At the age of 12, Claire Ferris announced to her mother that she wanted to become a model. As she lived in a small village in Devonshire, England, this seemed like a tall order. But at 6 feet 1 inch tall, she at least had the height to make her dream come true. So in 1985, the then teenager who would one day become Claire Farwell got rid of herself.
âI started modeling in London at 16, then moved to Paris,â Claire said. Soon she toured the pages of Elle and Vogue magazines and hung out with Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell. âI went through Milan and New York; I really succeeded, âshe said.
But as is so often the case, the romance of becoming a top model wasn’t all it was claimed to be.
âIt’s very lonely,â Claire said. âYou get paid thousands of dollars to zip, but you know there is more to life. I was not growing up.
There were a lot of parties and glamor, but Claire stayed away from drugs and became a mentor to many young models trying to find their way into the brutal world of fashion. And although she’s been on top of this world for 15 years, she says 13 of them weren’t that great. âI never really liked the business side of things,â she said. âI appreciate the memory more than living it. It’s funny what you learn about yourself.
It was in Capetown, South Africa, that Claire’s life took a new direction. âI did a correspondence degree and got a Bachelor of Arts,â she said. âThen I started writing socio-economic articles comparing the economies of different countries. The fact that she speaks French, Spanish and Italian, in addition to her native English and a little German, didn’t hurt either. âIt really helped me come in and make these socio-economic reports,â she said. “At that time, the balance in my life was complete.”
At least that’s what she thought. In 2002, Claire’s life took another turn when she met Gus Farwell, a seventh-generation Los Gatan and a 1995 Los Gatos high school graduate who was a Wildcats quarterback. The couple met in Barcelona and ran away for a âmiserableâ year and a half before they married in July 2004. âMeeting Gus is the highlight of my life,â Claire said.
The couple moved to Los Angeles, where Gus was working on his tenor career, singing opera and what he describes as “Andrea Bocelli’s repertoire”. Claire, meanwhile, started working on a talk show, and soon a little girl named Devon made the couple a family.
The Farwells were commuting between LA and Los Gatos, and life was good. Then another baby girl, Avalon, was born three years ago.
Two years ago, Claire Farwell turned 40. âI had a routine mammogram in 2009 and was diagnosed with breast cancer. And they say women should wait until they’re 50, âshe scoffed.
A double mastectomy followed, leaving Claire in physical pain and struggling with mental anguish. âI have always been creative and have become a complete creative freak,â she said. âAll of a sudden, while I was going through everything, I wrote a novel. It became my therapy. The novel, Felicity Ferris and the Smuggler’s Moon, tells the story of a 9-year-old girl who goes to a convent to become a young woman and finds a treasure on the grounds of the convent. âIt’s kind of like a Harry Potter for girls, without all the magic,â she said.
At this point, Claire also turned her creativity to designing clothes and counseling cancer patients. âI helped them with their mental attitude. More than anything, I just listen.
So it’s fitting that with October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Claire Farwell will be at the heart of the action, planning a fundraiser that will duplicate the Good Samaritan Breast Care Center and the Los Gatos Education Foundation. . The event, titled âUna Bella Notteâ or âA Beautiful Evening,â will take place on October 2 from 4 pm to 9 pm at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga.
The unusual mix of beneficiaries is due to the fact that Farwell and his co-chair, Jennifer Croll, have different passions. âClaire is very passionate about cancer and I am passionate about LGEF,â said Croll.
By the way, Croll is a 1986 Los Gatos High School graduate who owned a posh boutique in downtown Los Gatos from 1994-2008.
The two women met last July when Farwell returned to town from LA for a visit. âI met Jennifer and decided to stay,â Farwell said. “We started Una Bella Notte, and the idea is to create fun events and donate the money to charity.”
To that end, Farwell and Croll are working together on a line of designer dresses that will be modeled at the October 2 event in Montalvo.
âWe are collaborating on our own ‘unique’ collection and the dresses will be auctioned off to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month,â said Croll. Day and evening dresses will be part of the collection.
âWe taste the same,â Farwell said. âWe are individuals, but we work well together.
The pair appear to have boundless energy and they plan to take Una Bella Notte concept and fashion to Miami and other top cities, with Los Gatos remaining their “home port”.
Thus, the success of the Montalvo event is above all in the minds of women. In addition to the fashion show and auction, Gus Farwell, who has become a renowned tenor in his own right, will perform, and there will be âappetizers, wine, champagne and cocktails. “.
Farwell says the event is a way to say “thank you” for all of her blessings, while Croll sees it as a meaningful way to give back to the community she loves so much.
Una Bella Notte
Una Bella Notte, or A Beautiful Evening, will take place on October 2, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga. The event includes a fashion show, auction, opera performance by famous tenor Gus Farwell, food and drink.
The benefits will benefit:
â¢ The Los Gatos Educational Foundation
â¢ The Good Samaritan Breast Care Center
â¢ Breast Cancer Connections in Palo Alto
Tickets cost $ 125. Call 408.402.5200 or 310.429.0272, or visit www.unabellanotte.com.