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#MyPlusJourney

Ryan Sheldon #myplusjourney

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This month’s cover, Ryan Sheldon, is not just a model but is an eating disorder and body image activist as well.

It wasn’t until I spoke to Ryan Sheldon during our #myplusjourney that I realized how much I didn’t know about how MEN feel about their bodies and how eating disorders are affecting so many of us both young and older alike. 

Ryan Sheldon #myplusjourney - PLUS Model Magazine, November 2019

Maddy: We often don’t talk about topics such as body image, eating disorders (ED) and self-confidence among men. In speaking with you, I realized there is so much we should be doing to support and bring awareness. Can you share with us your journey through your particular eating disorder?

Ryan Sheldon: I can remember as a child, hating my body. At one point, everything about my body, I hated. I was on my first diet at the age of 12, Weight Watchers, my mom encouraged it.

“The National Eating Disorders Association reports that 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting and that 20-25% of those individuals develop eating disorders.”

The love/hate relationship I had with food and my negative body image felt normal to me. In fact, I thought most people felt the same way as I did about their bodies and about food.

When I turned 16, I decided to lose weight. I spent the next two years reducing my calorie and sugar intake and journaled everything I ate. My food habits with good intentions consumed me. The fixations on my weight, food intake and body image became my obsessions.

When I entered college and moved away from home, I was free from the scrutiny of my mother who watched and commented on every piece of food I put in my mouth.

I knew she loved me very much and just wanted what was best for me but over the years, I developed a shameful attitude towards eating. At college, I lost weight when everyone else gained the “Freshman 15” but after my weight went down, it went up, down, and then up again. I was caught in a vicious cycle of bingeing, then restricting, followed by overexercising.

Many of my eating rituals were done in secrecy.

For example, I would go to dinner at a friend’s house and after we ate, I would go to the bathroom to call in a food order that I’d pick up and eat on my way home. I hid my actions because I thought my friends would say, “How can you be hungry, we just ate dinner”. The reality is that ordering food was not related to my hunger but it had everything to do with a voice in my head, this overwhelming anxiety if I didn’t order that food. My inner voice was like a bully, it kept reminding me of how worthless I was and bingeing was a way to calm that voice.

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I got into a relationship with someone who had an eating disorder who also bullied me. I got tired of hearing, “Ryan, why don’t you have a 6 pack like my last boyfriend did”. At the time I thought this was acceptable, I thought I deserved to be body shamed, probably due to my low self-esteem.

During this time I went to my primary care doctor and she told me I had to lose weight, she prescribed diet pills but they didn’t work because my bingeing had nothing to do with my hunger. I continued to binge.

There’s a misconception that people who struggle with Binge Eating Disorder just eat a lot but that’s not totally true, I was consumed by the thought of food, I would actually wake up in the middle of the night and open the refrigerator just to look at the food and go back to bed.

Since the diet pills didn’t work and I was so desperate to stop my bingeing that I would take sleeping pills during the day so that I wouldn’t binge. I went to my doctor 30 days later and jumped on that dreaded scale and she congratulated me on my weight loss, take into mind the amount of weight I lost should’ve taken me 3-4 months to lose.

My eating disorder consumed me. I had to quit my job, I was going into debt, and I was isolating myself from my friends. No one knew what I was going through. I think people don’t fully grasp how eating disorders can take over your life. I was obsessed with the scale, I would weigh myself 18 times a day until I had to throw it out. At one point I covered all of my mirrors because I hated to look at myself in the mirror.

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I was diagnosed with my eating disorder in 2015 and I think it’s fair to say that I thought the diagnosis was the cure but that wasn’t the case.

I actually brought the words “Eating Disorder” to my therapist at the time because it was something that was never talked about. My therapist knew of the issues I had with my body, weight, and my dieting but having an eating disorder never became a topic of conversation until I brought it to his attention. Why is that? Is it because I’m a man? Is it because when you look at me, you can’t tell I have an eating disorder? Well, most people don’t wear their eating disorders.

After I received a diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder I got the opportunity to travel the country and share my story, however I felt like a fraud because I was going around preaching how “I’m better” but that wasn’t the case yet. In fact, I was in the thick of my eating disorder, probably the sickest I have ever been and no one knew it.

I reached a point where I couldn’t go on like this anymore. I went to my doctor and broke-down and pleaded that I needed help. So my therapist worked with me to find the best treatment options for me.

