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Jessica Leahy Says, “True beauty is when someone shows you generosity, kindness, or trust; it’s moments when you can think ‘wow, that was really beautiful thing to do’. Real beauty is seen in someone’s actions, not their reflections.”

Posted in Beauty, Hair, & Make-up, Body Image, Confidence, Fashion, Inspiration, Media, Models, Plus-Size Modeling, Self-Esteem, Shopping, Trade Tips, Travel, Unique Beauty with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2011 by Liz

Please tell us how you started your career as a model.

It was through a modeling competition and the prize was a modeling contract. My aunt told me about it and I wasn’t really interested so I put it off. Eventually my aunty convinced me enough and I entered, but only after the competition was over so I didn’t win. But I got a call a few days later telling me that they got my pictures and they would like to offer me a contract. I was stoked and I’ve been doing it ever since.

Do you feel that ‘plus’ modeling is helping to redefine beauty?

I think plus modeling is certainly opening up what the fashion industry defines as beauty. I think that more and more people who influence the world of fashion are opening their eyes to the fact that beauty goes so much further than the inches of somebody’s waist. Plus models are definitely aiding in this effort to push the industry into embracing diversity, which is a fantastic thing!

How do you define the term ‘plus’ model?

To be honest, I don’t really like the term ‘plus’ model. The actual wording just doesn’t have the best ring to it, you know? It encourages sizeist connotations, when really most of us are just healthy women totally in proportion with our height. Just like how I know many ‘straight size’ models don’t like that term. There should just be ‘models’ with two categories– ‘male’ and ‘female’. Models should represent health, beauty, and confidence!

What do you enjoy about modeling? What is it about your career that brings you joy?

I enjoy the people and the creativity they bring. No two days are the same and every day you work, you get to collaborate with all these different people bringing all this different creative energy and experience. It’s certainly not a 9-5 environment and I love that too!

Do you have any funny modeling stories you would like to share with us?

Once I was shooting at a beach and was standing on the side of a rock pool. I was posing for the photographer, there were some people around, and pretty soon, I noticed that there was a group of these young guys watching what was going on. After a few clicks I noticed the boys were starting to get a bit rowdy and were shouting and I couldn’t hear them but I was trying to focus and just zone them out. All of a sudden a huge wave hit me and pushed me into the water! The boys were trying to warn me! I guess the photographer was only looking at what was in his lens so he didn’t see either and he was so apologetic. I was fine and luckily, my mascara was waterproof!

Where you ever teased as a child?

Hell yes! Not crazy teased but I was born in Australia, moved to New Guinea when I was two weeks old and came back at about nine, and girls are mean when they are nine! They already had their clicks and I just had deal with it. Now I look back and I think of it as lucky because I had to embrace my own company, I’m fine being individual and I think it made me stronger, but at the time it was so painful! Eventually, I settled in a made some great mates that I’ve stuck with since!

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

That being an individual is okay. Embrace your inner weirdo! It’s more interesting.

Have you ever suffered from body image or self-esteem issues? If so, what advice would you give to young girls and women who are currently struggling?

I think everyone goes through some issues with body image and self-esteem. I definitely have but I think that it’s good to remember that you are very blessed if you have a working body, if everything runs right then you’ve already won the jackpot, and if you’re pretty, that is a nice bonus. But looks are not everything. I came to terms with the fact a long time ago that I am not the hottest person in the world, not even close! And I may never even be the hottest person in a room and that’s ok too, because I am the only me, and I will be the best me, better than anyone else on the planet!

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 think there are a lot of parallels portrayed by the media that the lives of young women should mirror the lives of the “celebrities” they see on “reality” TV and on glossy magazines. These parallels are unrealistic and put pressure on young women to feel like they have to look a certain way or dress in a particular brand to be successful in life. I guess there needs to more emphasis on individual journey and individual success. Young women need to know that their lives don’t need to be like it is in the magazines to be whole, fulfilling, and admirable.

Who taught you about real beauty?

My family and friends. I think it would be very hard to really give credit to someone in a magazine or on a screen for teaching you a true lesson in real beauty. True beauty is when someone shows you generosity, kindness, or trust; it’s moments when you can think ‘wow, that was really beautiful thing to do’. Real beauty is seen in someone’s actions, not their reflections.

Lipstick or Lip gloss?

Emma Kid “Scarlett”… It’s the best true red!

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

It’s definitely got to be hair moisturizer. My hair is crazy without it!

What are your favorite beauty products?

Any Kheils product! There face washes are a complexion lifesaver! And Lucas paw-paw ointment! Anyone who has ever tried it knows it’s a revelation!!

Do you have a quick beauty tip to share with us?

Wash your face just before bed and when you get up. While you sleep, your skin excretes so much of the junk that hits your faces during the day so you have to wash it off. It will improve your complexion so much.

What is your go-to outfit?

My Swimmers. In summer, I always have a pair shoved in my bag or my car somewhere because I’m always hoping at some point in my day to hit the beach.

What are your favorite pair of jeans?

My “Cheap Monday” Blue velvet jean; I’ve worn them to death!

Where do you love to shop for clothes?

Zara. It’s a joke how well they hit my fashion taste buds!

What features do you love to accentuate?

They are kind of the ones that are too hard to cover up, my boobs and butt. I could wear a sack and you would still know they were there, so I may as well accentuate them well.

What does being healthy mean to you?

Health means having a happy stable balance in your life that suits you. It’s not just about healthy exercise and healthy food; it’s about having inner wellness also.

Do you have a favorite workout routine?

