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On August 26 – 27, 2017, I was honored to be a part of a very special event.

Caption (Left to Right): Cathleen Meredith (Founder of FATGIRLSDANCE™) and Natasha Nurse (Owner & Co-founder of (Dressing Room 8) / Photo Credit: Kahlil Nurse

FATGIRLSDANCE™ had their 2-Day Finale Dance Event where they offered a panel discussion, body positive and dance workshops, raffles, dance contests and performances by Pretty Big Movement, Amanda LaCount, 4THIRTY-TWO, Miss Eaves, and FATGIRLSDANCE™, and even a party with a DJ to wrap up the whole event.

On Saturday, August 26th, we started Day #1 with a breathing exercise with Natalie Baack and a short exercise to get the audience to move their bodies.

Then, I had the privilege of moderating the Body Positivity Panel Discussion with Cathleen Meredith, creator of FATGIRLSDANCE™, Plus Size Model & Founder of No Wrong Way Movement Denise Bidot, Transformational Personal Growth & Body Positive Self-Care Coach Natalie Baack, and Shakesha Williams of the Curvy Girls Rock Series. Each of these women had profound and enlightening advice to share with the audience.

We addressed what is body positivity, why it is so difficult to actually see plus size women in mainstream media, what a world would look like if we didn’t stick to specific beauty norms, and so much more. This very real and honest conversation led everyone on the panel and audience members to say “YASS Girl!” more times that I can count! So, you know I was really excited to speak to these ladies individually to get their thoughts on what body positivity really means to them.

(Left to Right): Denise Bidot, Plus Size Model & Founder of No Wrong Way Movement and Natasha Nurse (Owner & Co-founder of (Dressing Room 8) / Photo Credit: Kahlil Nurse

When speaking with Denise Bidot, I wanted to know if she could go back to advise her younger self, which age would she go to and what would she say. Denise said:

“By 4th grade, I looked almost the same. I had a D Cup, I was 5 ft 6inches and I was the jolly green giant and everyone told me I stuffed my boobs. I would wake up every morning and I would tape them down and put on a sports bra. It was a really tragic time in my life. But without that, I wouldn’t be who I am, because I learned that everyone catches up. By the time middle school ended, everyone was my height. Girls had boobs and it wasn’t a big deal. Nobody was talking about them anymore. And, I realized that people don’t understand the unknown.

That is why our movement, that what we are all doing individually, is so important. We are starting to teach people that you should never treat another that way. So me, as that 4th grader, I would tell her it’s going to be all right. You’re good. You don’t have to sit there for 40 minutes and have your mom strap you down. And, feel so uncomfortable. Because, I remember hunching down and trying not be so tall and not be myself. And, I could have had so many more years of happiness. There were those years where I just felt so crappy about myself. If that little girl would have known she would be a supermodel traveling the world. Maybe she would have stood a little taller, walked a little differently, and smiled a little bit more. So, I think that’s one of the molding stages of my life that made me who I am.”

Denise Bidot hit the nail on the head with that poignant advice.

When we are going through the trials and tribulations in our lives, we can’t see what our future holds for us. Instead, we only focus on the current day pain or frustration we are struggling with. Ladies, there is always a light at the end of our tunnel. To be honest, it is in those moments where we feel ostracized or ridiculed that actually propels us forward to the amazing future awaiting us all – we have to remember this fact!

(Left to Right): Natalie Baack, Transformational Personal Growth & Body Positive Self-Care Coach, and Natasha Nurse (Owner & Co-founder of (Dressing Room 8) / Photo Credit: Kahlil Nurse

I was excited to speak with Natalie Baack to hear her thoughts on how we change the narrative of automatically addressing health and plus size women in media.

Natalie says:

“Well it starts [with] allowing space for people of all sizes to talk about their health issues. I think that [with] health, there is some areas in the plus conversation where it is taboo to even talk about health because there is this perception [of] health shaming by even talking about health. I think that does everyone a disservice. We have to change the conversation about what healthy feels like and not looks like. Healthy can’t be based on looks…How do we change the conversation? It has to be about how we feel not how we look. If somebody health shames you, and you [have a certain] integrity with yourself, you honor your body every day, or most days, [you can overcome the negativity]. Self honoring can change day to day depending on the day that you are having. Life happens if you get really busy and you eat a bunch of carbs because that is easier that’s just the way it sometimes goes. Also, food is very grounding. If you are dealing with stress and trauma, eating is often a self regulatory tool that we use. We are all emotional eaters. We are born emotional eaters. If we didn’t love food, we would die. It is an evolutionary necessity that food gives us pleasure…”

I couldn’t agree more with Natalie! I love food and will always love food. As a society, we need to stop defining health based on how people look but instead on how do they feel. Don’t you agree?

