As a young girl, Katie Kinson loved watching “Say Yes to the Dress.” She would grab her mother, Edie, get some popcorn, and they’d have a great time admiring the dresses and getting a kick out of the host, Randy Fenoli, and the customers.
The idea of a regular girl from a small town in Georgia shopping for a wedding dress at the world-famous Kleinfeld Bridal salon in New York City was a long-shot dream at best. (Not to mention the other part: Actually finding someone to marry.) Because at age 14, when young girls are often romanticizing the idea of getting married, Katie was busy trying to make sense of the word “scleroderma.” That’s when she received her diagnosis (scleroderma with morphea), after eight years of tests and numerous medical visits up and down the East Coast.
Throughout high school, Katie remained a huge fan of “Say Yes to the Dress,” binge-watching it with friends. Also, while in high school, Katie interned with a government agency, and that eventually led to a career as a civilian employee at Army Cyber Command. Then, at age 18, she had reconstructive surgery on her chin.
“Scleroderma definitely affected the way I saw myself, therefore it affected the way people saw me,” she said. “Having a visible scar on my chin was difficult, because it was the first thing everyone noticed. It made dating incredibly hard for me. If I started talking to a guy, the first question would always be, ‘How did you get the scar on your face?’ I knew it was never a malicious question, but it reminded me that I am different… that I struggle with a rare autoimmune disease. I truly never thought any man would love me with the scars. I barely loved myself.”
And then one day at work, in 2016, she met a man named Aaron Jeter.
“When I met Aaron, he never asked about my scars,” she said. “He and I began a friendship first and I quickly saw that he knew my worth. Of course, I told him about my battle with scleroderma, but it was on my terms. I have always felt beautiful with him, and that set him apart from the rest of the world.”
Aaron proposed on July 4, 2018 – involving her entire family. As dusk fell, Aaron led Katie to her grandfather’s cherry tree, which was strung with lights. A table and chairs were set with a bottle of wine on ice. Aaron knelt on one knee and asked Katie to marry him. Then, when she said yes, her father and brother set off fireworks.
“It was the most romantic moment I’ve ever experienced,” Katie said.
Sometime later in 2018, after Katie and Aaron became engaged, “Say Yes to the Dress” launched a brand-new version of itself called “Say Yes to the Dress America.” Women across the country were invited to apply for a chance to audition. One bride-to-be from each state, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico would be selected to experience a private shopping event for their dream dress at Kleinfeld. Capping off the 10-part TV series, all 52 couples would say “I do” in unison, during a televised group wedding ceremony in Central Park on July 5, 2019, officiated by Randy Fenoli.
Katie was all over it.
She started applying in December 2018. In January 2019, she received an email from the show asking her to submit a video tape to support her application. The producers must have liked what they saw, because they made arrangements to visit Katie’s home on April 2, 2019 to film an interview with her.
Katie expected that interview to be the audition, but after everyone settled, the doorbell rang… and in walked Randy Fenoli. He was there to announce that she had been selected as one of the 52 brides-to-be to appear on the new show… and her reaction was priceless. (You can watch it here.)
“So, this is really happening,” she thought. “This small-town Georgia girl, who’s fighting a disease that’s left her scarred, has found the love of her life and is getting married on television in her dream dress on her most favorite show ever.”
The taping for her episode was May 18 in New York City. When the producers asked her what kind of dress she wanted, Katie said, “I am looking for the biggest, baddest wedding dress there is, and I want lots of bling.”
To make things even more incredible, Katie was selected as one of 10 brides featured with more focus and camera time. Plus, she was featured in the premiere episode. But, that’s not all. Katie recognized the opportunity was about more than a wedding dress. She was also looking forward to using her appearance on national television to create awareness of scleroderma.
“Millions saw me talking about scleroderma and I just know they were Googling to find out what it was,” she said. “So, we’re that much closer to finding a cure.”
Congratulations, Katie! On behalf of the entire scleroderma community, we wish you and Aaron all the happiness in the world.