I mix it up all the time but I work out about 6 times a week. It’s not always tough and strenuous, sometimes it’s a solid walk or swim, but other times its weights or running sand dunes, which are killer! But I enjoy exercise, I feel so much better after it!

What makes you uniquely beautiful? What do you love about yourself and why?

I guess that one of the best things that I like about myself is the only thing that we all have in common, and its being unique. I am put together in such a way that no one else is. Whoever did my blueprint took the time to make me special and one of a kind.

In my purse you would find…

No money because I would have spent it, and paw paw ointment.

What are you listening to right now?

Jonsi. He makes music you can daydream to.

What are your favorite sites to visit online?

Mostly news sites and sports sites. I try to online shop but I’m too impatient to wait to have whatever I buy; the waiting is agony.

On a day off, what would your perfect day consist of?

A prefect day would be a hot day at the beach with good friends, good food, and great wine.

Is there something you have always wanted to try or learn, but haven’t yet?

I like to learn how to fly a plane. I’m not the greatest person to fly with, I question every noise and hiccup, but I think if I learned how to fly, I might be more comfortable with it.

What is one of your favorite childhood memories?

Growing up in New Guinea we would all spend our weekends at my Granddad’s coffee plantation. It was a big family affair and I would be with my cousins running through the coffee playing hide and seek. It’s a great memory.

What is Jessica’s philosophy on life?

Life is good so live it well.

 *Thank you, Jessica!

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Australian Model Fiona Falkiner Says, “If you put your mind to it–anything is possible!”

Posted in Articles, Books, & Magazines, Australia, Beauty, Hair, & Make-up, Body Image, Celebrity, Confidence, Designers, Family & Friends, Fashion, Fitness & Health, Funny Experiences, Hobbies, Inspiration, Media, Models, Movies, My Story, Photographers, Plus-Size Modeling, Self-Esteem, Shopping, Sports, Trade Tips, Travel, Unique Beauty, Work, Your Story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2011 by Liz

Here is the beautiful Fiona…

I grew up in a small country town in Victoria near the coast called Birregurra. After school, I went to university where I studied to earn a BA International Studies. But, my passion was always to become a makeup-artist, and I am currently undertaking a makeup course in Sydney, which I am loving. In 2006, I was a contestant on The Biggest Loser. After the show, I started modeling and since signing with Bella Model Management over a year ago, I have been working as a plus-size model and studying.

How did you start your career as a model?

I met an agent whilst in the Biggest Loser house who told me I would make a great model. When I came off the show, I was told I was too big to be a regular model and too small to be a plus model as I was a size AUS 10/12.

In one word, how would you describe your agency, Bella Model Management?

Superb!!!

Do you have any funny modeling stories you would like to share with us?

I am very allergic to cats and on a shoot recently I started sneezing and my eyes turned red and itchy, I was sure there was a cat in the house so the whole crew were searching the house for a cat, when the makeup artist realized that the blanket she was wrapping me in after each shot was the rug her cat slept on.

Have you ever suffered from self-esteem or body image issues?  If so, what advice would you give to young girls or women who are currently struggling?

I grew up always being bigger than other girls my age; I really struggled with my body image all through my teens and early 20s. I guess being a contestant on a weight loss show demonstrates how much my size bothered me. On the series, I went from a size AUS 18/20 to AUS 10/12 but within six months I had put a lot of the weight back on.

It has taken many years, but I can say that the life I lead now is all about balance, and I know within myself that if I am being healthy, I will be happy, and it has nothing to do with what it says on the scales and when you let that go and love the skin you are in–your life will turn around. I am a healthy size AUS 14/16 now am at peace with my body and love my curves.

How do you define beauty?

Beauty comes from within, looks are superficial and will fade, but true beauty lasts forever as it shines from within.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Believe in yourself and pursue your dreams. If you are doing something you’re passionate about, you’re much more likely to be successful than doing something you’re not interested in.

How do you stay fit? Do you have a favorite workout?

I have done pretty much every workout in the world. These days I prefer not to work out in a gym as I like the outdoors and I live close to one of the most amazing walks and beaches in the world, Bondi

Beach. So, in summer I do the Bondi to Bronte walk 4 or 5 times a week. It takes an hour door to door and has lots of stairs and stations where you can do little exercises along the way. I also love swimming, netball, and tennis. In winter, back at the gym my favorite class is spin class thanks to Bob Harper!

What is your go-to outfit?

LBD, Killer Heels, and red lips.

Favorite pair of jeans?

I have a pair of Embody Jeans, which are amazing and I get compliments every time I wear them, they are designed by fellow plus-size model Natalie Wakeling so the sizing is amazing as she gets the curves.

Who is your style icon?

Marilyn Monroe, my Idol!

Do you have an all-time favorite model? Why?

I am a bit old school. I love the old classics Marilyn and also Sophia Loren.

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

A really good moisturizer is essential. I get very dry skin and moisturize at least twice a day.

Can you share one of your beauty tips with us?

Drink lots and lots of water for a clear complexion, and I rub rosehip oil around my eyes before bed every night to help fight the wrinkles.

What is one thing that may surprise us about you?

I have a learning disability and can only retain a small amount of information that is spoken to me at any one time…makes life tricky!

If you could go back and talk to yourself at the age of 13, what would you say?

Stop being so critical of yourself, you have the whole world ahead of you, and you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Don’t let self-doubt cloud the way!

What do you love about yourself and why?

My easygoing nature; I get along with pretty much everyone and anyone.

What do you love about yourself and why?

