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For Women's History Month, these Paseo Academy students strike a pose as famous figures

Students, teachers and staff at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts have been recreating pictures of famous figures for Black History Month and Women’s History Month.
The Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts
Students, teachers and staff at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts have been recreating pictures of famous figures for Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

Students and staff at Kansas City's Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts are celebrating Women's History Month by recreating photos of famous women in history.

A Kansas City school is celebrating Women’s History Month by tweeting out photos of students dressed like famous women from history.

Students, teachers and staff at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts have been recreating pictures of women they look up to — athletes, singers, actresses and others — and posting them each day of Women’s History Month. They did the same for famous Black figures during Black History Month in February.

Aneshea Quarles, Paseo Academy’s community engagement liaison, said the idea came from principal Keyona Powell’s vision and her love of taking photos of students.

“It's great to see them by the person that they look up to, as well as just getting more information out to the community and our school about people they might not know about,” Quarles said. “A lot of people, they would try to do people that are already well known. So I'd be like, ‘Can you think about somebody that's from like 60 years ago that we don't know now?’”

Each post features a side-by-side comparison of a student next to a photo of a person they admire. Some students went the extra mile to style their clothing, hair or makeup to match their chosen figure.

With dozens of photos to choose from, Quarles has some favorites including Martin Luther King Jr., Janet Jackson and especially her own recreation of actress Quinta Brunson – students often compare her to Brunson’s character Janine Teagues on the show “Abbott Elementary.”

Quarles said she initially used a spreadsheet to keep track of students who wanted to participate and who they wanted to recreate. Now, she’s finding students in the hallways and asking them which famous person they look like and if they’d like to pose as them. Sometimes students want extra time to plan their look, but others put them together the day of.

That was the case for Derrian Craddoc, a senior at Paseo Academy. She decided to participate in the photo series because she saw other students being compared to celebrities and wanted to join in the fun.

Craddoc decided on Janet Jackson for her Black History Month comparison, not only because she's a talented, Black singer but because they had matching braids. The photo required a trip to another teacher’s room to get a hair tie so she could match Jackson’s hair style.

Matching hair also played into her decision to pose as Kelly Rowland for Women’s History Month — Quarles and Craddoc searched for celebrities who also had braids.

“I love that I get to be compared to them because they were both very talented celebrities and everything and I used to listen to them a lot growing up,” Craddoc said.

Craddoc said she likes that everyone is able to dress up as different people and even elicits surprised recreations.

“I also find it kind of funny too,” Craddoc said. “Cause it's like, ‘Oh, I did not expect them to be that celebrity, or they’d be this person in history.’”

Junior Kai Jackson decided to go with her celebrity lookalike — singer Summer Walker — for February’s recreation. For her photo, she used some spare fabric from the school’s fashion room to match Walker's fur coat.

“I don't really see it, but the fact that I get it so much, even when I'm at work and at school,” Jackson said. “Somebody came through my McDonald's line and was like, ‘Oh, do you know who Summer Walker is? You look very familiar.’”

For Women’s History Month, she recreated singer Halle Bailey by borrowing a matching jacket from a teacher and putting on red lipstick for the first time. A friend posed as Chloe Bailey, Halle’s older sister.

She says the series is fun — and she likes going to a school that focuses on diversity when others struggle to accept students for who they are.

“I like that we're doing this for Women's History Month and Black History Month because I just think that it shows that we have a lot of diverse students and we still support them and we still are cool with what they got going on,” Jackson said.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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