Lancaster-based Elaine Biss’ take on couture catches the fashion world’s eye

As Elaine Biss looks at her digital watercolor of a tall blond afloat in the ruffles of her sea-green ballroom gown, she sees Cinderella.

“I like the girl who, nobody knows who she is, but everybody thinks she must be somebody because she’s beautiful,” Biss of Lancaster said.

Biss is talking about her artwork, but she could just as easily have been talking about herself.

Known in her early Cinderella days as Sonia Leon, the fashion illustrator and Web designer used to be a 16-year-old, married, pregnant, high school dropout. Within nine years she had five children and had been divorced, homeless and married again, this time to Shayne Biss.

“I breastfed for 10 years,” Biss said ruefully.

But she never lost her confidence in her talent, her value or her beauty — credit which she gives to her mother. She never stopped believing that her destiny lies far beyond the bounds of Lancaster County.

Unlike Cinderella, Biss didn’t need a fairy godmother to get her there. She relied on her own determination and confidence.

Now Biss, who is 32, has two thriving Web-based businesses, and her fashion illustration recently was chosen for a Dior charity auction.