The Top Plus Size Pioneers You Should Know

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Marie D Leggette
Basic PLUS Author | 11 Articles

Joined: December 25, 2008 United States

The Top Plus Size Pioneers You Should Know
By Marie D Leggette | Submitted On March 19, 2009

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Plus size and plus size fashion has been making amazing waves in the news and amongst the fashion industry. As referenced in a previous article: The Year of the Plus Size Woman, there is a movement going on here, and all I can say is IT’S ABOUT TIME!

Gone are the days where mumus and tents were the only thing a woman above a 12 could wear. Gone are the days where you have to be ashamed of your curves. Gone are the days where being a plus is a negative. Gone are the days where you are abolished to the dungeon of nothingness in the department stores!

When speaking of Plus Size fashion and its strides, Glen from Full Figure Plus states in his article that “Plus Size Fashion is new even to plus size ladies in that for so many years making due with clothing that was just bigger versions of smaller fashions has created a culture of confusion among ladies and even more among men trying to shop for the special curvy diva in his life.” Recognizing this shift in awareness of Plus Size fashion calls for some gracious thanks to those who have made it possible!
However, as we rejoice with happiness and glee, we must recognize those who have made and still are making these paths for us up-and-coming Fashionistas and Fashionistos who dare to challenge the status quo. If not for these ambassadors who stared adversity in the face, where would us Curvy.Confident.Chic. Fashionistas be.

This list is in my own opinion and from a fashion standpoint. While there are many who are making moves within the Plus Size Industry, these Ambassadors have paved a way for US when there was no outlet, voice, or medium to make change. If I have missed someone who you feel should be recognized, please share your thoughts below!

In no particular order:

Emme Plus Size Supermodel

You know her, the supermodel, television personality, author, lecturer, clothing designer, and women’s advocate. I have to take a breath just reading that! Emme is the first Plus Size model to receive a contract with a cosmetics company, when she signed with Revlon.

Emme’s mission is to “awaken the inner magnificence inherent in each of us.”How does she do this? Well, coming from someone who People magazine selected as one of the “50 Most Beautiful People,” Ladies’ Home Journal’s “Most Important Women in America, Most Fascinating Women of the Year,” Glamour’s “Woman of the Year” and Biography’s magazine’s “25 Most Influential Women,” Emme is a woman who has definitively paved the road for Plus Size to be viewed as a Plus!

On EmmeStyle, Emme aspires to “create a community where women can comfortably connect, observe, discuss, learn, cry, and leave refreshed and empowered to make a difference in the world for which they live. ”
Way to keep it Confident Emme!

Catherine Schuller Plus Size Industry Maven

This woman is dear to me, such an inspiration! Catherine Schuller is The Industry Maven (in my eyes). How does she earn this title? Well, for starters, she was a former Ford model, when the Plus Size industry was young, she is a consumer advocate, promoter, marketer, editor (remember Mode? She was the Retail Fashion Editor here), image consultant (Certified by AICI), author, and entrepreneur (owner of Emerging Visions Enterprises as a Plus Size spokesperson, consultant, and liaison).

She is an expert in the field of style and image, often featured or quoted for major publications and newspapers and has been the “Fashion Expert” on many morning shows.

In 2002, after Mode closed its doors (such a sad time, as I was a teen reading inspirational articles that spoke to ME) Catherine created Curvestyle: Reshaping Fashion in New York. In addition to this project, Catherine became the Image and Style Advisor of Divabetic: Makeover Your Diabetes. Divabetic is an outreach program targeting women living with, affected by or at risk of the epidemic of diabetes in the United States (Go Girl!).

Catherine Schuller’s latest venture, Curvestyle: Reshaping Fashion, offers promotion and marketing for the plus size/full-figured industry. In addition to Curvestyle, Catherine is a certified professional image consultant, offering consultation, books, seminars, and resources for and to the industry.

Catherine Schuller is OUR modern day Oprah!

Chenese Lewis Model, Advocate, Host of Plus Size Radio

Chenese Lewis is a mogul in the making. This Curvy.Confident.Chic. Fashionista is making moves in a major way! If you were to read her bio, there is not anything that this Curvy.Confident.Chic. Woman has not done! Keynote Speaker, Expert Commentator, Plus Size Advocate, 2003 Miss Plus America, Model, Radio Host, Actress (see Fat Rant 3!), and executive producer! Yes, this ambassador is integral in laying the foundation for Plus Size fashion! To add to her success, PLUS Model Magazine deemed her “A leader in the curvy revolution!” With all that she has accomplished in such a short time period, there is no reason to question her stature.

Chenese is the creator of Hollywood NOW’s “Love Your Body Day.” This annual event encourages and fosters women of all sizes to gather and celebrate with confidence “a day of self-acceptance and promote positive body image.”

In 2008, Chenese blessed us with the 2008 Flawless Calendar, a sophisticated and elegant calendar highlighting the beauty of the Curvy.Confident.Chic. Fashionistas through the use of high fashion editorial images.

Nevertheless, Chenese is not finished! March marks the month that PLUS Model Radio celebrates one year of Curvy existence on the radio! PLUS Model Radio is the voice of PLUS Model Magazine. PLUS Model Radio encompasses the Curvy lifestyle for the Plus Size woman.