My easygoing nature; I get along with pretty much everyone and anyone.

Favorite movie?

It would be a toss up between Gone With The Wind and Pretty Woman.

Favorite book?

I love anything by Wilbur Smith and Bryce Courtenay; love the epics!

What is your signature scent?

Miracle by Lancôme. I have been wearing it since I was 16.

If you could hop on an airplane and go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

A tropical Island where Gerard Butler would be waiting with open arms and a cocktail!

Who is your role model or hero? Why?

My Uncle, John Falkiner. He has lived his whole life doing what he loves and loving life. He is a Mountain Climber Adventurer who lives in Switzerland and he let nothing come between him and the lifestyle he loves.

What are you excited about right now?

I am looking at heading to New York in the not too distant future, to pursue modeling and makeup. It will be a fun new adventure! Interesting to see if I can crack the US market! My dreams are in five years time to be published in Vogue as either a model or a makeup artist–either way big dreams. If you put your mind to it–anything is possible!

*Thank you, Fiona!

The Word “Plus-Size” ~ Guest Post by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano of The Beheld.

Posted in Articles, Books, & Magazines, Beauty, Hair, & Make-up, Body Image, Confidence, Fashion, Fitness & Health, Inspiration, Media, Models, Plus-Size Modeling, Self-Esteem, Shopping, Unique Beauty with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2011 by Liz

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano writes about how we form our concept of personal beauty, using essays, histories of words we use to describe women (like “plus-size”!), interviews, experiments, and analysis of economics, sociology, and media at The Beheld.

Here is Autumn…

We use the term “plus-size” so frequently now—plus-size clothes, plus-size stores, plus-size women, and, of course, plus-size models—that it’s hard to remember that not so long ago, we didn’t even have the vocabulary handy to discuss wearing anything larger than a size 12.

“Plus-size” was first used as a technical fashion industry term for sizes 14 and up in the 1970s; plus-size clothing existed before then, but was referred to as “stout sizes,” “larger sizes,” “junior plenty” for Lane Bryant teen sizes, or simply listed by number. The phrase quickly spilled from the fashion world into the modeling industry. As early as 1976, modeling agencies began signing “plus-size” models and calling them just that.

Still, it was an insider term, along the lines of “go-see” and “comp card”—recognizable to people within the fashion and modeling industries, but not to the people purchasing the clothes those models might be wearing. Consumers were referring to “women’s sizes” through the 1980s, and in fact the euphemism for larger clothing sizes still occasionally causes confusion when shopping at the handful of stores that still use the term. (Did clothing retailers only figure out in the past 10 years that a woman with 34-inch hips and a woman with 44-inch hips are both women?)

It wasn’t just consumers who were coming up with weird terms to describe ladies of size. Women’s magazines in the 1970s gave style advice to readers who were “chunky,” “bigger,” “broad,” “big-boned,” “heavier,” and “fat.” Even a lifestyle and fashion magazine devoted to plus-size women, Big Beautiful Woman, didn’t embrace the term until after its 1979 launch. By the 1980s the word choices had become a tad more complimentary: “round” and “full-figured” began cropping up, along with “curvy all over,” particularly a favorite in annual June swimsuit roundups.

In 1989—the earliest instance of mainstream usage I could find—New Woman called out to “plus-size” readers, with Ebony following suit in 1990. From there, the term truly took flight: Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and other major players started using the term in the 1990s. Unsurprising, given the enormous surge in awareness of the needs of 14-and-ups at that time: Pioneering plus-size model Emme was named one of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 1994 (and again in 1999!), Lane Bryant went full-on fashionista in 1995 with celebrity endorsements, and Mode magazine launched in 1997.

But some feel that the term might have done all it can. “ ‘Plus-size’ is a word we need to bury at this point,” Queen Latifah told WWD in May when talking about her fashion line, which has a wide range of sizes. “The truth is, we all would like to wear the same clothes. We all want to wear beautiful, fly clothes no matter what size you are.” (Sing it, sister!) Similarly, model Marquita Pring said in an interview this March with New York Magazine, “I think we need to phase out the category ‘plus-size models.’ I’m a model… People are finally starting to embrace us, and we aren’t just being seen for our tits and ass, but for our overall beauty and ability.”

There’s a power in naming a need that’s gone unfilled—like, say, a cute size 18 tank top!—and in relabeling terms that are rather unhelpful. (“Junior plenty”? Really?) As Gloria wrote in 1979 about the progress of feminism, “We have terms like sexual harassment and battered women. A few years ago, they were just called life.” Having the term “plus-size” out and about in the world makes it clear that women over a size 12 aren’t  going to quietly sit on the sidelines in navy blue smocks ever again.

Plus-Size Models Unite originally used the term “plus-size” because it made sense at the time of the site’s creation. But the work that is being done here is toward a recognition of all women, in all their diversity, as being whole and beautiful.” The concept of plus-size? Love. The word itself? Eventually, maybe, we can let it go. For wouldn’t it be nice if someday, plus-size clothes were just called clothes, plus-size models were just called models—and plus-size women were just called women, as empowered, confident, and beautiful as they feel?

*Thank you, Autumn!

You can find out more about Autumn Whitefield-Madrano at her website: The Beheld, Twitter at @the_beheld, and on Facebook here.

Kavita Verryth Says, “I really believe that understanding your body shape is an amazing step to accepting yourself in a positive light. Once you understand your body and what it takes to make it feel amazing it’s possible to take steps to gain control of your self-esteem.”