Getting help was the most life-changing thing I’ve ever done for myself. I’ve met some of my closest friends within the eating disorder community who not only accept me for me but also understand everything that I’ve been through and am going through. There is comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. Because of this community, I have finally been able to come to terms with who I am and own it. I never thought that coming to terms with my eating disorder and getting help would bring so much peace and acceptance into my life.

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We need more people from all communities to talk about their struggles with their bodies and disordered eating. In turn, we need doctors to be more aware and ask better questions to their patients. A lot of times my doctor would ask, “How’s your appetite” or “How are you eating habits”, to which I would always answer “Fine” because I didn’t know there was anything wrong with me. I never in a million years would’ve thought I was struggling with an eating disorder until a friend brought up their concerns for me.

Now I’m not perfect, I’ve been in recovery since 2016, I am a NEDA ambassador, I have a platform where I share my journey but I still have my moments where I revert back to old habits but the difference is, is now when I see it happening I know exactly what to do, and for me that is reaching out to my support group.

I reached a point where I accepted my body in every way and I wanted to celebrate it, that’s why I decided to pursue a career in modeling.I’m so proud of the work I put into myself, I finally started believing in me and started to love myself, that has been life-changing. This is possible for everyone, for me it started by changing the dialogue in my head. Finding a manager who truly understands my journey, my path, and my vision has been incredible.

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Maddy: According to a report on the NEDA website: Subclinical eating disordered behaviors (including binge eating, purging, laxative abuse, and fasting for weight loss) are nearly as common among males as they are among females. This surprised me since we mostly hear stories who speak to women. For parents or families with young children what are the warning signs? And are there websites that offer help and/or information?

Ryan Sheldon: 30 million Americans are currently struggling with an eating disorder or will struggle with one in their lifetime and 10 million of those are men, that’s 1/3. Now, I believe that number is severely underrepresented due to the stigmas that surround mental health, specifically men and mental health. After all, eating disorders are mental health issues.

Eating disorders do not discriminate, they don’t care about your sexual orientation, your gender, religion, race, socioeconomic standing, and the list goes on.

As far as warning signs and symptoms, the best place to check is the NEDA website – warning signs and symptoms and NEDA has a great Parent Toolkit.

The best piece of advice that I can give parents who think their child may be struggling with an eating disorder is to speak to them like they are humans, and ask the right questions. I wish my mom would’ve asked me, “How are you doing” when she noticed my eating habits changing instead of being accusatory.

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Maddy: Can we talk about body image and self-confidence? In speaking with many plus-size male influencers, bloggers and models I’ve realized we all go through the very same things in this industry. How can we encourage self-esteem inside of an industry where self-confidence, popularity, and algorithms are very much part of the fabric of the industry?

Ryan Sheldon: Seeing more models from marginalized communities represent brands is a huge start. 10 years ago you never would’ve seen people from marginalized communities on the cover of magazines.

A lot of us focus on the number of likes we get on Instagram as some sort of success meter, the more likes you get, the more successful, popular, attractive you are but I avoid those success meters and thoughts even though it’s hard. You can usually tell within 10 minutes of posting something on Instagram how it’s going to “perform”, and the more revealing you are with your body, the better it performs, at least in my experience.

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Lately, on Instagram, I have seen a ton of guys shirtless showing off their bodies, whether they have a six-pack or not and they all get a ton of likes. That’s got me thinking…

“If I show my stomach on Instagram, maybe I will get more likes”.

I will most likely never be the guy who goes shirtless on Instagram, not that there’s anything wrong with it but I don’t think that to get my message across I need to do that. I have a voice and a powerful message so just by being true to who I am, I am getting “likes”!

More importantly, in doing all that I do, my hope is to positively impact at least one person through my work, which includes modeling, advocacy, and so much more. I want people to know that it is possible to simultaneously follow your dreams, be authentic, and not let people’s opinions get in the way and help others.

The more people from marginalized communities who are out there talking about their bodies and their struggles are what needs to happen for this to become a topic of conversation which is slowly happening!

Maddy: Let’s talk about body image on a personal level… reports state that body image can begin developing as early as the early teens for some children. In your experience, how early in your life did self-esteem and body image affect you?

Ryan Sheldon: I remember having issues with my body image from a young age, it first started with my hair and my acne, and then developed to issues with my muscles on my chest and calves, and then just became an overall issue.

I remember going to the pool as a kid – probably 10 years old and I would wear a shirt to go swimming. People would ask why I was wearing a shirt and I would respond with “I get sunburned easily”. This was the real beginning for me. Why did I care at the age of 10 what my body looked like? How was it possible that at such a young age I already had body image/self-esteem issues? Maybe it was because I was bullied in school for being fat, which there is nothing wrong with but at that age I didn’t understand why my body was the reason I was miserable in my school life.

