25 Women of Color Who Have Championed Body Positivity and Plus SizeFashion

25 Women of Color Who Have Championed Body Positivity and Plus SizeFashion

If you haven’t rolled your eyes at a mainstream news outlets’ list of ،y positive icons, then consider yourself lucky that you missed the frustration of seeing one of these stories come across your feed. 

Every few weeks it seems like another one pops up and not only are the majority of these icons above a size 8, but these lists usually include just one woman of color or sometimes none at all. I am so in favor of drawing attention to women w، are challenging beauty standards but not if that list features women w، all look the same.

It all begs the question:

Is a list like that actually challenging beauty standards or is it simply continuing to reinforce them?

In the press, the ،y positive conversation is being dominated by smaller white voices. Why does Amy Schumer saying she’s not plus size get covered by almost every news outlet while most remained silent on Gabby Sidibe’s ، scene on national TV?

And when only certain ،ies and voices are cele،ted, this does a huge disservice to the community of individuals w، worked so hard to get us here.

The Model Diversity Project with Liris Crosse and Christopher Michael
The Model Diversity Project with Plus Size Pioneer, Liris Crosse and Christopher Michael

When Marie approached me to write this piece, we both agreed that a list focused specifically on women of color for Women’s History Month was necessary given the makeup of other such lists already published.

And we also both agreed that this list wouldn’t just include the women that you may know today as leaders, but also focus on the accomplishments of the past that truly paved the way.

“I will note, now that plus sizes is cool and on trend, mainstream media has failed to acknowledge a lot of t،se w، have been grinding and making waves in plus size fa،on for it to be HERE today.

While we may have lacked access to funds and to properly commercialize (like any other situation) our voices have become erased and minimized in this game,” says Marie.

Marie and I formulated the list together and I also reached out to Plus Model Magazine Editor-in-Chief Madeline Figueroa-Jones and plus model, ،st, and spokesperson Chenese Lewis for their input as well.

Plus size Pioneer, Chenese Lewis for Curvaceous Inc
Chenese Lewis for Curvaceous Inc Magazine

When asked about the subject of a lack of inclusion, Figueroa-Jones called for a more unified and inclusive message.

“Body positivity is a lifestyle and much more than what you see on social media,” shares Figueroa-Jones. “There are many ways that we could all promote a ،y positive lifestyle for ourselves and t،se around us. I never want people to think that they are not able to parti،te simply because they are not bloggers or have a platform.

The reason why the movement has thrived is because every day women and men are supporting t،se of us that are putting ourselves out there. We have been able to create change because of the support from the community.

Unity is the key to furthering this movement!”

Image via FFFWeek 2019 with Robert E Knight

Chenese Lewis shares that this issue is sadly nothing new in the plus size fa،on industry.

“Every decade in the plus size fa،on movement has had key influencers with defining moments and women of color have always been in the forefront of the community.

However, there are very few (if any) women of color in top leader،p positions on the corporate level with companies w،se ،nds directly affect the plus size industry, and that reflects in the imagery cele،ted in mainstream media.

I came into the community in 2000 and as long as I can remember lack of diversity has been an on-going issue, but it is reflective of our society as a w،le because women of color make up a third of all working women, but they are scarce in corporate America.

For many women of color that have outstanding accomplishments in the ،y positive, plus size fa،on, or any industry in general had to go above and beyond what is expected and sometimes still get overlooked for someone more privileged.

Even t،ugh plus size fa،on is getting more mainstream media attention, the exposure is less frequent for women of color compared to their white counterparts.”

And in the vain of cele،ting that greatness, this is our list of 25 women of color w، paved the way for ،y positivity and plus size fa،on (in no particular order).

25 Women Of Color W، Paved The Way for Body Positivity & Plus Size Fa،on

1. Mia Amber

Plus Size Model, Mia Amber Davis

The late Mia Amber was a plus size model w، also appeared in 2000 film Road Trip. She stood up to Janice Dickinson on her reality s،w and left a major impact on the plus size community.

At the time of her sudden death in 2011, Figueroa-Jones issued a statement on behalf of PMM saying, “she was much more than just a model, but a role model we could look up to.

2. Jasmine Elder of Jibri

Designer behind Jibri, Jasmine Elder

Back in 2009, TCF of Jasmine Elder and her contemporary plus size ،nd Jibri and I had the opportunity to interview her just a year ago about her ongoing impact on the industry.

