Speaking at Minnesota's Red Dress Collection Show at the Loews Hotel, Minneapolis March 2015I never met a microphone I didn’t like, and the microphone, stage, and crowd last Saturday at the Minnesota’s Red Dress Collection fashion show did not disappoint. I got to wear a designed-for-me gown by Thom Navarro, get made beautiful by Lili Salon Spa hair and makeup artists, and be adorned with gems by Realia by Jen. I loved the runway and even the cameras and how much fun all the models (local celebrities — journalists, bloggers, radio hosts, athletes, TV stars) had while shining a very bright spotlight on women and heart disease.

It was a special privilege to spend a few weeks with Thom Navarro and his brother and business partner, Tim, in their studio trying on my dress in various stages of completion, and an honor to meet and share the runway with August, the nine-year-old survivor of a congenital heart defect and multiple surgeries by the age of 5. She was truly the star of the show — inspiring, confident, and brimming with wonder and joy.

Carly Aplin at Minnesota's Red Dress Collection Show at the Loews Hotel, Minneapolis March 2015But most of all I loved that this event — created and produced by Carly Aplin — uses fun, fashion, and glamour to get the attention of a whole new audience and one that, judging by the gasps from the crowd as I gave this speech, really needed to learn about heart disease.

Here are many, many photos and my remarks as drafted and fairly close to as delivered. It was a ridiculously fun night and important too. I’m so happy to have been a part of it.

Thank you and I’m so happy to be here. This has been a very fun experience all along – culminating in this beautiful event. Thank you to Carly for making it happen, and to the sponsors, designers, and artists who made this night possible.

For some of you, tonight might be the first time you heard that heart disease is the #1 killer of women. It is certainly a surprise to many, as it was to me.

There are many forms of heart disease. I have three of them. I am also a heart attack survivor. Like many people, my first symptom of heart disease was my heart attack — an acute event that became a diagnosis of a chronic, progressive, life-altering, and life-threatening illness.

I was 37 then and in training for my second marathon. I had a 10-year-old and a 3-year-old at home. I was active, a non-smoker, a normal weight, not diabetic. I certainly felt healthy. You would have described me as healthy. And I looked it too – so much that it took 10 hours in the ER and hospital to even diagnose my attack. The first cardiologist who saw me actually said “You don’t fit the profile.”

But here’s the thing. I do fit the profile. I am the profile, and so is every other woman in this room – and every man too for that matter. Heart disease is the #1 health risk for all Americans.

Half of the adult population has at least one risk factor for heart disease. Here are the factors I had – family history of high cholesterol and high blood pressure during pregnancy – my first pregnancy, 10 years before my heart attack. That’s it. And that was enough.

My signs and symptoms were different than you’d expect too – or at least different from what the ER doctors and cardiologist were looking for. My symptoms were pain in my back, ache in both arms, a cold sweat, and a “feeling of dread.” I never had chest pain. Less than 30% of female heart attack survivors do.

The intervention that saved me and the treatment I’m still on today, though, are not that different. There aren’t different treatment protocols for women, or different drugs and there are barely different doses. 42% of women who have heart attacks do not survive the first year, compared with 24% for men.

So that’s why we’re all here today – to raise awareness that women are at risk for heart disease, to inspire women everywhere to take steps to protect themselves from heart disease and to advocate for their health, and to support Go Red for Women. Go Red is about information and empowerment and getting women’s attention – but it is also about research and prevention and treatment for women’s particular experience with heart disease.

And that’s good, because my story is also not all that unique. My story is all of our story. What happened to me happens all the time — and worse — to tens, even hundreds of thousands of women. Go Red is about all of us — all the women in this room, in our families, and in our lives. We are why we Go Red.

And now, the photos . . . (lots of photos!)

Minnesota's Red Dress Collection at the Loews Hotel, Minneapolis March 2015Dramatic and glam venue at the Loews Hotel.

Thom August and Me backstageDesigner & model selfies in the green room! Thom, August, and me.

Thom and Me selfie 2

August in mirror Thom works on Jens dressAugust in the mirror while Thom works on my dress. Photo © Rhea Pappas Photography

Kirk Jen AugustThe Tim + Thom models! Thom designed both my dress and August’s. He was so amazing to work with and made every part of the experience fun. I love August’s dress — inspired by her favorite, Queen Amidala! Thom also wanted my dress to be both beautiful and tough. I like that. Kirk DeWindt‘s suit was designed by Tim Navarro. (Leah McLean smiles in the background.)