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Maddy: How does self-esteem/body image tie in with eating disorders?

Ryan Sheldon: While body image and eating disorders don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand they often do, and that was the case in my situation. The goal for me was to be skinny at all costs, to have that cultural ideal body image, you know the ones you see on the cover of magazines, the ones with the 6 packs. Which is ironic considering I’m now on the cover of a magazine (surreal).

The media plays such a huge part in body image and eating disorders. As a society we are taught that to be successful, powerful, wealthy, worthy, and lovable we have to look a certain way and this is WRONG. The media needs to start showcasing people of all sizes from marginalized communities.

It wasn’t until I became truly comfortable in my body that I was able to get my eating disorder under control. You often hear the term “Body Positive” but I struggle with that because I can’t tell you that I love all of my body every day but I can sit here and say that I accept and embrace my body just as it is. At times do I wish I had a different body, of course, but I have reached a place where I fully embrace my body and my curves.

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Maddy: How did you turn the corner to wellness?

Ryan Sheldon: I was so sick of being sick, I was so tired of hating myself, that I asked for help. The reason I started my Instagram account was that when I was first diagnosed I went to google and typed in “Men with eating disorders” and nothing popped up, so I figured if I’m struggling then so many other men must be suffering in silence as well.

I mentioned earlier that I’m not perfect and it’s true that recovery isn’t linear. People often ask me what my rock bottom moment was that made me take this turn to seek help, the truth is, is that I’ve had several. My latest one was about a year ago – take in mind at this time I have been in recovery for over two years. I was dating someone who for the first time in my life made me feel sexy, and then I got cheated on and left for the other guy, who in my mind had a better body than me, that cultural ideal body that I speak about.

It was at this time that my eating disorder took an ugly turn and I picked up behaviors that I had never acted upon before. As soon as this happened I reached out to my support group and nipped it in the bud.

The reason I bring this up is that it’s so important to address that for me my eating disorder may always be a part of my life but because I asked for help I am now able to take action in a positive way when things like this happen.

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Maddy: Can you talk to us about your work with NEDA and how you have turned your life experiences into bringing awareness to eating disorders?

Ryan Sheldon: My journey with NEDA started by me writing a blog post for them titled “Men Struggle, Too: My Journey with Binge Eating Disorder” . After I wrote this, things changed. I started doing more for NEDA, such as speaking at the NEDA/BEDA conference in 2017. One thing led to another and I was asked to become a NEDA Ambassador which in my mind is one of the highest honors. Not only do I have my own platform where I share some of the darkest moments of my life but I now am getting recognized for doing so by an organization that is near and dear to my heart.

I travel the country and share my story of struggling with an eating disorder and body dysmorphic disorder on behalf of NEDA. When I first started to do this I was (kind of) all over the place in terms of my journey and being vulnerable. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be received if I went out there and shared things like how my eating disorder was causing me to go into debt but, what happened was life-changing. When I started sharing my story that was most authentic to me I started to receive hundreds of messages from men and women thanking me for opening up about my struggles and then, in turn, sharing their struggles with their eating disorders.

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When you think of eating disorders, unfortunately, most people think of the stereotypical persona; white, thin, rich girl but this isn’t the case at all. 30 million Americans are currently struggling with an eating disorder or will struggle with one at some point in their life and 10 million of them are men, that’s 1/3! I believe this number is severely underrepresented due to all of the stigmas that are associated with men and eating disorders/mental illness.

Working with NEDA has not only been cathartic for me but it’s also educated me. Historically, you would not often see people from marginalized or underrepresented communities in the modeling industry and empowering this industry to start becoming truly inclusive is something I am very passionate about. While I can’t speak for communities that are more marginalized than me, I can speak from my own experience as I am an expert in my own experience.

There is an assumption that just because I have a platform and am a NEDA ambassador, I have it all figured out but that’s far from the truth, I’m not perfect. The one thing that I do have figured out though is that recovery is possible. Just because you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel right now doesn’t mean it’s not there, and just because you may take one step forward and two steps back don’t make you wrong, it makes you human.

We all have the ability to impact someone else’s life in a positive way just by sharing our story and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Vulnerability creates authenticity, and authenticity creates a connection.

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Maddy: How has modeling impacted your body image and self-esteem?

Ryan Sheldon: When I first got signed to TRUE Model Management I was floored with excitement, I couldn’t believe that someone who has struggled with his body for most of his life was now going to be represented for that same body. Right after the excitement came this thought “Am I worthy of this?” followed by “Am I too fat?”. A couple of days after signing, I booked my first job with UNTUCKit and my fears were weirdly amplified.