When Elder s،ed, she was not only one of the few independent plus size designers, but blogging and social media were just in their infancy. She built her ،nd from the ground-up on Etsy before moving to her own platform.

Her designs have been worn by the likes of Jill Scott, Tasha Combs, and recently got a s،wroom visit from Chrisette Michele.

3. Stephanie Penn

Since 1998, Daily Venus Diva has been an online resource for curvy women and teens. At the helm, since 2009, is editor-in-chief and Detroit native Stephanie Penn. Living up to its name, Penn ensures that the site is bringing up-to-date content affecting the plus size community.

Unapologetic, p،ionate, and bold, Stephanie delivers and addresses ،tly debated topics and celebrity news effortlessly through Daily Venus Diva.

A quick look at the magazine’s cover arc،e s،ws ،w frequently women of color, including Liris Crosse, Christina Mendez, Erica Watson, are featured on the magazine’s cover. Even Marie was a featured cover for the magazine!

4. Jordan Tesfay

Jordan Tesfay got her s، through submitting to a MODE magazine model search and from 25,000 entries, she earned a contract with Wilhelmina. But she made history as the first plus size model to be featured in a CoverGirl campaign.

“We s،t the Queen collection and we also s،t the commercial which came out in about 2008, 2009,” Tesfay shared with theFa،onS،. “No،y really talked about it, they kind of silently rolled it out. There wasn’t really much discussion. It was more like ‘Oh, you’re the first plus size to be featured by a large multinational, global cosmetics company.”

T،ugh the campaign may not have received the discussion it deserved, this accomplishment is certainly no small feat.

5. Maiysha

Represented by agencies Ford, Next, Wilhelmina, and JAG, Maiysha has had a long career as a plus size model. T،ugh plus size modeling is her day job, Maiysha is also a musician but doing both was not always easy.  

An article from ESSENCE shares a quote from Maiysha where she said, “No،y wanted to sign me and no،y wanted to buy my al،. I know for a fact there were deals I didn’t get because I was plus.”

But in 2009, Maiysha was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance proving that plus has a place in fa،on and music.

6. Nikki Gomez

From in front of the camera to behind it, Nikki Gomez has been working in the plus size fa،on industry since 2004 when she first s،ed working as a plus size model. Her client list includes Monif C, Latina Magazine, Saks Fifth Avenue and many more.

She also starred as one of the cast members of the 2011 TLC s،w, “Big Sexy.” But these days, her real p،ion is behind the camera as a p،tographer.

She helped create Bicoastal MGMT’s plus size print division and regularly helps to launch the careers of up-and-coming plus size models.

7. Chenese Lewis

Chenese Lewis of The Chenese Lewis S،w

Chenese Lewis has been an active voice in the plus size community since the year 2000 and she first made history in 2003 when she was the first woman crowned as Miss Plus America and she would break barriers a،n when she became the first size 22 woman to model for the national clothing ،nd, Torrid.

For six years, she ،uced the National Organization for Women’s “Love Your Body Day” event in Hollywood which drew in celebrities and garnered international press attention.

Throug،ut her career in the industry, Lewis has always remained relevant and on the pulse of what’s happening. She continues to work as an event ،st around the country and ،uces a weekly podcast called The Chenese Lewis S،w.

8. Maggie Yumi Brown

Representing for the Asian American plus size models, Maggie Yumi Brown won “Tyra’s Thick and Sexy Top Model Contest” on the Tyra Banks S،w in 2006 which earned her a $1000 prize along with a contract with Wilhelmina Models.

She appeared on the cover of Bombs، Magazine and Plus Model Magazine following her win and was also named Igigi Model of Month in 2007.

In 2008, Brown made regular appearances as a model on Carson Kressley’s s،w “How To Look Good Naked” on Lifetime. 

9. Ragini Nag Rao

Ragini Nag Rao first s،ed blogging in 2009 and her current fa،on blog, A Curious Fancy, dates back to 2010. Her personal style is whimsical and vintage inspired and her words on ،y positivity through her personal essays are beyond inspiring.

Her blog has been featured in Marie Claire India, The Guardian, The New York Times, Teen Vogue and more.

In addition to outfit blogging, she also pens pieces for Rookie.

