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Plus Model Radio Host Chenese Lewis Says, “I think women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful and should all be celebrated without limitations.”

Posted in Articles, Books, & Magazines, Body Image, Celebrity, Confidence, Entertainment, Fashion, Fitness & Health, Media, Plus-Size Modeling, Radio, Self-Esteem, Shopping, Trade Tips, Unique Beauty with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2011 by Liz

Chenese Lewis is a positive body image and self-esteem advocate. She is the current President of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization for Women, the Ambassador of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), sits on the Celebrity Board of the non-profit organization Fed Up, Inc., and made history by being the first woman crowned Miss Plus America in 2003. Her unique story and prestigious career have been featured by countless media outlets such as Dr. Phil, The Insider, E! News, EXTRA, The National Examiner, iVillage, Figure Magazine and USA Today. Lewis is the creator and host of Hollywood NOW’s “Love Your Body Day,” an annual event where women of all sizes come together to celebrate a day of self-acceptance, to promote positive body image and to show that you don’t have to be a size 0 to be beautiful. Her 2010 Love Your Body Campaign, where she posed nude with America’s Next Top Model, Whitney Thompson, garnered international media attention and magnified her role as a leading positive body image advocate. 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 is the epitome of the plus-size woman.

Please tell us when and how you got your start in the modeling world.

The first time I learned that plus models exist was in the summer of 2000 when a convention came to my town looking specifically for plus-size models. I went to the open call and was chosen to go to their convention, I thought I was on my way to the top! But it turns out nothing much came out of the convention, besides lots of money gone down the drain. After I came home, I decided to research more online, through which I discovered the plus community. Through my research, I found that I didn’t have the stats to be a agency repped model at the top agencies. I was very disappointed and confused as to why I was the right size to shop in plus-size clothing stores but not the right size to model for them. However, I didn’t let it discourage me, and although I still have limited  opportunities available to me as a plus size model, I’ve found my niche in the community in other ways and try to get in front of the camera whenever I can!

Do you feel plus modeling is helping to redefine beauty?

I think it has helped to redefine beauty to a degree. I think plus models have helped by showing curvier, healthier physiques in main stream media, which is great. But in all honestly, a lot of industry plus models should be on the straight board, and some women who would be fabulous plus-size models don’t get a chance.  I understand that models don’t represent the average woman, however that in itself perpetrates unrealistic ideas of beauty in some ways. The fact that a plus size model and a plus size woman is not necessarily the same thing, limits the amount of redefining the industry truly has. I think women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful and should all be celebrated without limitations.

We would love to hear about “Love Your Body Day”!

The National Organization of Women created Love Your Body Day in 1998. When I joined the Hollywood chapter they weren’t doing anything to celebrate the day, since I was already doing things to promote positive body images and it’s my passion, I was appointed Love Your Body chairperson of the local chapter and was able to completely create and execute what I envisioned a Love Your Body Day celebration to be. 2010 marked the 5th year I produced the event and every year it gets bigger and better! Hollywood NOW Love Your Body Day is a free community event for women of all shapes and sizes that promotes positive body image. The day consists of entertainment, free goodies, vendors, and a fashion show. Hollywood NOW Love Your Body Day has grown into a weekend of events that includes a launch party and body image panel discussion as well.

Hollywood NOW’s Love Your Body Day is not only about promoting healthy body image, but also promoting diversity, ending racism, stopping violence against women, and marriage equality.  When you meet others who are struggling with these issues, what advice do you give to them? Where do you tell them to go to find inspiration and support?

Love Your Body Day is basically about body image. However, that day is only one small part of what the organizations focuses on and fights for. As you mentioned, the organization, in addition to promoting healthy body image, also promotes a host of other issues that are important to women. Besides inspiring women to be better the organization focuses on action by working to change laws and fighting injustice.

The photographs of yourself and Whitney Thompson are gorgeous. Not only showing both of your individual beauty, but also the beauty of women supporting women…friendship. I think the feelings behind the photographs and what you both stand for is truly beautiful. Please tell us about the photo shoot with Whitney.