On-set, I thought, “No one here is my size, why’s that?”. The industry is now starting to become more size-inclusive and maybe I was the start for them. After that shoot, I started getting more comfortable with the idea of being the “Big & Tall” model, and I never looked back. As a result of being on so many sets, I got used to changing in front of people, dancing in front of the camera, and being totally comfortable in my own skin. Now when I’m on set, I hold my head high, like a man on a mission and nothing can stop me!

Maddy: What are you up to now?

Ryan Sheldon: I am continuing my advocacy work as a NEDA Ambassador and I started a Facebook support group for men struggling with Eating Disorders and/or Body Image issues, you can request to join here. I am currently the resident body image expert with a weekly recurring segment on Loveline with Dr. Chris Donaghue (national radio). I am also working on a digital series called “States Of Perception: Body Image” – A digital series filmed across the USA, exploring what body image means to people in all 50 states. I am a Big and Tall / Brawn model represented by TRUE Model Management.

Someone recently asked me, “Ryan, if you had the opportunity to speak with your younger self, what would you say?”.

It took me a minute to process this because never in a million years would I have ever thought that as a kid who was so badly bullied in school for his acne, being overweight, his feminine characteristics, his dyslexia, and his quirky personality would ever have the opportunities that I’ve gotten. I was bullied to the point that I had to be homeschooled and that’s not right. If I had the opportunity to speak with my younger self I would say “Even though it seems like your dreams aren’t possible, even if it feels like you’re not worthy, they are and YOU are. If you put in the effort, life gets better even when you think it can’t”.

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It’s crazy how my classmates from high school, the ones who used to bully me, now message me and say “We just saw you on a Target ad”. I simply respond with a “Thank you”. It’s wild how life works out. You have a dream (being on the cover of a magazine was one of mine) and you continue to pursue that dream and fight through the rejection and just keep going and that is where you find success.

I feel extremely fortunate to be modeling and have an impactful career. I am energized to continue pursuing my dreams and having you all come along for the journey!

Maddy: A big heartfelt thank you to Ryan Sheldon for sharing his #myplusjourney with PLUS Model Readers #grateful

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Madeline Jones is the Editor-in-Chief of PLUS Model Magazine. "PMM brings you the fashion you love and closer to the models and influencers you admire." She is a sought-after industry influencer called upon by the top plus brands to collaborate on marketing opportunities.

#MyPlusJourney

#MyPlusJourney: Chrissa J. Farrell, Health and Wellness at Any Size and Age

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MyPlusJourney - Chrissa J. Farrell

Chrissa J. Farrell, #MyPlusJourney

If you’ve been following PLUS Model Magazine on Instagram you may have noticed Chrissa J. Farrell featured on our IG Crushes of the week. Chrissa is a published plus model and plus-size personal trainer and Wellness/Lifestyle coach who believes in health and fitness at any size and age. On the heels of one of the most challenging years for most of us, I decided to virtually sit down with Chrissa about her Plus Journey and her thoughts about health and wellness at any size.

-MyPlusJourney -  Chrissa J. Farrell

January was a month we were bombarded with weight loss ads and promotions. As an advocate for Health & Wellness at any size can you tell us about your personal journey?

Sure! My journey has really been a lifelong journey. I was an average size child, a smidge chubby, but not overly so. I was also quite active riding bikes, playing softball, etc. Then when I was about 7 or 8, I was molested and turned to food. That’s when my weight issues started. I was teased by classmates, jokingly teased by my dad, who, bless his heart, thought he was being helpful. And my mom always had me on a diet of some sort. I remember my Pediatrician prescribing a diet while I was in elementary school, and then from then on, I was on and off diets.

Some were dangerous, too, like the Cambridge Diet I was put on in the 7th grade. Of course, these diets didn’t necessarily work because I was eating emotionally all those years to cope with my feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. This habit continued on through high school, college, and into adulthood. I even had a period of at least 10 years where I was stuck in a cycle of starving myself, binging and purging, and being depressed. I overcame the binging and purging, but the depression wasn’t addressed until much later.

Finally, when I was turning 40, a lightbulb went off, and I started to actually like myself, which was a totally new concept, given the extremely low self-esteem I had for so many years. Since then, I have to say, this has been an amazing journey of self-discovery, development of self-love, and learning to embrace myself fully, cellulite and all. I’m thankful for my “pre 40” experiences because I don’t know if I would have been able to handle the rollercoaster of the last 12 years, especially the changes in my weight, and other physical and emotional changes.

