Actresses, designers, fashion insiders and women’s health advocates celebrated heart-health empowerment on Thursday at the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women Red Dress Collection 2018. “This event sets the standard for what women’s health empowerment looks like,” said host Marisa Tomei, wearing a pleated, Grecian-inspired red gown. “It’s a movement for women’s health equality.”
Organized by the Heart Truth, the fashion show is meant to bring awareness to heart disease, currently the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association. A woman dies of cardiovascular disease about every 80 seconds.
To inspire women to take their heart health seriously, 17 celebrity models, including actresses Marion Ross, Kate Walsh, Lynn Whitfield and Tatyana Ali; entertainment-news TV host Liz Hernandez; and supermodel Niki Taylor, conquered the catwalk in stunning iterations of the Go Red For Women red dress, from floor-sweeping strapless gowns and a sequin pantsuit to a flowing caftan and trousers with a train.
Taking on the runway in a Karen Millen dinner suit, Ross, 89 — best known for her role as Mrs. Cunningham in Happy Days — was inspired to participate because of her own health history and improved habits. “My mother died at 71, and my father at 76. I have [heart disease] in my family,” Ross told AARP before the show. “[Yet it’s] so preventable through diet and exercise.”
Ross’s longtime partner, Paul Michael, who died of heart failure in 2011, was the cook for the couple and encouraged a Mediterranean-style diet, she said. “My guilty pleasure used to be cookies. I could go through a bag of Oreos in one sitting, but I haven’t done that in a long time. [Now] I stick with grilled foods.”
Fans may be surprised to know that Ross is a great softball player. After being active almost all her life, Ross joined a softball team at age 52. “We had a Happy Days softball team,” she said. “We played on all the major-league fields across the U.S. I also played in tennis tournaments but finally gave it up 10 years ago.”
And Ross’ heart-healthy habits aren’t slowing down anytime soon. “I had a life insurance policy that expires when I’m 100. I said, ‘Really? I’m going to outlive that.’ So I dropped it,” she said. “I want to live well into my 100s. I want to keep going.”