Chenese inspires all Curvy Fashionistas “to pursue their dreams, thrive in their curves, crave modern fashion, and shape their life on their own terms, sans apologies.” In addition, Chenese attributes her success by “not conforming to society’s ideals of beauty but rather showing by example, that you can be beautiful and confident regardless of your size,” Chenese Lewis emulates that of a Curvy.Confident.Chic. Plus Size Fashionista.

Gayla Bentley Plus Size Fashion Pioneer

Gayla Bentley is no stranger to the fashion scene. Flash back thirty years and you will find the passion and goal that inspired this pioneer to establish fashion and style for the Plus Size woman. Dedicated to achieve her goal that “It’s not about size, it’s about style,” Gayla Bentley has been on this mission ever since.

With ten years at Saks Fifth Avenue as the Director of The Fifth Avenue Club, Gayla Bentley took her experience and passion about style, and left Saks to begin her business, Cou-Tours, which hosted private, personalized shopping excursions to Paris. From Cou-Tours, Gayla Bentley formed The Gayla Bentley Fashion Design Group, set out to dispel judgments and stereotypes of Plus Size fashion, and countered opposition by bringing “fashionable, desirable, modern clothing to women of all sizes and shapes,” something all Curvy.Confident.Chic. Fashionistas strive to find.

The Gayla Bentley Fashion Design Group has continually (and successfully) delivered classic and chic fashion with clean design lines that transcend seasonal dressing. She designs clothing that is intended to be worn for multiple seasons that can be easily worn more than one way. Her designs and philosophy allow Gayla Bentley to integrate the sizes, so that no matter what size and/or shape you are; can shop at the same locations, something that most department stores fail to deliver.

If you can believe this, Gayla Bentley Fashion Design Group has been around since 2001, a time where Plus Size designer fashion was only a dream. The company’s beliefs are expressed passionately, giving all aspiring Plus Size designers and fashionistas something to aspire to: “We do not believe in covering her up. We create shape thus emphasizing a woman’s femininity and sensuality. Most importantly, she is comfortable and looks like she is wearing the clothes, not like the clothes are wearing her. She has her own style and her own confidence, and it radiates from her.”

Gwen DeVoe THE Plus Size Event Coordinator

The Plus Academy, Full Figured and Fabulous, Dangerous Curves- the Tour, and Project Curves. These are the events that have been championed by the host with the most, Gwen DeVoe. With all these events under her fashionable belt, it is no surprise that one would ask: Who is this amazing Curvy.Confident.Chic. Diva Gwen DeVoe?

Gwen DeVoe, former plus model, is now a plus model trainer, developer, and manager. In addition to these hats, Gwen is also an advocate and supporter of Plus Size models on fashion runways.

But wait, not only is she all these things aforementioned, but she is also a “highly sought-after motivational speaker on the topics of body image, plus modeling and fashion consultation for plus size women and teens.”

Gwen DeVoe created DeVoe Signature Events, a full service event production and management company, to serve as a launching pad and home base for fashion events and lifestyle events for the Plus Size community.

Sharon Quinn THE Runway Diva

You know her, the beautiful, six foot, shaved head, amazon, catwalk queen, and runway walker extraordinaire- Sharon Quinn. A former model from the 80’s, Sharon Quinn was pivotal in the break of stereotypes of the Plus Size model. Most recognizable from her appearance on “MoNique’s F.A.T. Chance,” Sharon Quinn has rightfully become a pillar and mentor for Plus Size models within the Plus Size Community.

Sharon Quinn fashions the website that features her advice column “The Runway Diva Says,” tailored to aspiring plus-sized models. On her site, she features her personal blogs, samples of her music, and a slide slow of her notable career highlights. Not only does she fashion an amazing resource for Plus Size models, she is in the process of writing her book, “The Runway Diva’s Guide to Becoming a Plus-Sized Modeling (or just looking like one).” Most notably, Sharon Quinn can also be reached through her popular column in Plus Model Magazine.

Paul McAleer Founder of the Big Fat Blog

You may know the blog, but you may not know the founder of this long-standing blog community. Founded in 2000, Big Fat Blog is the brainchild of Paul McAleer, stemmed from his size discrimination research accumulated while in college. The Big Fat Blog (BFB) is the largest fat acceptance blog on the web; encompassing over 3,000 members who have joined in the fight for fat acceptance and fat rights.

Many times quoted as the “Grandfather of the Fatosphere,” Paul McAleer has authored, facilitated, hosted, empowered, and gave voice to those all of us who battle with size acceptance, rights, and discrimination for the Plus Size person.

While the Big Fat Blog is media focused, its scope has broadened to support the fatosphere with an events calendar, forums, activism, and lots more. This past January, Paul expressed to the community that, as of April 1st, BFB would close its doors. To the shock and dismay of the entire community, many halted with disbelief. In the recognition of BFB’s service to its community, The Fat Rights Coalition stepped up to take on the day-to-day operations at BFB.

This list is only the tip of the iceberg. In the future, I will extend my list of the Top Plus Size Ambassadors who are making moves continued.

Marie Denee is a fashion blogger, stylist, and writer with over ten years in the retail, fashion world. As a plus size woman herself, Marie Denee is determined to bring high-end fashion to the discerning Plus Size Curvy.Confident.Chic Plus Size Fashionista.

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