Posted in Australia, Beauty, Hair, & Make-up, Body Image, Confidence, Family & Friends, Fashion, Fitness & Health, Inspiration, Models, Plus-Size Modeling, Self-Esteem, Shopping, Sports, Trade Tips, Travel, Unique Beauty, Work with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2011 by Liz

Kavita Verryth was born in Perth, Western Australia and moved to Melbourne when she was 16 years old. Her father is Dutch and her mother is Malaysian. She has a younger brother, Mark, who is a professional tennis player–they travel together whenever possible and are very thankful for Skype. Kavita is a massive fan of playing and watching sport. Any and every sport.

She lived and studied in Utrecht, The Netherlands for a year, which she says was a great opportunity to meet her Dutch family, explore Europe, and learn how to cook! Kavita 100% has the travel-bug and can’t sit still for too long. She would love to work overseas once she’s finished her degrees. She hopes to become a Player Agent (think Jerry Maguire) in the future.

Please tell us how you began your career as a model.  

When in Sydney for a university internship, I came across auditions for Australia’s Next Top Model. My mum encouraged me to go along, so off I went – with no experience or ability to walk in a pair of heels! The judges were really excited and positive and I made it through a couple of audition rounds. I was inspired to do a little more research into plus-sized modeling agencies. I came across BGM Models, sent in some natural photos and heard back from Darrianne Donnelley almost immediately. They were really excited (as was I) and the rest is now history….

What does being a ‘plus’ model mean to you?  

I don’t consider myself to be a ‘plus’ model even though it is the current popular term for being a natural woman. I believe I have been given the opportunity to educate not only those around me, but the wider community in Australia that ‘plus’ models are regular models who live a healthy and well-balanced life.

Your first shoot was for the launch for Moda at Target.  Please tell us about preparing for the shoot, how you were feeling, and the overall experience!  

The shoot for Moda at Target came about very soon after I signed with BGM. I really wasn’t expecting to book such a large job so quickly, but I was obviously very excited. Preparing for the shoot certainly included plenty of primping and priming and my nerves certainly kicked in but the crews working at the studios were fantastic, gave me plenty of direction and positive feedback. BGM Models also sent Kate Hislop, a fellow model to give me guidance and tips, which definitely came in handy!

Have you ever struggled with low self-esteem or body image issues?  

I never had particular problems with low self-esteem – well no more than any other teenage girl does when growing up. I was very athletic so my body shape was definitely a benefit for the sports I competed in. I had managed to turn any body image issues into a benefit for other aspects of my life. I think there will always be things, which can be improved upon, but I find that regular exercise, a balanced diet, and plenty of water keeps me feeling fresh and confident.

What advice do you have to girls and women who are currently struggling?  

I really believe that understanding your body shape is an amazing step to accepting yourself in a positive light. Once you understand your body and what it takes to make it feel amazing it’s possible to take steps to gain control of your self-esteem.

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

I’ve just become addicted to Organic hair products. I’ve been using Matrix Biolage and my hair has absolutely loves it! I am also completely obsessed with Lucas PawPaw Ointment, which is an Australian tradition – all my girlfriends carry a tube or two in their handbags. Its fantastic for dry lips, cuts, burns, and as a last minute moisturizer. I also can’t go past MAC Fluidline, which is a gel eyeliner that defines my eyes for day and night and can be used as a shade for a smoky-eyes look.

Where do you like to shop for clothes?  

I love shopping at David Jones department stores. They carry all my favorite local and international labels including Carla Zampatti, Witchery, Diane von Furstenberg, Lisa Ho, and Thurley. I’m also a massive UnderArmour fan for workout gear and clothes to lounge around the house in and am in love with Dinosaur Designs jewelry. Their pieces are handmade and they have the most beautiful range of colors – it always takes too long to decide on a piece when I’m there!

What is your go-to outfit?  

I am happiest in pair of jeans with a crisp t-shirt and finished with a blazer. Ballet flats for the day work best and a cute pair of heels and statement piece of jewelry at night.

What are you currently reading?  

Textbooks, unfortunately. I’m in fifth year at Deakin University studying a Bachelor or Laws and a Bachelor of Commerce (Sports Management) so most of my free time is spent catching up on missed readings and classes. Oops!

Do you have a favorite workout routine?  

I have a weekly exercise routine where I participate in-group workout sessions at my local park. I love exercising outdoors and the workouts alternate between being Cardio based or a Toning session. I think a mix of both forms of exercise is really important in keeping my body balanced and healthy. We’re really luck in Australia that the weather is conducive to exercising outside – the fresh air does wonders for lifting my mood.

In 10 years, where would you love to see yourself?  

As I have only just started modeling, I’d really love to keep it up for the next few years. I would like to do editorial shoots for Australian fashion magazines and eventually would like travel and model out of New York, Germany or Italy. It’s also important for me to finish my University degree, as I believe education keeps my options open and allows me more freedom in the future to pursue a modeling career.

For those of us who haven’t been to Australia, what do you love about your country?  

There is absolutely no country like Australia. We are so isolated from the rest of the world and our land is so vast that there is the opportunity to live any kind of life you dream of. We have open spaces, gorgeous beaches, and an amazing countryside for those that are after serenity, but for those who prefer a fast paced lifestyle, our cities certainly provide this. Melbourne is without a doubt my favorite – the culture, atmosphere, and hype, which surrounds it, really keeps me busy and interested.

What is a fun fact about you?

There are a few quirks to me…..