August Kat and Jen backstageAugust and me backstage, with Kat Perkins. (Yes, that Kat Perkins.) Photo © Rhea Pappas Photography.

Kat Jen August DoctorKat Perkins, August, and me with Kate Moody from the University of Minnesota Heart Care backstage right before the show. Photo © Rhea Pappas Photography.

August Jen Carly backstageAugust, Carly, and me backstage right before our big debut. Photo © Rhea Pappas Photography.

Speaking at Minnesota's Red Dress Collection Show at the Loews Hotel, Minneapolis March 2015

Jen Thorson on runway at the Minnesota's Red Dress Collection Show at the Loews Hotel, Minneapolis March 2015Photo © Rhea Pappas Photography.

Jen Thorson on runway at the Minnesota's Red Dress Collection Show at the Loews Hotel, Minneapolis March 2015Dress by Thom Navarro. Photo by Gregg Jiracek Photography. Grin by me.

Jen Thorson and Thom Navarro at the Minnesota's Red Dress Collection Show at the Loews Hotel, Minneapolis March 2015 Photo © Gregg Jiracek Photography.

Finale of the Minnesota's Red Dress Collection Show at the Loews Hotel, Minneapolis March 2015Kat brought down the house in the grand finale! Photo © Gregg Jiracek Photography.

End of show Kat Perkins

Minnesota's Red Dress Collection Show at the Loews Hotel, Minneapolis March 2015All the 2015 models! Photo © Erica Loeks Photography

scott and me 2My handsome husband Scott and me.

Kimi Jen ScottScott and me with my sister-in-law, Kimi.

Mike and BethMy brother, Mike, and his wife Beth.

Drink man

Christine Jen Kristen 2My friends Christine and Kristen. Thank you to Kristen, who had my camera all night and took most of these great photos!

Simon April Jen HansAnd more friends, Simon, April, and Hans.

Megan Elizabeth JenSurvivors and heart sisters Megan, Elizabeth, and me.

River ValleysI have the best colleagues! The smart & beautiful Christine, Janet, Kristen, Linda, Tisha, and Marianne from Girl Scouts River Valleys!

with August and ThomOne more with me and August and Thom.

Jen Thorson at the Minnesota's Red Dress Collection Show at the Loews Hotel, Minneapolis March 2015

Thank you to Carly, University of Minnesota Health Heart Care, St. Jude Medical, Jaguar Land Rover of Minneapolis and all the other sponsors for making the Red Dress Collection show possible!


  1. Absolutely spectacular photos, Jen! Congrats to you and all the red dress team!

    • Thank you Carolyn! It was really a ridiculous amount of fun, and access to a new audience that needed to hear about women’s heart disease. What a privilege.


  2. Barb Baker says:

    Jen, August is my great niece and I wanted to thank you for the kindness you showed August during this event! Brianna, August’s Mom and my niece has been singing your praises ever since!! As a mother to 3 daughters, grandmother to 8 granddaughters and having 6 sisters we all stand with you in getting the word out. I love movies and one of my favorites is called :New Years Eve” In the movie there is a clip where Sam, one of the characters says this “We talked, alright? I went on about the business and how our stock had just gone public and she stops me and she puts her hand over mind and she says, ‘That’s all great, but how’s your heart?’ How’s your heart? Who say that? I mean, who…?” We all should be asking that question of one another constantly, how IS your heart?

    • Thank you for this wonderful comment Barb! August is an incredible little girl and I feel so lucky to have met her! I hope we can keep in touch.

      And I teared up when you said you stand with me. Being sick is by definition lonely, and you made me feel less so. We should all ask each other how we are in our hearts.

      Thank you so much for writing!

  3. Val Broste says:

    Jen, What an experience! You continue to meet and reach soooo many people. Thank you for doing what you do and for looking to gorgeous in red as well!!!


  1. […] was really busy in January and February with several Go Red for Women events. The Minnesota’s Red Dress Collection show was the most fun of all of them — I wore a custom Thom Navarro dress, walked the runway, […]