Close-up of costume designer and maker Leah Benson using a sewing machine in the foreground

Leah Benson – Creative Thinker, Costume Designer, Dream Follower

Leah is a costume designer and maker and is Head of Costume for Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

She now lives in Goonellabah in the Northern Rivers but said her time growing up in Bowraville was “amazing”.

“There was always a really good bush party, big bonfires, dancing, lots of like-minded people around, lots of community events like Back to Bowra, which was a highlight every October with gumboot throwing, tug of war, billy cart races and that kind of stuff.”

After studying fashion design at TAFE in Coffs Harbour – which she describes as “a fantastic course. I loved it, it was the best thing I ever did” –  Leah was asked to design and make a dress for a woman who happened to be the workshop manager of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Leah’s dedication, work ethic, and creativity paid off. Her dream came true at only 28 years old when she was asked to be a Costume Designer for the Mardi Gras, becoming the official Costume Designer and now Head of Costume.

On chasing dreams and taking chances, Leah says, “If I could go back 15 years, I would tell myself, ‘just go for it’.

The worst thing that you’ll get is a ‘no’, and it doesn’t matter because then you can just try again. If you get a ‘yes’, that’s even better.”

Leah’s advice for young people growing up in the Nambucca Valley is, “Love it. Appreciate it. Look for opportunities. Always be yourself. Work hard and follow your dreams”.

You can now watch Leah’s story, other stories from local heroes and the full feature documentary film, Inspire U: Stories from the Valley, on our Inspire U project page. We’ll be adding new stories regularly, so come back soon.

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Author: Simone Atallah

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