I have to fold every piece of plastic or paper into neat squares or triangles before I throw them in the trash. I need to have the clothes in my wardrobe and my collection of nail polish arranged by colours from lightest to darkest. I roll my clothes before placing them in my suitcase when traveling. When I eat skittles I have to separate the colours and count how many there are of each, making sure when I eat them that the number of each colour remains equal.

Do you have any quick make-up tips to share with us?

At the moment, I am really into eyebrows. When I’m in a hurry I will always make sure I lightly pencil them. I find it brightens my face and keeps me looking fresh all day long.

What are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of having the guts and want to participate in the plus size modelling industry. It takes a lot of self-confidence and I’m so happy that I have the personality and will to want to do this and to show other young girls that being a ‘plus’ model doesn’t mean you are unhealthy or not appreciated. There is a strong group of ladies doing this and as time goes by, the support provided to this industry can only flourish.

Who is your role model or hero? Why?

My mum has been the single strongest influence in my life. She is strong-willed, determined to succeed, and has always put her family first. She’s pushed me when I needed it and supported me in everything that I’ve wanted to do with minimal questions. Having support from her and my family is the most important thing to me when making a decision.

Who do you have on speed dial?

My parents just moved from Melbourne to the Gold Coast in QLD so I’ve had my mum on speed dial ever since. She knows what I’m doing most of the time and with my family being so spread apart (my one brother lives in Florida), speaking to family on the phone or via skype is a regular occurrence.

What is your most treasured possession?

I’m ashamed to say it’s my blackberry at the moment. Being so busy all the time means that my life sits in that piece of technology. It’s my event reminder, assignment tracker and link to my family, friends, and boyfriend. I would require a serious life overhaul if I didn’t have it.

What music is on at home?

I’m easy when it comes to music. When I’m with the girls getting ready for a night out, it’s just some light house music, in the gym it’s a lot more upbeat, and in the evening I like jazz with a French or Spanish influence.

Guilty pleasure?

Igloo Zoo. It’s an Australian frozen yoghurt store. I love Pomegranate yoghurt with crumble, mixed berry puree, and lychees. YUMM!

What is your go-to statement accessory?

A gorgeous necklace my girlfriend picked up whilst we were travelling through the US. I borrowed it from her one evening and it hasn’t found its way back yet. Oops! It’s a large, two-tiered cream necklace. I love wearing it with all the black I have to make the outfit pop!

What are you excited about?

I’ve just begun my 6th and final year of university which is a huge relief! I’m really excited about the adventure that will unfold at the end of my degree as I currently have no idea of the path I’d like to take. Keeping my options open is important and that means balancing plus modeling with a potential career in the Sports Marketing industry. Whether I do this here in Melbourne, up in Sydney or look overseas to Europe and the US is an intensely exciting prospect for me.

Who is your style icon and why?

I can’t say I follow a particular person. I love browsing through fashion magazines and trying to implement particular aspects of trends. I’m definitely not someone who sticks to a particular style although generally I have relatively simple, classic taste and enjoying sticking to at least one black item.

Celebrity crush?

I love sportsmen. Nadal, Lopez, Torres, Jensen Button…the list could go on and on.

What is one of your most favorite childhood memories?

My brother and I played tennis tournaments as kids (my brother, Mark, is now a professional tennis player) and we entered an Under 12s mixed doubles competition for the first time. I remember fighting with him all the way through the tournament but eventually we took the trophies and all our arguments were forgotten. We definitely weren’t too kind to each other on the tennis court back then but now I’ve learnt my lesson and avoid even stepping onto court with him as losing to him would be the only option these days 🙂

*Thank you, Kavita!

Our Interview with Russian Model Katya Zharkova

Posted in Beauty, Hair, & Make-up, Body Image, Confidence, Designers, Family & Friends, Fashion, Fitness & Health, Inspiration, Media, Models, New York, Plus-Size Modeling, Self-Esteem, Shopping, Trade Tips, Travel, Unique Beauty, Wilhelmina, Work, Your Story with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2011 by Liz

Katya Zharkova is a plus model from Russia. She was born in a small city called Smolensk, and she grew up in Moscow. Katya started modeling at age fourteen, and still models today at almost thirty years old. She graduated from Moscow University of Art and Culture as a TV producer. She created shows on Russian TV. Her friends advised her to go to a casting call for a TV show in Moscow and she got a second job as a TV presenter. She hosted a show where she helped women love themselves. Before coming to the United States, Katya worked with Russian and European designers. She decided to come to Los Angeles, and signed a contract with Wilhelmina agency and moved to New York. She has worked with Forever 21, Silver Jeans, Pure Energy, Cabi, Avenue, Macys, MC Patterns, Ulla Poken, and Fashion To Figure. Now, she is working on an autobiography – it’s a story about a plus-size model traveling all over the world.

Please tell us how you started your career as a model?

My mom is a photographer. I wasn’t the prettiest newborn, and my grandmother always use to say that I would turn from an ugly duckling into a swan. My mom use to take pictures of me every day thinking that it would help me become prettier. When I was nine, somebody told my mom you have a very cute boy, she decided I should be acting. So, I got the role of a girl who wasn’t very attractive, and every day she sat down in front of the mirror trying to persuade herself she was the most beautiful and charming person in the world. At the end of the movie, she really blossoms into this beautiful thing. That taught me to do the same thing in real life. Later in life, my friend took me to a modeling agency, and the first thing they told me was that they would accept me only if I lost weight and they gave me six months. I tried but didn’t succeed, and in 1997, they opened a plus-size department in her agency. Since then, some of the designers in my town started sewing a plus-size line especially for me. That made me realize I could be on the covers of major magazines and every boy at school who was teasing me about being fat was wrong! At one of the runway shows, I was seen by the editors of Moscow Fashion Magazine and moved to Moscow to work for them and study at the University.

