In my handful of years as a journalist, the deepest truth I’ve uncovered is this: Plus-size fashion is about so much more than just clothing.
Ask any fat fashionista, and within seconds, they likely can recall the first garment that ever made them feel confident, authentic, powerful. It’s that transformative possibility, weaved within every stitch of a perfectly-fitted plus-size piece of clothing, that makes this market and community so much more necessary than one can fully comprehend. Because when you’ve been rejected and ridiculed by an industry for so long, finally getting to taste the forbidden fruit is sweeter than one can ever anticipate. And uncovering that—experiencing it—over the past few years is what inspired me to launch The Power of Plus, a size-inclusive digital community that so many of us—myself included—have been waiting for.
In September of 2019, I embarked on my most daring fashion week quest to date: To write 10 pieces about plus-size fashion and representation over the course of just a few days for outlets that until recently had never tapped into my world. With features in the works for Glamour, Teen Vogue, InStyle, and more, I spent that fashion week completely immersed in this community of women, men, and passionate humans who showed me the potential in store. Because despite what headlines may lead many to believe, curvy folk are just getting started.
While the Ashley Grahams and Paloma Elsessers of the world continue to rise, a community of millions wait on the sidelines for their time, the day when their bodies—plus-size and unique in their own ways—can feel represented. In that waiting lies conversations that have long been ignored in the mainstream, conversations about colorism, anti-Blackness, and the fatphobia that still plague this industry today.
Those conversations inspire me. Even further, they fuel me to be a better advocate and to use my voice in more impactful ways. As I began to reflect deeper on this in the months that followed fashion week, I knew that I had to do something bigger and better than I’d ever done before.
I entered into deep conversations with my close friend and now-business partner, Shammara Lawrence, about what the plus-size fashion industry lacked, and how we could use our voices to better serve this community. Over the course of a few months, those conversations morphed into a digital platform centered around the idea of authentic, truly diverse representation. That community is The Power of Plus.
Now, a year later, we’ve amassed over 14,000 followers across platforms, held bi-monthly virtual panels featuring top industry names like Gabi Gregg and Kellie Brown, and have made space for a new wave of change within the industry. To honor all of that—and to kick off all we have planned next—we recently launched our new #PowerfullyMe campaign to celebrate the things that make us feel the most powerful and authentic. Because after the year we’ve all had, God knows we deserve to feel great.
Our campaign is tied to the launch of our new website—powerofplus.co—which, over the course of the next few months, will become a go-to destination for future events, resources, and more.
Our new motto at The Power of Plus is “For Us. By Us. With Love,” which I believe perfectly encapsulates our mission. Shammara and I hold unique, vastly different experiences of what it’s like navigating life in our bigger bodies, but our viewpoints are limited. While our knowledge builds this platform, the stories of the women who support it is the fuel that keeps it going. It is their stories that deserve the spotlight, stories you may never have heard before; Stories about how plus-size fashion saved their souls in their darkest moments.
My first time feeling that transformative power came during my senior year of college when, a week prior to graduation, I attended the filming of the Project Runway finale. With only a few days to pick the perfect look, I drove to my local Macy’s—one of the only spots that caters to plus-size men like me—in pursuit of the perfect ensemble. With little hope, I entered the men’s section, and saw it: A baby blue suit, on sale, in my size. But would it fit?
I entered the dressing room with excitement yet trepidation. I’d been burned before, as many of us have, but to my surprise, the suit fit like a glove. A few days later I was in New York City on national television, feeling bold and confident in a way I’d never felt before. All because that on-sale baby blue suit actually fit.
When you long for something so dearly and deeply, but are never afforded access, you eventually give up. You realize quickly that maybe, no matter how hard you try, the world may never be big enough for you. But when, for the first time, you’re shown otherwise, you realize that the potential within you for excellence and greatness has yet to be tapped.
To some, it seems frivolous to talk about clothing in such grand, profound ways, but to me and my community these memories are some of our most prized possessions. The sooner designers can fully understand that, the quicker they will realize that size-inclusivity is more than a passing trend or a quick buck.
It’s transformative, and we deserve better.