When speaking with the unbelievably inspiring Cathleen Meredith, Founder of FATGIRLSDANCE™, I had to know how she feels when she dances.

FATGIRLSDANCE™ Finale Event Performance / Photo Credit: Kahlil Nurse

Cathleen says:

“The cool thing about dance is that it’s kinda like sex. I mean that because, you always feel good. You love learning new moves. It’s fun whether you are by yourself or with multiple people and even when you don’t feel like doing it, once you get into it, you feel better. It is exactly like dance. Dance is like that. Dance is always fun and always different. When you do it with different people, it is always an exciting thing. It’s a lot of fun. It is never not fun.”

Have you ever compared dance to sex? If not, you will never forget that analogy.

When speaking with Cathleen, I find myself practically laughing within the first two minutes of our conversation. She is a riot with very little effort and I know FATGIRLSDANCE™ will be motivating us all to get and up and move our bodies for as long as we can. Also, if you didn’t catch my previous Plus Model Magazine interview with her before, you will want to circle back to that article ASAP.

Plus Size Model, Artist, Body Positive & Mental Health Advocate Faith Costa

Running into the brilliant bombshell Faith Costa always warms my heart. And, I was so excited to get some of her very unique body positive art prints. Sitting down with this beauty, I wanted to know what drives her to be a body positive advocate and how she promotes her advocacy through her art.

She shares:

“I worked my whole life to really love my body and I want to help other people do the same. I think it is necessary and important and it is for everyone. It isn’t a trend or just a fad. It is not for advertising. It’s our lives and I really want to be a part of it and help others so we can be happy together. I am doing a lot of body positive art. I am accentuating things relevant to me, like my double chin illustration that is not normally seen in the mainstream media, especially in fashion.

Double Chin Illustration by Faith Costa as shown in the June 30th, 2017 Plus Model Magazine Interview

I like to think that I am very inclusive of all body types. Like my girl squad [illustration], to show that we are all beautiful no matter what. It’s not just one type of body. I really want to express that in every way that I can.”

Faith is so right. Body positivity is not about celebrating one type of body type. Nor is this movement for one group of people. We all owe it to ourselves to love the bodies we have and celebrate each other’s differences.

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Do you know all the body positive work @dove does?

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Dre Brown, Makeup Artist, Beauty Ambassador & Dove Self-Esteem Educator, and Natasha Nurse, Owner & Co-founder of (Dressing Room 8)

I was excited to hear the great work Dre has been doing with Dove and hearing her advice for being body confident and daily self empowerment technique she uses.

She says:

“Body confidence is something really close to my heart; even before I was blessed to work with Dove. I have worked in the beauty industry for now 14 years as a professional makeup artist. I also struggled with self-esteem issues as a child. I was overweight and I had a lot of challenges reconciling what my beauty meant because it wasn’t necessarily always what I would see around or what I would see people holding as the highest regard of beauty. It was always counter to that. So, through my own healing and work on myself and working to build my own healthy habits. I now have a passion for getting other people to do so because I actually know it is truly transformative when you embrace what makes you unique and realize that the world is really inclusive. There is a space for everybody and every body type, every shape, every texture, every tone. Everybody has a space that they uniquely occupy and that is for a reason.”

For a daily technique, she adds:

“Lately, in my most recent practice, [I’m] just practicing gratitude in abundance. One thing that I know is that the world is infinitely large. So space and resources can’t be limited. I really don’t believe that [it’s limited]. Therefore, if it is large and it is full, there is enough for everyone, then I am enough and the world is enough. That allows me to feel full in myself and then I just let that energy flow into things that I do. I speak positively to any and everyone I meet, share something with them that communicates abundance or gratitude. Whether it is compliments or giving them an encouraging word. It doesn’t really cost me anything. It doesn’t tax my body or my mind or slow me down. I have been told what you put out is what you get back. And, I think that using that as a currency in my day to day, help me stay in that place of abundance and gratitude.”

Empowerment is a journey. We have to practice daily techniques to feel good, each and every day. When we breathe positivity in other people’s lives, we definitely feel the effects in our own life. So it makes sense as we empower ourselves on a daily basis, that empowerment includes the sharing of power and abundance for those around us.