MyPlusJourney -  Chrissa J. Farrell

How do you define health and wellness?

When I was in grad school for Public Health, I learned the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. I agree with this definition, and as I’ve grown and had more life experiences, I can see more clearly just how important each of the aspects of health and wellness are, and how important it is to have a well-rounded approach to addressing each of these areas individually and collectively. So, in short, drawing from the WHO definition, my definition of health and wellness is being balanced in mental, physical, spiritual, and social health and health practices.

Many people, even doctors will argue that people who are “obese” in accordance with the BMI chart are certain to die young and suffer from various diseases. What are your thoughts?

First of all, in my opinion, the BMI is trash. Period. And was never intended for use on individuals. When Adolphe Quetelet, a Mathmetician and Statistician developed the Quetelet Index, it was to measure the trend of growth and weight gain across populations, at that time, a group of European men. It was renamed the Body Mass Index by Ancel Keys in 1972, who advised against using it on individuals as well. But, the simplicity of the BMI led medical professionals to adopt it as a means to determine obesity and health risks associated with obesity. The problem with this is, the BMI only takes into account height and weight. Not fat mass, lean mass, bone density, hydration, activity levels, or anything else that might play a factor in determining a relationship between body composition and health risk. If the BMI was truly reliable, why are bodybuilders, especially those short or average height, with high percentages of muscle and low body fat percentages falling into the obese category? There are better ways to determine health risks than the BMI, and I wish the medical community would get rid of it.

To me, health and wellness is a personal journey that many people have a hard time understanding because we have been told over and over that, in order to be healthy you have to be skinny. We hardly speak about actual nutrition and emotional wellbeing. How would someone even begin to learn about what the body needs to feel and be healthy?

So true! Health and wellness is a very personal journey that is made complicated and confusing by the constant bombardment of information. I use to subscribe to several women’s fitness magazines, and I can’t tell you how many times I came across several contradicting articles in single issues! If that inconsistency caused me to have questions, can you imagine what a person with no background in health or fitness would think? And no, being skinny does not indicate good health! Do I need to say that louder for the people in the back determined to believe and promote the skinny=healthy lie?

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Truth is, when exploring health and wellness, finding the right resources is key. Qualified professionals are great to start with. Personal trainers, Nutritionists, Certified Health Coaches can point you in the right direction. Yes, there is Google, but information overload and competing schools of thought can be very discouraging. That’s why I recommend having a conversation with a qualified professional in the area you want to learn more about. Most will offer a free consultation, so you at least have a place to start.

-MyPlusJourney -  Chrissa J. Farrell

Let’s talk about being a Wellness Lifestyle Coach. What exactly do you do… because I feel like we all need one right now after the type of year we just had.

I became a Wellness Lifestyle Coach because I wanted to offer more of a foundation for developing a wellness lifestyle to people, women in particular. Full disclosure, the timing of my certification and the increased need for me to travel back and forth to care for my parents collided, and I had to pause the development of my Wellness Lifestyle Coaching program. Thankfully I’m now able to go back and review materials, dust off concepts, and work on finally developing my program. To answer your question about what I do, I advise those who reach out to me on steps to take to begin living a wellness lifestyle by making simple changes in daily habits. From cutting back on soda and increasing water consumption to adding more veggies, incorporating more physical movement into their day, being more mindful about their thoughts, especially thoughts about themselves, and, of course, not focusing on the scale. Living a wellness lifestyle shouldn’t be a burden. It should be enjoyable and lead to growth in all areas of life.

How does aging affect health and wellness?

Aging can definitely have a profound effect on health and wellness. This is why it’s so important to develop healthier eating habits as well as exercise habits as soon as you can. Honestly, you’re never too old, but the sooner you start, the better. With my parents, who lived to be 100 and 95, I saw how devastating to health and wellness aging can be if nutrition is off. Understand that they were very healthy and active for many years, walking daily, dad being an avid golfer who preferred to carry his bag 18 holes over using a golf cart, eating healthy meals, and managing diabetes through diet and exercise(dad) until his 90’s. They did everything right, but when they became vegetarian, and I am in no way knocking vegetarianism, but when they embraced it, they didn’t know they needed to replace certain nutrients in their diet. I wasn’t aware of this at that time either. For example, when my folks stopped drinking milk, they replaced it with a soy alternative that had no calcium or protein. Daddy ended up with brittle bones and had to inject himself with a drug to rebuild his bone density.  My mom developed dementia, which I know can be genetic, but when they cut out fish, there was no replacement of the fatty acids that we need for brain health. So, you can see from my parent’s example, why it’s so important to be mindful of all the details when it comes to diet and nutrition, especially as we age. Missing just a few key things can have devastating effects.