Did you always dream of modeling and why?

My dream started in childhood when I believed in myself and thought I was beautiful, but boys were saying I was fat. I was never skinny, and I liked the fact that I was healthy. I wish there were more people like me on the covers of major magazines–healthy and confident! I want young girls to eat properly without starving themselves just because being skinny is in fashion. I want all the runway models to be size 8-16 and not 0-6. I want plus-size modeling to be popular in fashion all over the world along with the skinny models.

What do you think people would find most surprising about modeling?

There are no real rules in modeling; you never know what will happen tomorrow. You can be very talented with a great portfolio and a great body, but there are millions of beautiful and talented people. You have to be very lucky to get the job. It’s the way things happen. Modeling is a very tough job and you have to be at the right time at the right place.

Did modeling come naturally to you?

I think I blossomed thanks to my beautiful photos that say a lot! I want people to realize that you can be beautiful no matter what size you are. It’s very important to love yourself the way you are!

What did you study while attending Moscow State University?

At the University of Art and Culture, I studied acting, filmmaking, and producing. I use to work and study at the same time, but my mom was always strict with me regarding my education. If I wouldn’t get a degree, she wouldn’t let me go to the United States, so it’s thanks to my mom that I successfully graduated with a degree in Organization of Student Festivals, and wrote a thesis called “Education of young people through TV media”. As I was an experienced model by that time, I was able to work as a host of one of the shows and viewers were happy to see a healthy and beautiful woman. I think the fact that I was plus size made me unique and it also helped me believe that one day I will be on the cover of major fashion magazine.

When you made the decision to move to NYC, what would you say was the biggest culture shock? Did you know how to speak English?

I moved to NY in a rush. I was already living in Los Angeles and working at Wilhelmina. I was enjoying a slow and relaxing way of life–swimming in the ocean and studying English. On the 29th of September, I got an email form Ameerah (she works at Wilhelmina in NYC), and she told me she really liked me and would love to represent me, but that I would have to move to NYC in order to work with her. We discussed it with my LA agent Tricia, and she told me I should definitely go. I already worked with the big labels like Forever 21, Pure Energy, Silver Jeans, and Cabi, so moving to NYC seemed quite logical and it was kind of the next step in my career. So, I rented a car and drove all the way to New York, thinking I must be crazy but that I was reaching my dream. I had a funny incident on the way to New York. I ran out of gas in Philadelphia, so I left the car and had to walk two miles to the nearest gas station. Right after I walked out of the car, I saw a police officer looking at me with a smile and asking me what has happened and if he could help; that was like a scene from a movie. That was a real shocker! He drove me all the way to the gas station and then back leaving with the words, “Welcome to Philadelphia!” All I said was, “I Love you America!”

What do you miss most about your homeland, Russia?

My entire family lives in Russia, and I really miss them. I miss my mom, my niece, my brothers, and my husband. I have a huge family but thanks to Skype, I can see everybody I miss every single day.

What do you love most about living in NYC?

I love the weather in New York; it changes quite fast. Everybody is extremely friendly, and you can say hi to hundreds of people and everybody will react positive.

What would you say is the best advice you have been given, in terms of your career as a model?

Never postpone anything for tomorrow! Love yourself the way you are and people will start loving you. Never give up and all you dreams will come true.

What has been your most memorable modeling experience and why?

So far, the most memorable experience for me was the first shoot abroad–the shoot for the Elena Miro’s magazine. It was shot in Egypt. We were shooting the Spring/Summer collection, and I couldn’t speak English at all. It was a week in a sunny Egypt and my first modeling experience outside of Russia–I was crying from happiness. I realized that my dream came true, and I’m on the cover!

Do you feel plus modeling is helping redefine beauty?

I do believe that plus-size modeling has redefined all the usual beauty standards. It’s very important to live in harmony, be yourself, and do what you love the most. You have to be confident and that’s the only reason I’m here in America right now. I don’t want my kids to ever experience what I went through. Every time I go shopping in Moscow, it’s impossible for me to find anything in my size, especially if it’s something trendy and fashionable. Size 8 is usually the biggest size they carry. My husband and I, once tried to purchase jeans in my size and the shop assistant offered me a men’s model. Of course, we laughed and didn’t take it seriously, but can you imagine how many young girls went through the same issue, thinking, “I’m so big that there are no jeans for me”. And that kills your confidence, society and media creates insecurity for people who are bigger than size 8. That’s how young girls become depressed. I’m strong, but even I had issues trying to find myself and it wasn’t easy.

Have you ever suffered from body image issues? If so, what advice would you give to young girls and women who are currently struggling?

We worry about the way we look because we are trying to find love. We want to be liked. Unfortunately, the reflection in the mirror won’t help you find happiness. If you have a strong personality, and if you can laugh and enjoy yourself, people will accept you the way you are. Also, you might think that skinny and beautiful women are happy, that’s not always true. I know so many examples that contradict that. I know so many beautiful Russian celebrities who are miserable in their life! When I ask my husband how he fell in love with me, being so big and not perfect, he doesn’t even understand what I’m talking about. I’m the most perfect person in the whole world for him and the only thing that he remembers when he first met me was my laugh. I truly love to smile. So my advice is the more you laugh the better.

What do you wish you would have known in high school?

My dream from my childhood finally came true, and I see all the boys from school grow up. I see what kind of girls they like now and they realize I’m not fat at all anymore. I would love to have known that in school. Though, I did believe that being slightly bigger than others would help me in life.

