The body positive movement of 2021 is a beautiful patchwork of gender, races, stories, and perspectives. But the undeniable pioneers of the conversation and some of its fiercest advocates have always been women of color.
As we celebrate Black History Month this year, we wanted to take a step back and recognize just a few of the extraordinary women who broke through the barriers to bring size representation and body positivity to the mainstream. From stylists and models to bloggers and journalists, these women paved the path for a series of conversations that have forever changed the face of fashion, beauty, and the importance of inclusivity in our industry. On a larger scale, their influence inspired millions of plus-size women to see themselves in spaces where they couldn’t before, including me.
Legendary stylist and author Susan Moses has been the exclusive spokesperson of plus-size destination, Pennington’s Canada and styled stars like Gabourey Sidibe, Queen Latifah and Jill Scott. As a curator, Susan pushes the boundaries of style for everyone, especially curvy women. Her inspirational book, The Art Of Dressing Curves has become a classic resource in the world of plus-size styling.
Angellika made a meaningful impact on plus-size representation in 1999 when she became the first model (and first curvy model) inducted into the International Model Hall of Fame. She later moved behind the camera, working as a stylist for industry legends. Drawing inspiration from her life experiences and travel, she is a master at seamlessly blending high-end fashion with everyday style for women of all shapes and sizes.
A champion of plus-size representation from the onset of her career, Chenese Lewis was dubbed one of the “original plus-size influencers” by Forbes Magazine. Her 20+ year career in fashion and media is a testament to her dedication to the plus-size community. When opportunities for plus-size BIPOC women were few and far between, she created Chenese Lewis Productions and launched her podcast The Chenese Lewis Show way back in 2008, featuring those who were uplifting plus-size fashion, thus proving that all bodies are worthy of style.
Marie Denee is a media entrepreneur who provides collaborative and creative spaces for plus-size women to connect. She is the Editor-In-Chief of The Curvy Fashionista, a source of fashion news and lifestyle advice. Most recently she launched The Cultivate Awards, creating more opportunities for representation by supporting the art of indie BIPOC plus-size designers and providing a grant and fashion showcase to celebrate their work.
Influencer, author and fashion blogger Chastity Garner Valentine began her career as a blogger and ended up changing the perception of how plus-size women were expected to dress. As co-founder of theCurvyCon, she created an alternative event during NYC Fashion Week, exclusively for plus-size fashion enthusiasts, way before anyone could imagine plus-size models walking the Versace runway.
As the fashion industry struggled to become more inclusive, Gabi (AKA GabiFresh) took matters into her own hands, debuting a swim collection “Swim Sexy” with Swimsuits for All in 2014, challenging stereotypes of what swimwear for larger bodies should look like. She went on to co-create her own brand, Premme. Most recently she is shaking things up with her lingerie line collaboration with Playful Promises, continuing to push for plus-size representation in all categories of fashion.
We all need to continue to drive progress in the critical conversation on body positivity, but today we start by paying homage to these incredible women. It’s an honor and a privilege to carry forward each of your legacies through our work at Dia every day!