What should we be doing to prepare ourselves for how the body changes as it grows into maturity?

The key things we should be doing are:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet that meets all our nutritional needs, including additional supplements as needed, as well as drinking enough water.
  • Exercising regularly and with intention, even if it’s just a 20-minute walk daily.
  • Spending quality time in prayer, meditation, or whatever your practice is, first thing every morning.
  • Learning how to manage stress. This is easier said than done, but if point 3 is a habit, you’re already on the right road.
  • Getting quality sleep and rest. The body heals and regenerates when we sleep, so whatever amount of sleep is adequate for you, get that as often as possible. And take naps, too!
  • Staying on top of your health by having regular check-ups and tests, and following any prescription regimen your doctor gives. I’m sure there are plenty of other things to consider, but these are the top ones that come to mind.
-MyPlusJourney -  Chrissa J. Farrell

Your confidence is so powerful and warm. Can you tell us about your self-confidence journey and what you do to stay confident in a society that promotes diet culture?

Thank you! Truth is, I finally quit caring about other people’s opinions of me, especially if they aren’t paying my bills. That’s the only way I could grow in my confidence. As I mentioned earlier, it took years, but I’m at a point in my life now where I can embrace the changes in my body and weight without devaluing myself. I am worthy no matter what size I wear! A few years ago, if I regained the weight I had lost, l would fall into a spiral of depression and embarrassment. And as far as my weight is concerned, I feel most comfortable when I’m a size 12/14 with a little more muscle mass, but I’m currently rocking the hell out of the 16/18 I’m currently at. Thanks, Covid! But I really didn’t have to start baking banana bread when we were on lockdown. Lol!

During these unprecedented times when so many of us are trying to stay afloat financially and emotionally. How could wellness help us from the inside out?

I believe wellness, total wellness that includes mind, body, spirit, and social health, can help us from the inside by giving us a foundation we can be sure of. When everything else is going haywire, the wellness lifestyle habits you develop will propel you forward, and help you cope in a more positive manner with this crazy life than if you choose to just move blindly through life without a plan or an awareness of the importance of being well.

Thank you for sharing your Plus Story with us Chrissa.

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Photography and Paint by Jose Pagan
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#MyPlusJourney: Plus Size Comedian Erica Watson On Building a Media Empire, Dating & More!

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Plus size comedian Erica Watson continues to be a major figure in the plus size industry, defying stereotypes in Hollywood and beyond.

Our #MyPlusJourney series will share the many stories of those within the plus size community who have persevered and thrived throughout their lives despite immense challenges. These individuals continue to inspire and empower others in the process.

Erica Watson

During Women’s History Month, we are honoring amazing women within our industry who are doing incredible things and Watson is definitely one of them.

The comedian, actress, writer and director is an incredible powerhouse, having been a leader in the plus size industry for several years, inspiring others along the way to know that anything is possible, no matter what your size or age.

From her critically acclaimed Fat Bitch comedy show and supporting role on Showtime’s The Chi to guest host duties on Windy City Live Chicago and being the face of Avenue’s Show Your Confidence campaign, as well as having her own beauty line with NENA Cosmetics, Watson has an impressive resume that shows her versatility and talent.

She’s now ushering into the new decade with new projects that continue to expand that resume, laying the foundation for an epic media empire. We chatted with Watson about the next chapter in her career and more.

PMM: New decade, new projects! Please tell us all about your new dating podcast called “Get in The Game”.

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EW: “Get In The Game” is my love letter to every single woman who keeps losing in the game of love. I’ve struggled with dating over the years as many women have. But I think many times it’s because we really don’t know the proper way to date. So I decided that from now on, I will date multiple men at once. At least 5… with the goal of building a “Dream Team” of players to be on my roster. I’m looking for my point guard, my center and my power forward. I will put them in rotation and hopefully win a Championship Ring! <laughs> It’s all in fun and if you tune in, you can hear my journey as a Coach and build your own team too.

PMM: You’re also planning to direct a short film called “The Waiting Room”, which you also wrote. What is the film about and what inspired you to take on a director role?

EW: “The Waiting Room” is a dark comedy about a woman who meets an interesting stranger in the waiting room of a medical clinic. It’s hilarious but also super smart, analyzing how a chance encounter with a random stranger can make you think differently about your life.