Where you ever teased or bullied?

I was teased at school; they used to call me a train and I never understood that. Can I be that huge?

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?

Would love to be at the Oscars with one in my hands

What is your dream job as a model?

The cover of US Vogue–impossible sometimes can be possible.

On a day off, what would your perfect day consist of?

If I was able to meet up with my friends and enjoy the weekend in a great mood – that means it was a perfect day! Also, I love dancing – it’s always fun!

What is a fun fact about you?

I’m far from perfect when it comes to speaking English and because of that, many of the things that I say generate much laughter among my friends, many times unintentional. But I’m very sincere and emotional, so everybody understands me.

Is there something you have always wanted to learn or try, but haven’t yet?

I want to learn skydiving; one day I’ll do it!

We love your Silver Jeans shots! Please tell us about your experience modeling for Silver Jeans?

I really loved their concept. It’s basically friends on vacation. It was just like my weekends in real life. Talented people around you–jokes, guitar, dancing, and lots of fun. I grew up with my older brother and he always used to invite friends to our parent’s country house; that was a lot of fun. That’s what I experienced again at the Silver jeans shoot. That was a reminder that my dreams were meant to come true, and I was there despite the fact that I’m size 10-12. I was with three beautiful American boys, three skinny models, and me Katya Zharkova, a plus-size model. What else do you need to become happy? Pair of comfortable jeans and real friends close to you.

Do you have a favorite pair of jeans?

My favorite pair of jeans are waiting for me in LA. I was in such a rush when I was moving to New York that I forgot them at my friend’s place. They are light blue in color and they are vintage in look now. They are completely ripped at the knees; that means they went through a lot and you have to respect that. Hopefully, I will be able to get them back soon.

Where so you love to shop for clothes?

I like really unique things and my taste is very eclectic. Clothes reflect your mood and also remind you of the favorite moments of your past. That’s why I kept a lot of pieces that remind me of certain things in my life. When I shop, I usually look for something special. Something that my girlfriend would never pick–something that will show my unique style and reflect my personality. Shopping in the US is amazing because there is a great variety of things in my size and that lets you experiment and find the new you. And, that makes it so interesting.

Who is your style icon?

I would say Marilyn Monroe is a style icon because of her Hollywood glamour and a breezy sensuality.

What is your go-to outfit?

Black leather jacket, a pair of dark blue jeans, and of course, a pair of high heels. Russian girls love high heels.

What are your must-haves in your make-up bag?

I always have waterproof mascara. You never know what can happen, so you always want your eyelashes to be at their best! Powder, blush, and, the most important thing–pink lipstick.

Where is your favorite place to snowboard?

I think the mountains of Vancouver are the best place to go snowboarding!

What do you love about yourself and why?

I like the fact that I can enjoy life. I can wake up in the morning and say, “Life I love you”. I can walk around the city, enjoying every moment of it

How do you stay healthy and fit?

Every morning, I eat oatmeal; I also do yoga twice a week–that’s my secret to beauty.

What are you excited about right now?

I’m really excited about going to Seattle, and working for Nordstrom’s. I’ve seen Seattle in so many movies; I would love to see it in real life. And, I’m always looking forward to work!

*Thank you, Katya!

The Women Behind Madison Plus

Posted in Designers, Fashion, Fitness & Health, Ford +, Hobbies, Lane Bryant, Media, Models, Music, Plus-Size Modeling, Self-Esteem, Shopping, Work with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2011 by Plus-Size Models Unite

Aimee Cheshire

MadisonPlus.com is the premiere fashion website for the modern plus size woman. Created by Aimee Cheshire and Erica Young, fashion professionals, who were frustrated with the lack of excitement and choice in the plus market. In 2008, Aimee and Erica, who are based in New York City, started brainstorming what is now MadisonPlus.com.

Kari Hansbarger, Aimee Cheshire, and Erica Young  photographed by Myung Choi

How did you and your business partner Erica meet and come together to form Madison Plus?

Erica and I were both students at LIM College in NYC. We would chat in class and that’s when I told her about my internship at Roaman’s, a plus-size catalog, and how much I enjoyed working there. I gave her a brief introduction to the world of plus and all the amazing untapped opportunities. She signed up for an internship soon after. Before we knew it, we were sitting next to each other in the office and working on the same sportswear team. We did not expect to be put on the same team together, and our working relationship grew from there. Very quickly, we were both promoted to managerial positions at a new brand within the company, but we started to grow tired of fighting the system in regards to the lack of cool and exciting plus clothing options. So, we decided to build it ourselves.

Where did the name Madison Plus come from?

Coming up with a name for a business can be a fun challenge. We had baby name books that we found ourselves browsing through to find the “name” for us to run with. We had temporary names that we would sit with for a period of time and practice saying it, to see if we would get sick of it. One day when Erica and I were doing research at the SIBL library on Madison Avenue, we had a light bulb moment and the Madison Plus name was born.

What is the most frequently asked questions you receive from your viewers?

Many women want to be plus models, and that is definitely the number one question that we receive. Unfortunately, not everyone can be a plus model. What I really interpret from the “plus model” question is that they actually want to be in some way involved with the development of the plus-size industry. There are so many ways to bring your view and your expertise to the plus industry and there is so much room to grow.

What has been one of the most unforgettable moments Madison Plus has experienced, one that you will never forget?