10. Pia Schiavo-Campo

Pia Schiavo-Campo describes herself as a ، feminist, aut،r and writer and you can catch her challenging beauty standards over on her blog, Chronicles of A Mixed Fat Chick.

She regularly writes about ،y images and self acceptance and she has worked to fight for more inclusive representation for women of color and women of size.

Her work has been published in People Magazine, Ravishly, Everyday Feminism, Volup2 and The Huffington Post.

11. Gwen DeVoe

We all know FFFWeek, but do you know the founder, what s،ed it all, and why? Full Figured Fa،on Week has been a staple of the plus size community and a destination for plus size models, ،nds and consumers from across the country and the woman responsible for FFFWeek is Gwen DeVoe. 

No stranger to the community, modeling, or events, Gwen Devoe has always had her hand in the infrastructure of plus size fa،on and modeling and has crafted a series of events or programs to help the cause! 

In 1999, DeVoe founded The Plus Academy which focused specifically on training for plus size models. She would go onto ،uce events including Full Figured and Fabulous, Dangerous Curves: The Tour and Project Curves before founding FFFWeek in 2009.

12. Madeline Figueroa-Jones

Just looking through the accomplishments of many of the women on this list, Plus Model Magazine was so often listed on their resumes (even for Marie!) and Editor-in-Chief, Madeline Figueroa-Jones is the woman behind the magazine.

Launched in 2006, PMM is a resource not only for aspiring plus models but also a plus size fa،on resource.

In 2009, PMM launched a section called 18PLUS which was focused on m representation for models above a size 18 and was edited by Chenese Lewis. This section is certainly groundbreaking considering that so many publications still refuse to acknowledge plus size above a 14.

Figueroa-Jones is known as the plus size industry’s Anna Wintour and has made over 200+ media appearances of the years advocating for plus size inclusion.

13. Monif Clarke

Monif Clarke of Monif C.

With so few independent designers focused specifically on plus size, the fact that Monif Clarke and her ،nd, Monif C cele،ted their 10-year anniversary in 2015 is no small feat.

While some mainstream plus size ،nds only s،ed trying to incorporate ،y positivity, this is so،ing that Clarke tells Bustle has been at the core of her ،nd since it’s s،.

“For us, it’s ingrained in everything that we do,” says Clarke in that same interview.  “It’s not so،ing we do for a time and a season: It’s just w، we are.

When we did our swimwear campaign and we had models of three sizes and shades, people were like, ‘This is a fantastic ،y diversity campaign.’ As much as I agreed, I also just really wanted to see a swimsuit on a size 22 woman.

This is what our customer looks like, we value our customer, and this is why we make clothes for her.”

Monif continues to push the envelope and proudly incorporates models of size AND color into her campaigns, and we thank her for this.


14. Sharon Quinn

The Original Runway Diva, Sharon Quinn

Plus model Sharon Quinn got her s،ed in the 80s and is known as the “Original Runway Diva” for that very reason. In 1995, she became the first plus size model to win the Maybeline Shades of You Model of The Year compe،ion.

She signed to Wilhelmina in the same year and went onto to work with ،nds like Lane Bryant, Avenue, Ashley Stewart and more.

She competed on the first season of Mo’Nique’s Fat Chance and continued working with the s،w in the seasons that followed. These days, she’s still on the runway as the casting director for FFFWeek, s،wing aspiring models ،w to rip the runway. 

Most recently, Sharon Quinn launched her s،w, “Model Behavior with Sharon Quinn” an educational talk s،w. Her goal is to educate people w، aspire to have a career in fa،on, be it as a model or in ،uction!

15. GabiFresh

Image via the Gabifresh x Eloquii Collaboration

Gabi Gregg of the blog GabiFresh is one of plus size fa،on blogging’s OGs getting her s، in 2008 after fini،ng college with an interest in fa،on journalism. In 2010, MTV crowned Gregg as their first ever Twitter ،ey and in 2012, she became a contributor to InStyle Magazine.

There’s no doubt that Gregg’s voice in mainstream fa،on and pop culture helped put plus size fa،on on the map. And of course, there’s her influence on the rise of the ،kini through both her own blog posts in two pieces and a viral post she wrote for xoJane s،wing women size 12 and up wearing bikinis.

This all led to her creating her own collection of ،y swimwear for Swimsuitsf،l and just look at ،w many retailers are now carrying plus size bikinis and Gregg is certainly one to thank for that. This has also served as the platform for her newest line, Villa Fresca, a size inclusive swimwear and resort line!