I received my Bachelor’s degree in Film Directing years ago from Columbia College Chicago and it’s about time I put it to use. Before I did stand-up comedy, I was writing and directing, but took a break to make folks laugh. Now I’m back on track to pursue my first love and true passion… writing and directing. I plan to start a GOFUNDME campaign in May to help fund the movie and am aiming to start shooting this summer.

PMM: As a fat Black woman in the entertainment industry, what advice would you offer other plus size women of color about pursuing a career in Hollywood?

EW: Go for it! Do it NOW!!! What are you waiting for? You are talented and brilliant. You deserve to shine and the world needs to see your light. Study your craft, take it seriously and don’t stop until you reach the top. The time is NOW!!!

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PMM: You’re launching a new media relations company called “The Brainstorm” this Spring. What will your company offer and what’s your goal with The Brainstorm?

EW: The Brainstorm will allow me to help entrepreneurs, small businesses and brands get the exposure they need to be successful. I’ve always loved to AMPLIFY amazing people and help them reach their customers and fans in a major way. Think of me as your brand’s best friend and biggest cheerleader! Stay tuned for The Brainstorm!

Special thanks to Erica Watson for talking to us and for her passion in celebrating and supporting others. We are in awe of how she turned her comedy career into a major empire that empowers others to be their best selves.

You can follow Erica Watson on Instagram here and visit her official website here.

You can learn more about the GET IN THE GAME podcast and listen to episodes via Spreaker, iHeartRADIO and iTunes.

You can get updates on GET IN THE GAME via Instagram here.

Do you have an inspiring story to share? Use the hashtag #MyPlusJourney on social media and make sure to follow us too! @plusmodelmag:  Facebook  |  Instagram  |  Twitter

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(Images courtesy of Erica Watson)

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#MyPlusJourney: How Chenese Lewis Has Spent the Last 20 Years Helping Push Body Diversity to the Forefront

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With it being Black History Month, what a perfect time to celebrate the career of Chenese Lewis, one of the plus size industry’s pioneers.

Our #MyPlusJourney series will share the many stories of those within the plus size community who have persevered and thrived throughout their lives despite immense challenges. These individuals continue to inspire and empower others in the process.

The definition of being a visionary is a person who is ahead of his/her time and has a powerful plan for change in the future. Lewis embodies that and more.

Before Instagram and other social media outlets as well as before the term “body positivity” became a trendy catchphrase, she was making major moves within the plus size industry by creating/producing events for the community and using the media and marketing campaigns as a way to amplify her voice, pushing for more body acceptance and diversity.

To say that Chenese Lewis is one of the top plus size trailblazers of the 21st Century is an understatement.

Lewis is celebrating her 20th anniversary within the plus size industry this year, where she continues to remain front and center, as a relevant voice for our community and for marginalized people everywhere.

Her vast career over the last twenty years has included a successful podcast, prominent hosting gigs and nationwide modeling campaigns. With all of her achievements and accomplishments, some are surprised to learn that her career began in pageantry and not in media.

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She was the first woman to be crowned Miss Plus America in 2003 and little did she know, this would catapult her career into something greater and life-changing.

She shared with us:

“Initially, I competed in the pageant because I was trying to break into the industry and was looking for ways to gain exposure. Being from a small town, there were little to no opportunities where I lived. Upon entering, I had to choose a pageant platform to promote during my reign and decided to choose ‘Positive Body Image’. At the time, body positivity wasn’t as popular as it is now, so I had to constantly explain to people what my platform meant.”

It was that platform choice that led her to begin her journey of empowering women to love and accept themselves as they are, at all sizes, shapes and colors. It helped her hone her passion to push for change within the plus size industry:

“The biggest way pageantry helped me was by defining my passion early on, so my vision was always clear about what I wanted to accomplish. A monthly pageant obligation served as the catalyst for my brand. Years later, my devotion to ‘Positive Body Image’ has remained strong.”

One of the ways Lewis brought plus size women together was by focusing on community via events and marketing campaigns that celebrated body positivity.

She served as President of the Hollywood chapter of National Organization of Women (NOW) from 2006-2011, where she created and produced an event to celebrate Love Your Body Day, a day declared by NOW as a way to fight against the negative body images and stereotypes in Hollywood and instead promote a healthy body image for women and young girls.

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That event included an inclusive fashion show that showcased plus size designers and brands.

Lewis saw the importance of showing every day women of all sizes on the runway while supporting the plus size fashion industry.