We have worked so hard to develop a brand that we can confidently stand behind and feel that fully represents what the plus industry was craving. There are two amazing moments that mean a lot to me and to MP. The first being when we teamed up with Ford+ Models to launch the “All Ashley” issue that broke just before the ‘boobgate’ controversy with Lane Bryant’s commercial, which featured the talented Ashley and allowed everyone to get to know her. Before we knew it, we saw “MadisonPlus.com” up on Entertainment Tonight. To see that type of recognition made all the work worthwhile and helped fuel the fire to continue with what we are doing, which was relaunching Madison Plus.

Before the holidays and after a year of building the brand Erica, Kari (our creative director), and I re-launched the new Madison Plus. We wanted to create a shopping website that was curated by us. We wanted to expand beyond our blog, bring the best of plus clothing to you wrapped up like your favorite fashion magazine. A day after we relaunched, I went to Mexico. I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent on the beach, but what I enjoyed most was knowing that the new MP was live.

Plus-Size Models Unite is ultimately about inspiring others to love their own unique self. What do you love about yourself and why?

Perseverance! My whole life I knew that I would be involved in the plus industry, that there was no reason for it to lack the same attention that the straight size industry gets. Growing up plus size and having to experience the common situations that plus girls find themselves. Every summer for many years, I would go to weight loss camp in California and I remember sitting on the steps of the stage with the owner asking her if I could come back when I was older and put on a plus-size fashion show. I had this bug hit me at a young age and it stayed with me though all my experiences of growing up. It was my way of making the struggles worth it. This feeling of perseverance that I always had to push through, knowing that it may be pretty crappy now, but when I make it, it will be worth it. What an amazing reward it has been.

Your site covers everything from fashion to beauty tips to celebrity news–you name it! Please tell us what your favorite beauty products or must-haves are?

I have never been a huge product girl until recently. The flood gates were open when I discovered dry shampoo. Whenever I would read about people washing their hair every other day, I could never grasp how they could do that, well dry shampoo is the answer. I use Rene Futerer Naturia Dray Shampoo, when I use it my hair immediately becomes voluminous and holds whatever styling I need it to. The days I do wash my hair I add some Sam Brocato Beach Spray, and it gives me that texture I crave. I keep an easy routine of Cetaphil to wash my face, Nars moisturizer, and Nars skin brightening serum, which I am addicted to, it just brings my skin to life. Also, I cannot leave my apartment without a spritz of Bond no9 perfume called Nuit De Noho, it’s just part of my personality now. I may freshen it up a little for spring by layering on some Highline another fave from Bond.

I love when the girls stop by and talk about their favorite outfits!!  What are your go-to outfits?

We do too! It’s amazing how much inspiration you can find from the lovely ladies that stop by our office. Each season, I tend to switch up my trendy pieces but I do have some go-to pieces that are season-less. Right now, it is my bondage skirt from Topshop, black ponte sheath dress, and last but not least, my Paige denim skinny jeans.

What is your definition of beauty?

I like pure, non-fussy beauty. I want the real nose, the real boobs, and real bum, which allows for the real you to shine through.

What are you listening to right now?

Music is my escape, and I love being surrounded by amazing bands and live shows in Brooklyn. I try to see a show at least once a month. The bands that have been getting the most play on my ipod have been The Constellations, Gogol Bordello, The Black Keys, and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings.

Favorite books?

My lovely husband just bought me a Kindle and I have been reading nonstop since I opened it. When you own your own business, sometimes the only way you can relax and unplug is by keeping it occupied with books. If you were shopping my bookshelf I would insist on these books; The Girls, Rush Home Road, Chesapeake, Dominion, The Glass Castle, Cutting For Stone, and A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Favorite places to shop online?

It is a very rare thing to see me actually shop in person. I have been shopping online since the beginning, originally it was due to my size. I was a size 20 and then when you layer on a 35″ inseam, and size 11 shoe your selection becomes limited. So quickly, I was trained to go online for my shopping. Right now, I am shopping The Outnet, Net-A-Porter, JCrew, and Anthropologie. When I go shopping in the city, I love to hit up Topshop and DVF.

What is a fun fact about you?

I am obsessed with card and board games. I am in the process of learning bridge with my husband and some friends. I figure by the time I’m in an old age home, I will be an expert. When my husband and I started dating we would play games for money, and I bought some kitschy piggy banks from Vegas, and whoever had the most amount of money in the end of the year won. I never won, my husband always took home the pot and the winnings were definitely not big enough for a trip back to Vegas.

Favorite restaurant?

I am truly spoiled with amazing restaurants living in NYC and being surrounded by so many delicious restaurants which have lead to a discerning palette.  I love it when you go for a meal and you leave with an experience. The best dining experience is at the Kabob Café in Queens. It seats no more than 12 people and the kitchen is right next to you while you eat. The amazing owner/chef Ali keeps you entertained for hours! When my evening out demands a little more “fancy” you can find me at Junoon, Marlow & Sons and Dresslers. To compliment, I enjoy pairing my meal with a nice cocktaiI or bottle of wine.

What are you excited about right now?

I am so excited for the year ahead, 2010 was so good to me and the MP team. So many personal and professional goals were accomplished. It really gives me so much momentum into this new year. Stay tuned…we have more exciting developments at Madison Plus.

Best,

Aimee Cheshire
Co-Founder & Co-Owner
www.MadisonPlus.com
Your Style Discovered
facebook.com/MadisonPlus
twitter.com/MadisonPlus

Video Link

http://www.vimeo.com/19135791

*Thank you, Aimee!

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!

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www.cheneselewis.com

www.plusmodelradio.com

*Thank you, Chenese!