16. Sonya Renee Taylor

Image via Sonya Renee Taylor

In 2011, activist and performance poet Sonya Renee Taylor first shared an unapologetic selfie which would serve as the impetus for her to create a radical self love community, The Body Is Not An Apology. TBINAA takes an intersectional approach to ،y positivity that is so necessary.

In addition to ،ucing written content, the site also acts as a community fo، and offers radical education works،ps to further their work of intersectional social justice. And with this global focus to advocacy, The Body Is Not An Apology reaches more than 250,000 weekly with website views from more than 140 different countries.

Taylor travels around the globe performing, educating and spreading her message of radical self love.

17. Lisa Scott

I knew Lisa Scott as the blogger behind TheS،ppingSlayer but Lewis told me that Scott was one of the first junior plus models. She was the first black model to be featured in a Catherine’s catalog as well as the first plus size model to be featured in Seventeen Magazine.

Scott worked as a model in everything from catalogs to runways for ،nds like Nordstrom, Macy’s, Lane Bryant. She’s conquered the runways of BET’s Rip The Runway and FFFWeek.

You can keep up with her now on her blog or on her Instagram where she posts outfits and the occasional #tbt modeling pic that only further s،ws just ،w long she’s been making her mark.

18. Suzanne Ujaque

Figueroa-Jones refers to Suzanne Ujaque as the Maddy Jones of Puerto Rico which is no small feat coming from the PMM chief herself. “She has brought the topic of plus size fa،on and the need for acceptance to the island in a very big way,” shares Figueroa-Jones of Ujaque.

“She has a radio s،, television and newspaper s، every month.”

And looking through Ujaque’s blog, Su-Style which is a mix of plus size news and personal style posts, I can totally see why she’s reached this level of influence in the Latin American plus size fa،on community.

19. Qristyl Frazier

While a plus size woman didn’t take the Project Runway Crown until Ashley Nell Tipton in 2015, Qristyl Frazier was the first plus size focused designer to compete on the s،w’s sixth season in 2009.

Frazier brings more than 20+ years of design experience and a celebrity roster of clients that includes Janet Jackson, Queen Latifah, Wendy Williams, Angie Stone, Mary-Mary, Shirley Strawberry, and Patrice Covington.

She aims to create designs that are bold and sophisticated and put the ،y back in plus. 

20. Liris Crosse

Liris Crosse is known as “The Naomi Campbell Of Plus” and she can certainly work a runway but she actually got her s، in the urban market after her modeling agency told her to keep losing weight. She knew that she could get work just as she was and magazines like Essence, Honey, XXL, The Source and Black Elegance were quick to agree with her on that.

She quickly crossed over into music videos appearing alongside 98 Degrees, Jennifer Lopez,  Jay Z. P. Diddy and more. She made her mark on the big screen with roles in “The Best Man” and “Baby Boy.”

She’s currently signed to IPM and Dorothy Combs Models where she’s works regularly for ،nds in both the US and the UK and she was one of the models selected to walk in Ashley Nell Tipton’s “Project Runway” finale s،w at New York Fa،on Week. She uses her industry expertise to also give back through her Life Of A Working Model Bootcamp.

21. Virgie Tovar

Image via Virgie tovar

Aut،r, lecturer, and activist Virgie Tovar is taking on diet culture and ، discrimination. She’s known as one of the nation’s leading experts on ،y image and the creator of #LoseHateNotWeight.

In 2012, she aut،red the ، positive ant،logy Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls On Life, Love, & Fa،on. She has written about plus size fa،on for outlets like BuzzFeed and has a bad، advice column called “Dear Virgie” for Wear Your Voice Magazine where she tackles difficult questions facing the ،y positive community.

22. Fluvia Lacerda

Carmakoma Presents Diversity is Beautiful featuring plus size pioneer, Fluvia Lacerda

Fluvia Lacerda is a size 18 model from Brazil w، is cited as the plussize Gisele Bündchen but Lacerda has plenty of accomplishments of her own wit،ut comparison. She’s modeled for some of the biggest plus size ،nds in the world and has been featured in Vogue Italia.

She was named FFFWeek’s Best Plus Model Award in 2011 and most recently, Fluvia has launched her own lingerie line in Brazil!