Whitney is a champion for positive body image and passionate about it like myself, so I thought she would be a perfect fit to host this year’s Love Your Body Day festivities. Every year I have a photo shoot with the celebrity host, but none have gotten close to the attention of this year’s photo shoot. Whitney is a top model so I let her create the concept for the photo shoot and she suggested nude, although I had reservations about doing it, I was all for it because I knew it would get a lots of attention, but I had no idea how much! The nude Love Your Body campaign we did together literally created an international media buzz; it was on every major blog and entertainment website in the world. We even got to do an interview for E! News and all the attention helped make this year an overwhelming success. It was really great working with her and I think she’s an awesome model.

As the host of Plus Model Radio, have you ever been star struck by one of your guests on your show? If you could interview anyone in the world, who would it be? Why?

Yes, I have been star stuck before. The one interview that comes to mind is Emme! You would have never known listening to the interview because I know how not to let my nerves show and move forward with whatever I’m doing. Besides the radio is a breeze compared to being on camera or publicly speaking at an event. If I could interview anyone in the world, it would be Oprah! I love her and she is such an inspiration to me. She is plus size, so she would totally qualify to be a guest on the show.

Have you ever struggled with self-esteem or body image issues in the past? If  so, how did you reach the point of accepting and loving yourself? What advice would you give to young girls and women who are currently struggling?

No, I’ve never had that problem. I am very fortunate that I was never criticized or belittled for my weight growing up. As a result, I never thought there was anything wrong with me because of my size. I had a very happy childhood and in high school was very social and popular. A lot of people ask me this questions and I think the question we should start asking women is when did you learn to hate yourself and your body, because I don’t think a child comes into the world with those insecurities, it’s a result of your environment and influences. I would tell someone struggling with low self-esteem and body image issues to stop being your own worst critic, you are beautiful just the way you are, and if anyone in your life is telling you otherwise, get rid of the negativity.

Have you read any good books that help promote positive self-esteem and healthy body image that you would recommend for girls, pre-teens, teens, or women?

Yes, I would recommend “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat” by Dr. Robyn Silverman

What do you wish you would have known at age 13?

I wish I would have known that I wanted to pursue a career in entertainment, so I could have gotten started earlier and be further along in my career! However, I believe everything happens for a reason and I wouldn’t change a thing about the path that has led me to where I am today!

What kinds of pressures do you see the girls in your life facing these days?  What can we as mentors do to better address these issues?

I don’t have kids, or sisters, or nieces so I don’t really have lots of young girls in my personal life. However, I think young girls these days have tons of pressures on them that goes beyond body image. With the internet age they have everything at their finger tips, good and bad, so they know everything and see everything weather it is appropriate or not. I’m a firm believer that it all starts at home and we as mentors have to set a positive example by not only what we say, but more importantly our actions. For instance, you can’t tell a girl that she is beautiful regardless of her size but then you are constantly obsessing about your weight and criticizing yourself, which has a greater impact on her.

How do you define beauty?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We all have our own individual standards of beauty, which is influenced by our families and cultural backgrounds. For me personally, I rely heavily on inner beauty. I’ve notice the higher regard I hold the person, the more attractive they are to me and just the opposite if their personality or behavior is less than desirable. Although I’m human and there are certain physical attributes that I prefer, especially with the opposite sex, at the end of the day I need the inside to match the outside.

What is your secret to happiness?

By living a purpose driven life and not sweating the small stuff! I am extremely blessed and living my dreams, instead of focusing on the negative I focus more on the positive and try to keep an optimistic outlook on life.

Where do you like to shop for clothes?

Literally any where that carries my size. I will shop anywhere from K-mart and Target to Nordstorms and Saks, and everywhere in between. But my three go to stores are Macys, Torrid, and Lane Bryant, and when I’m in the South I go to Dillards. When I have the time I like to go dig through Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Ross as well!

Favorite jeans?

I love Applebottom jeans! Not only do they fit me very well, they are hip and stylish.

What are some of your favorite beauty products or must-haves?

I love MAC cosmetics, for my hair Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Smooth -n- Hold Pudding,  I use Nair on my legs. I always have French Manicure on my nails and toes.

