sheer lace cardigan to cover it up which will also hide your upper arms and those puppy dog ears.

The ultimate sin for the bigger female would be the popular satin strapless cocktail dress. You see many a girl pulling up the top part of the dress in a bid to cover the ample cleave that is trying to escape and the puppy dog ears that are having an outing.  Next thing you know she is pulling the bottom half of the dress down which has started working its way up to her knickers.  This satin cocktail dress is not really a dress is it? It’s more of a wide satin belt with what it ends up covering… wear a dress instead to maintain your dignity and make the most of your assets.  You want to get attention with your outfit for all the right reasons and not the wrong ones.

Whatever you decide to wear, make sure you wear it with confidence.  There may be several reasons why you have gained weight over the years and for some having to buy a size 20 is a testament that you have survived a series of extremely stressful events in your life time or are dealing with medical problems.  So hold your head up high, put shoulders back and walk with pride.  You are who you are and you are the size that you are, so let your inner beauty shine through in the smile on your face.  A confident smile is the best accessory for any outfit.  Good posture and deportment is your best friend when it comes to pulling off a look. Think confident and you will appear confident.


To blog or not to blog – that is the question …

To blog or not to blog – that is the question …

I tend to post a fair bit on Facebook and when I remember I throw out a Tweet every now and then, however the concept of blogging I thought was beyond me due the effects of a head injury that rules my life.

In regards to my writing in years gone by I was fortunate to do some trips to various events around the world and report back in as a journalist & photographer. Sadly that way of life came to a standstill as my head injury worsened – I couldn’t remember what I had written from one sentence to the next which made it very difficult to write an article.  That was a shame because the photography started off as a tactic on coping out in public. Instead of freaking out talking to people (memory and speech problems) I could whip out my camera saying had to go take some photos.

My photos were published in various equestrian magazines and not before too long the requests came in to supply articles to go with the photographs. In my opinion doing these things were good for me by way of a form of therapy for me. I’ve had a lot of upsets with the medical treatments I have received (or lack thereof) so my writing and photography were my therapy with trying to read and write and get my brain working.

I loved writing. The thrill of a deadline looming was a thrill quite like no other (it’s a mix of awesome and stress) and the reward of seeing a finished article in print in a magazine warmed the soul when I wasn’t well as I felt that I was achieving something in my life. So to have that outlet come to an end was disappointing. But I have come to learn to live with disappointment as my head injury tightened its grip on my life and would present me with new boundaries every week, month and year.

On one occasion I was in a room with several Dr’s who marvelled at the articles I had written. One of the Dr’s who was reading through some of the magazines looked at me and asked “How can you write this? You can barely talk let alone string a sentence together so how can you write these articles?”

No doubt I will use my blog in the future to talk more about my head injury and the awareness work that I do, but I’ve been told that my first blog should be an introductory piece to let people know the “Who, Where, How and Why” about me…

My name is Elizabeth Charleston. I grew up on a farm in the Waikato region of New Zealand and rode my ponies at events and shows in the various disciplines like showing, show jumping, eventing and dressage and did well in school until I hit the age of 15. Here’s a picture of me and “Edward” ( Native Flight) on the cover of the show catalogue.

photo (1)

At 15 years of age I entered a modelling competition called the ‘Revlon Look of the Year’ which was an international model search that Elite Models (New York) started. Famed modelling agent Maysie Bestal-Cohen held the New Zealand competition and because I wasn’t brave enough to walk into a modelling agency to declare ‘I want to be a model’ so this was a great way for me to test the waters as all I had to do was send in some photographs of me along with the entry form. I figured if I didn’t hear back from M.B.C it wasn’t meant to be, but a few weeks later a letter arrived in the mail to advise me that I was to be a finalist in the New Zealand competition.

Modelling jobs came in thick and fast which resulted in your typical weekly magazine articles on the horse riding farmer’s daughter that was giving the international modelling scene a crack. I proudly represented New Zealand in the Ford Models ‘Supermodel of the World’ contest in 1992 that was held in LA and went on to live in New York, Milan, London etc. I’ve got some funny stories from ‘back in the day’ that I still remember but perhaps those tales can be left for another blog. Here I am with Eileen Ford and Maysie Bestal-Cohen


I ended up living permanently in Cape Town in 1998 when I married a lovely South African chap who I shared a mutual love of horses with amongst other things. I had some of the best experiences of my life living in South Africa and some of the worst. It is still a country I hold very close to my heart because of the people I met and the things I got to experience in life over there with the modelling industry, the equestrian community and day to day life.

Following my divorce I returned to New Zealand to live as I didn’t quite know what to do. Unfortunately one year later a horse fell on top of me during January 2005 bringing my life to a screaming halt with suffering a head injury from the accident amongst other injuries.

The head injury has been a life changing problem but dam it I still try to give life a crack and I’m fortunate to have some close friends around me that support and help me when the chips are down. I call these friends my ‘babysitters’ but it’s been suggested I refer to them as my ‘minders’ as it sounds a bit more important … yeah so these ‘babysitters’ of mine help me with my outings. I don’t get out much but when I do I have to rest so I can charge up enough to survive an outing which might be something to do with a charity event or function of some kind and sometimes its as basic as taking me to a Dr’s appointment.

One thing that kept me alive during some very dark days has been my head injury awareness work. Knowing that I was helping other people in effect basically helped me. Unfortunately I ended up with a lot of things to do with equestrian roles that I didn’t volunteer to do and the stress was literally killing me to the point that I ended up weighing just on 110kgs. Things had to change and I had to learn to say ‘no’ to people that wanted me to do things for them.

I was very fortunate to be invited to stay with a friend in 2012 (July/August) who was travelling back to Canada to spend some summer months up there with her family. Long story short – I rested up, saw the light and came home to New Zealand and turned my life around because of the time I spent in Kelowna. I lost 30kgs in about six months and cut out a lot of things from my life, all in an attempt to have the best health I possibly can. I can’t control the problems I have associated with my head injury but I can to a degree control how I now react to it.

Because of the various things I get involved in my future blogs could be about fashion, head injury awareness, equestrian and yes even sheep.  I’ve already been told off that this is getting a bit long for an ‘intro blog’ so I only have myself to blame if no one bothered to finish reading this.

Have soap box, will travel …