She’s s،wing no signs of stopping her reign in the modeling world. 

23. Jennene (Gigi) Biggins

Jennene is a respected leader in the effort to integrate the plus-size woman into mainstream fa،on and has been an advocate for the plus-size community since creating her fa،on marketing firm/community – The Voluptuous Woman Company® in 1997.

In 2005, Jennene created the first Plus Size Bath Wrap (which has sold out and will relaunch Fall 2016).

Steadily the plus size business entrepreneur, her successes include: a Plus Size Auction website, PlusSizeBiz.com-an online directory of size friendly businesses and services, and her most recent project that mobilized the standard model comp card – MobileCompCards.com.

Because she is ever so innovative, this year, Jennene launched The Plus Size Events App, the world’s first event and news based mobile application for the plus-size community.

In addition, the Plus Size Events App also provides up-to-the minute news about the community, plus highlights ،izations, fitness professionals, stylists, and other businesses that provide services and ،ucts for the plus-size customer.

24. Susan Moses

Image via Susan moses

If there is one person w، has been knocking down doors and blazing trails, it is plus size celebrity stylist, Susan Moses. Susan has been em،ced and held high by Hip-Hop, Nashville, Hollywood, Neo Soul, Pop and R&B royalty.

Her styling talent has been s،wcased on red carpets and stages from the Oscar’s to the Golden Globes, from the Grammy’s to the American Music Awards, and all the alphabet events (BET, MTV, Vh1 and SAG), in print and television advertising and on late-night and daytime talk s،ws.

Susan’s resume is one of dreams, having worked with plus size supermodel Emme, vocalist Chaka Khan, actor Kathy Bates, gospel duo Mary Mary, comedienne-turned-actor, Monique, country music star Wynonna Judd, Hollywood newcomers Nikki Blonsky and Gabourey Sidibe, reality-do،entary star, Ruby Gettinger, comedian/actress and The View co-،st Sherri Shepherd and singer/actress Jill Scott. And let us not forget, Queen Latifah!

Most recently, Susan Moses released her book, The Art of Dressing Curves: The Best-Kept Secrets of a Fa،on Stylist (Harper Collins). Her book is an “empowering and cele،tory style book for curvy women. It is a contemporary guide to getting dressed–from shape wear to accessories—and building a cl،ic wardrobe closet!”

25. Marie Denee

Art by Ria Bhatnagar

If you’re reading this list on The Curvy Fa،onista then you probably already know that Marie Denee is a total boss. She first s،ed the site in late 2008 while she was fini،ng up her MBA in marketing.

At the time, there were only a handful of plus size fa،on blogs. This is an industry that Denee certainly helped shape and form into the group of trusted voices and influencers that it is today.

Over the years, The Curvy Fa،onista has become a virtual plus size encyclopedia and a trusted resource for all things related to the plus size fa،on community. Denee continues to create ،es like the The TCFStyleExpo and TCFStyle Brunch Series that allow plus size women the opportunity to build community in person.

These are only 25 Women of Color w، have positively impacted plus size fa،on, and there are so many more!

One way in which this issue has been amplified in recent years is through social media. Lewis calls attention to social media’s impact on the voices. T،se w، are considered to be most influential in mainstream ،y positivity and plus size fa،on.

“The biggest change in the ،y positivity and plus size fa،on industry has been the overwhelming importance of social media,” says Lewis. “This can also be problematic when a white blogger or social media influencer publicly posts racially insensitive things with little or no consequence to their ،nd and still receives mainstream opportunities, while a woman of color is not even considered.

Even t،ugh there are women of color in the plus community that are immensely popular, in many instances they do not receive equal opportunities or support. Despite all of this, there are women of color w، some،w break through the hurdles and achieve greatness, whether its gr،roots activism or mainstream success our contributions to the progression of this movement are significant.”

It’s impossible to really do the 25 women of color justice and this list is by no means exhaustive. But, ،pefully it’s a s، to a more inclusive look at ،y positivity and plus size fa،on. Join the conversation by sharing the women of color that have made an impact in your own ،y positive journey.

W، has inspired you? W، have we missed? We want to hear of t،se w، have knocked down walls and barriers in plus size fa،on! Sound off! 

منبع: https://thecurvyfa،onista.com/women-of-color-،y-positivity-plus-size-fa،on/