Lipstick or Lip gloss?

Lip gloss, I threw away all of my lipsticks a couple years ago. I like my lips super juicy! I love MAC lipgloss in C-Thru, Oh Baby, Red Russian, and Pink Poodle. I also like over the counter lip glosses like Milani Buzz Worthy Lip Gloss and L’oreal Colour Juice Sheer Lip Gloss.

What beauty invention has made the greatest impact on your life?

That’s a tough one! I would have to say hair weave/extensions…LOL

What is your signature scent?

White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor, I’ve worn several other fragrances, but that’s what my mom wears and I just started doing the same.

On a day off, what would your perfect day be like?

Either a pamper day where I get my hair, nail, toes, and eyebrows done or a day full of shopping! Hanging out on the beach is fun too!

What achievement are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of having the guts to pose naked in front of the world!

Who is your role model or hero?  Why?

My ultimate role models are my parents because they are who I look to for characteristics and qualities to emulate in my life. However, for career and business Oprah Winfrey!

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

The best advice I’ve been given is to never compromise my morals and values, and to live my life with integrity.

What do you love about yourself and why?

I literally love everything about myself. From the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, I think I’m absolutely awesome! I’m created in God’s image, no reason not to like myself!

What are you excited about right now?

I’m excited about the New Year and all the potential it holds!

Visit Chenese online at:

www.cheneselewis.com

www.plusmodelradio.com

*Thank you, Chenese!

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Did Lizzie Miller Start a Body Image Revolution?

Posted in Articles, Books, & Magazines, Beauty, Hair, & Make-up, Body Image, Celebrity, Confidence, Designers, Events, Family & Friends, Fashion, Fitness & Health, Inspiration, Models, News, Photographers, Plus-Size Modeling, Recipes & Food, Self-Esteem, Shopping, Trade Tips, Travel, Unique Beauty, Work with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2010 by Liz

Photographed by Seth Sabal

Lizzie Miller caused quite a stir while posing nude for the 2009 September issue of Glamour magazine. She has been referred to as “the woman on page 194.” When we first saw her image in Glamour magazine, our initial thoughts were “Finally! What a breath of fresh air.”

Finally, the time had come to see an image of someone that we could relate to. It took someone like Lizzie to start a wave, to start a crusade for women everywhere. There is more to Lizzie than being “the woman on page 194.” We hope this interview will help you see the true beauty that radiates from within her.

Glamour Magazine – Photographed by Patrick Shaw

Please tell us where you are from, and how you got started in the modeling business.

I’m from San Jose, CA. I got started with my modeling career by going to a Model Search that I had heard about on the on the radio. My mom was convinced it was a scam, so I paid for part of it. The model search was held at a huge hotel in San Francisco and had all sorts of agencies there. I was called back by a few of the agencies. Since I was only thirteen, my dad kept in contact with the few agencies who called me back (including Wilhelmina) and we made a trip out to NY the following summer. I signed with Wilhelmina then.

Please tell us about your experience regarding the September issue of Glamour magazine, which featured you nude along with an article about feeling comfortable in your own skin.

It was my first nude shoot, so before it, I was a little nervous. But it was weird, as soon as I was on set; I was comfortable and felt confident. I pleasantly surprised myself that day! I thought I would be nervous! But, I actually felt really good. Everyone was really professional and made me feel even more comfortable.

Photographed by Rafa Galler

What misconceptions do you think society has of plus-size women?

I think the biggest misconception is that all plus-size women are unhealthy and overweight — which is not true. I guess that brings up the question: What qualifies as “Plus Size.” I’m a size 12-14 and 5’11, and for my body, it’s a comfortable size. I’ve always been athletic and have never been a skinny girl. But, I enjoy working out, playing sports, and eating right. Now, if I’m craving some sweets, I do let myself indulge but, it’s all about checks and balances. Let yourself have a cookie–not five.

Most of the fellow plus-size models I work with are proportionate and in shape. Their bodies just happen to rest comfortably at a size 12 or above.

Have you ever struggled with self-esteem or body image issues in the past? If so, how did you reach the point of accepting and loving your body as it is?