(Left to Right): Natasha Nurse (Owner & Co-founder of (Dressing Room 8) and Actress, Dancer, Singer, Model and Choreographer Amanda LaCount / Photo Credit: Kahlil Nurse

If you haven’t seen the incredible dance moves of Amanda LaCount, I don’t know where you have been at! In case you didn’t know her story, she explained to me how she fell in love with dance:

“I have a really big family. I have six siblings, four brothers and two sisters. Both of my sisters danced. So, at first, it was a natural thing for me to be pushed into. I hated it at first, because I started with ballet. Hated it! I hated having to wear a uniform, having to wear my hair up and all [of] it gelled back. I hated there was a yes and a no; a wrong way and a right way. That is why I fell in love with hip-hop. There is no right way to do it. It’s however you feel it. However you want to express yourself and that’s right way no matter what. That is why I am so pulled to hip-hop and not other styles of dance. Because I love all styles of dance. I just always have. Hip-hop is just so amazing and it’s different than any other style. After I started hip-hop, I kept doing it all day, every day.”

Amanda is young, talented and very wise for her age. When she said there is no right way to do hip-hop, inside I wanted to yell YAASSS!

Honestly, there is no right or wrong way to express yourself in dance or to speak your truth. This is what makes dance so powerful and empowering. Being able to take one of her classes was both an honor and a privilege to see her work up close in person. Plus, I learned some new dance moves 🙂

(Left to Right):Charity Holloway, Founder & Creative Director of 4THIRTY-TWO and Natasha Nurse (Owner & Co-founder of (Dressing Room 8) / Photo Credit: Kahlil Nurse

Charity Holloway, Founder & Creative Director of 4THIRTY-TWO was an absolute pleasure to watch in her dynamic class and sit down with for a short interview. During our conversation, I wanted to know her tips for women who don’t feel empowered in their bodies. What can they do?

She says:

“Honestly, it takes a lot of soul searching and recognizing what makes you beautiful. It took me some time just growing up…For me it took soul searching, it took prayer, and took me going after the things that I want. Let me just go for it. Starting this group and the movement and seeing the love has helped me with my confidence so much more. Start from within. Beauty starts from within. Do some soul searching. Pray. Go after the things that you really love. It will all come together. Every heart ache, every pain it just prepares you for the next step. I have learned that throughout my life. Every time I have a problem, I know I have been here before. I know I will get through it. Your out of depression. You’ve been here before.”

Charity is absolutely right. To make a change in our lives, it starts with getting really honest with ourselves. Figuring out what we want and going after what want in our lives.

Whether it is dance, starting a new job, making new friends, or moving somewhere new… we are in control of our lives and we determine what we do in our lives.

(Left to Right): Christina Johnson, Operations and Marketing Manager at PLVSH, Natasha Nurse (Owner & Co-founder of (Dressing Room 8), and Allie LaBarbera, Personal Stylist at PLVSH Photo Credit: Kahlil Nurse

I have been a longtime fan of PLVSH. Who doesn’t want to work with a stylist to have a curated box of clothes sent directly to their home?

When I got a chance to sit down with Christina Johnson, Operations and Marketing Manager at PLVSH, and Allie LaBarbera, Personal Stylist at PLVSH, I wanted to know how body positivity intertwined with what they are doing for the plus size woman.

Christina says:

“In order to look your best you have to feel your best self inside out. You have to think positively about the way you look. That’s where body positivity comes in by looking at yourself and loving what you are seeing.”

Fashion is definitely more than the clothes we wear. When we are able to feel good about who we are and the bodies we have, then reflecting that body positivity with what we wear, is amazing. Glad to hear that businesses like PLVSH actually get just how important this message is.

On the second day of the Finale Dance Event, I was able to see Pretty Big Movement, Amanda LaCount, 4THIRTY-TWO, Miss Eaves, and FATGIRLSDANCE™ perform in person and I was totally blown away.

Miss Eaves performing Thunder Thighs Song at Finale Event / Photo Credit: Kahlil Nurse

FATGIRLSDANCE™ Finale Event Performance with audience members / Photo Credit: Kahlil Nurse

Founder Akira Armstrong and Pretty Big Movement performing at Finale Event / Photo Credit: Kahlil Nurs

4THIRTY-TWO performing at Finale Event / Photo Credit: Kahlil Nurse

Actress, Dancer, Singer, Model and Choreographer Amanda LaCount performing at Finale Event / Photo Credit: Kahlil Nurse

The 2-Day FATGIRLSDANCE™ Final Event was beyond amazing.

The panel session, dance lessons, strong performances, behind-the-scenes snippets, food and dance party led to a very exciting weekend with not much rest in-between.

I learned more about myself through the stories and knowledge shared by very powerful and insightful women. All I can say is THANK YOU to Cathleen Meredith and FATGIRLSDANCE™ Squads around the globe who are forcing us all to take action and love ourselves, our bodies and the lives we have. I can’t wait for what’s next from FATGIRLSDANCE™.

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