With its daring white wings, the shower of faux blue and white roses dotted all around and the gold caduceus image on the upper body, “The Nightingale,” a gown stitched entirely out of recyclable material by a pair of North Bergen High School college students, is a creation to behold.

The perform of manner artwork earned seniors C.J. King and Jazzlyn Vargas entry to the international finals of the 2022 Junk Kouture levels of competition in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital of Abu Dhabi this thirty day period right after wowing the crowd at the regional competition in Manhattan in October.

But their crowning minute by no means arrived. Just 30 minutes before showtime, the North Bergen teens were being knowledgeable by the contest organizers that a UAE govt inspection deemed the outfit “inappropriate” because C.J., a boy, would be walking the gown down the runway.

“I was heartbroken,” Jazzlyn mentioned in an job interview with The Jersey Journal Thursday. “I wasn’t heartbroken for myself, I was for C.J. That week was his entire earth, and I needed him to have it so much to be on phase and appear beautiful, and when they ended up like ‘he cannot walk’, I cried.”

The disqualification was first documented by Hudpost.com.

The dress, as intricate as it is flamboyant, was developed from blue sterilization wrap sourced from Hackensack College Clinical Heart for the competitors, which issues learners to design and build couture from recycled “junk” and current it on phase.

It was designed as a “full-on appreciate letter” to nurses and health and fitness treatment employees who labored during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jazzlyn noted that her mother is a nurse, and C.J. and his mother experienced well being problems in the past.

C.J. mentioned thoughts had been jogging high as he walked again to the dressing space whilst other contestants were being acquiring well prepared to just take the stage.

“I last but not least was explaining to the other types what was taking place and not a single of them had a dry eye,” he claimed. “Every solitary person cried, and it was difficult for the reason that I even now was like ‘you’ll be good, you are going to be high-quality, go eliminate it, really do not enable this get you down’.

“But when I received pulled … I had no plan, I had no clue, I was so blindsided.”

The UAE authorities lists cross-dressing a punishable offense, and the U.S. Point out Office has cited stories that it has acted in opposition to cross-dressing people today in the past.

Nevertheless, art teacher Steven Defendini, who contributed to the undertaking, claimed he sought clarification from the organizers to make sure there would not be a issue before the team fully commited to flying to the UAE for the finals.

Defendini claimed he was advised that if the cross-dressing transpired in the arena, throughout the levels of competition, anything would be great. Organizers and their personnel were being stunned when the govt inspectors banned C.J. and two other entrants from competing.

North Bergen could have attempted placing somebody else in the dress, or even have C.J. on stage without the need of make-up or nails. But Defendini said it would’ve been “inauthentic” and that they didn’t want to inform C.J. he couldn’t be himself.


North Bergen Superintendent George Solter said in a statement that the withdrawal was “a remarkable disappointment.”

“I want to guarantee them that we share in their agony, they have our complete support, and we are really proud of their skills, as well as the mentorship of their lecturers,” he explained.

Junk Kouture did not reply for a number of requests for comment on the incident. The UAE embassy in the U.S. also did not react for remark.

C.J. took the news superior than most of the persons at the party and would not criticize the organizers for holding the celebration in a country known for its intolerance.

“If you appear at it from a business issue of perspective, that is the place their sponsors ended up,” stated C.J. “That’s in which it was sponsored to be. Which is the place it was paid out to be. Base line is that’s how they got it. That’s wherever it was held. I obtained the sh***y end of the lollipop.”

The faculty was invited to contend in Junk Kouture in November 2021 right after online video of its stage play adaptation of “Alien” in 2019 went viral. The university made use of recycled objects to make costumes, props and sets for the perform, which drew “Alien” star Sigourney Weaver to a overall performance.

When “The Nightingale” debuted at the substantial school’s art demonstrate previous 12 months, C.J. reported absolutely everyone was “overwhelmed.”

“We have a history of undertaking bold issues here,” explained Defendini. “But there is a pretty bodily presence to the costume when you see it in man or woman. The coach is so extensive, the wings are so huge that it truly will take you again, and that seems to be most people’s reaction.

“There was like a very little bit of a pause and then like ‘what is this and why is it so grand?’”

"The Nightingale" dress

North Bergen significant college pupil C.J. King wears “The Nightingale” costume produced for the Junk Kouture contest. Courtesy Steven Defendini.Courtesy Steven Defendini.