I think every girl, at some point, has struggled with body image (including me)! It’s a huge problem and it’s not talked about enough. I use to be so self-conscious that I wouldn’t even change in from of my friends and family; I would run to the bathroom. But, being in this industry has made me feel comfortable with myself because you HAVE to be. It started with me changing in front of one stylist, then another, and another. They’re not even looking at me; they’re more focused on getting the clothes ready, etc. So once I realized that they’re not staring at me, I became more comfortable. After 8 years of changing in front of many different people, you get used to it.

Another trick I would try when I was younger was that I would wear my bikini around my house before going to the beach so I could get use to the feeling of showing that much skin. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become.

Photographed by Rafa Galler

What advice would you give to young women who are struggling with self-esteem, confidence, or body image?

Do not be so hard on yourself. If you slip up and eat a lot of cookies one day, just workout the next day. Stop comparing yourselves to other people. Everyone has a different body shape and some people are just naturally skinny. It’s exhausting trying to be really skinny when your body is athletic and curvy. It was so liberating for me when I finally accepted myself the way I am and stopped comparing myself to other girls.

Plus-Size Models Unite embraces women of every shape, size, ethnicity, and age, which includes women who are short, tall, plus, thin, and every woman in between. We applaud diversity and support women to find the inner strength to accept, respect, and embrace their uniquely beautiful self. We know you feel the same way. Please tell us your thoughts about promoting the fact that beauty comes in every size.

I’ve always said beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I think skinny girls have just as many self-confidence issues as curvy girls. It comes down to the mind. If you think you are beautiful then you will be because your confidence will exude through you. Everyone has a different body type and the most important thing is recognizing which shape YOU are. Not what the girls looks like in magazines and not like what the girls look like on TV. We all need to stop comparing ourselves to unrealistic expectations of Beauty.

Photographed by Rafa Galler

What does being healthy mean to you?

Being healthy means getting enough sleep, staying active, and eating healthy food. I go by the color rule. Always try to have some color on your plate (greens, colorful fruits, etc); most unhealthy things are a brown color (or fried). Find exercise that’s fun! If it’s fun, it won’t feel like working out. I love to dance, so I take any dance classes that sound interesting to me–as long as it has great music! Music is definitely important for working out. If you’re not a runner and want to become one, make an
awesome upbeat playlist and it will be more fun as well. (I don’t jog on the treadmill that much–I prefer dance classes, but when I do run, a really good playlist helps me!)

Out of all the places your modeling has taken you – where is the most memorable?

The most memorable place I’ve been is Barcelona, Spain. I’ve always wanted to go there and the shoot happened to fall on Valentine’s Day weekend. Since I travel so much for work, I had acquired A LOT of frequent flyer miles. So I used those miles to get my boyfriend a ticket to go with me. It was such a great weekend!

Photographed by Rafa Galler

Where do you like to shop for clothes and who are your favorite designers?

I shop all over. I really like Mystique Boutique; it’s a small store that has several locations in New York. I also like Zara, Arden B., H&M, and Urban Outfitters. Some of my favorite designers are Max Azria, Roberto Cavalli, and others.

What are some of your favorite beauty products or must-haves?

MoroccanOil deep conditioner. (http://www.moroccanoil.com/)

Please tell us about your singing career.

I’ve been singing ever since I could. I was always in school choir and musicals. I’ve been taking one-on-one voice lessons for two years now and piano lessons as well. I write lyrics and come up with melody to songs. I’m learning piano, so the writing music part became easier.  I’m currently working on my demo tape and getting my written lyrics out there for people to hear.

What are you excited about right now?

I am really excited about an upcoming shoot in London that I have for Spririto Catalog! I have never been there before, and I always love to visit places that I have never seen!

*Thank you, Lizzie!

Lizzie Miller has been with Wilhelmina on the Plus Size Board since she started modeling at age thirteen. She told us that she has two sisters and a supportive mom and dad.

What do you think about Lizzie’s Glamour magazine shoot? Do you think Lizzie Miller started a body image revolution? How do you feel about your body image? We would love to hear your thoughts!