The fashion show segment of Love Your Body Day also showed Lewis that a lot of work needed to be done when it came to body acceptance. She admits that it was a lesson that taught her to never make concessions when it came to her vision:

“When I produced Love Your Body Day, I received complaints from someone in the organization that the models I used were too fat and unhealthy. I found it ironic since the title of the event was ‘Love Your Body’! Since I produced the event under the organization, I compromised my vision. I still used all plus size models but changed the line up the following year to all size-14 models, which at the time was the average size woman in America.

I still got a complaint, saying that all the models were 100 pounds overweight. I learned the hard way that everyone’s version of ‘loving your body’ is not the same and I should have continued with my original vision. When you do things with people that are not a part of the plus community, you will get negative feedback for using plus size models, because unfortunately everyone does not believe in celebrating women of all shapes and sizes.”

With the recent inclusion of plus size models on mainstream runways, Lewis feels it’s more about profit than it is about truly celebrating larger bodies:

“If it’s profitable for brands to include plus size models then it will continue. If it isn’t, they won’t. I think it’s a misconception that brands are focused on being body positive and wanting to build women’s self-esteem, when in reality they are just trying to keep their business lucrative and not go bankrupt.

If something positive is a byproduct, it’s a bonus, but it’s not the top objective for most. Just as I received negative feedback for using plus size models, I’m sure mainstream shows do as well and ten times worse. That’s why it’s so important for us as a community to publicly celebrate and support brands and individuals that do groundbreaking things so they can continue to thrive.”

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Love Your Body Day was a tremendous move in our industry as Lewis worked with celebrities such as actress Kim Coles and plus model Mia Tyler as event hosts, partnered with Skorch Magazine to have a “real women” model search and launched the Flawless Calendar, featuring women sizes 8 to 22 in high fashion imagery.

NOW Chapter President Lindsey Horvath said in 2007 about Lewis:

“Hollywood NOW works to identify and address the concerns relevant to women today. Chenese’s leadership for Love Your Body Day is just one way we show how feminist activism brings women together to create the world we all envision for ourselves, the world we know is possible for women.”

Lewis also booked a modeling gig with Torrid in 2004, at a size 22. This was during a time where most brands were using sizes 8 to 14 models so this was considered a major deal for Torrid to use a size-22 model.

In 2010, she starred in the Love Your Body Campaign, alongside America’s Next Top Model cycle 10 winner Whitney Thompson, which went viral internationally, being seen on media outlets such as E! News, Extra, and People.com.

Lewis also knew the importance of reaching the community via media. She launched her own podcast in 2008, well before the popularity of podcasts we see now.

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She credits the community and industry support she received to be the key to her success for staying relevant and successful with her podcast in the last 12 years.

It was also a way for her to gain experience in interviewing and ended up positioning her to become one of the leaders in our industry within the podcast space.

“When I launched my podcast, I lived in Los Angeles and was pursuing a career as an actress, plus size model and television host. I enrolled in classes to hone my skills on-camera, such as working with a teleprompter and conducting red-carpet interviews for award shows.

I created the podcast to sharpen my interviewing skills as suggested by my teacher, Idalis De Leon, who was an MTV VJ from the 90’s turned TV host coach and media strategist. My podcast was the first that catered to the plus size fashion and modeling industry. When choosing the direction of my podcast, I decided to focus on the plus size industry because I was already industry-recognized, and it wasn’t hard for me to get the show off the ground with partnerships such as PLUS Model Magazine, influential guests and listeners.

She also recognizes the importance of creating unmatched quality content that is comparable to a mainstream outlet:

“In 2019, my show was featured in the Podcast Business Journal as a successful podcast in a niche market and my interview with plus model Jessica Milagros of Big Brother Season 21 was quoted in the Chicago Tribune. I pride myself as being a reputable platform for the plus size industry.”

Her career has not gone without hardships. In 2014 and 2016, she suffered major life tragedies. In 2014, Lewis fell ill and was put on life support. In 2016, she was one of the many individuals affected by the Louisiana floods, where she lost everything.

Lewis remained resilient and pushed through, always maintaining a positive attitude and not letting those factors limit her career. She shares:

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“What kept me positive during my traumatic times in life was believing my situations were not permanent, the support of my family, and never losing hope. While I was on life support, the ventilator kept me breathing. My arms were tied to the bed; I had 3 IVs attached to me, a catheter in me, and compression stockings on my legs. I never thought I was going to die; I didn’t even have anxiety. I believed and prayed that I would walk out of the hospital fully recovered and I did.

Then only two years later, losing everything in a natural disaster was devastating. I spent two years displaced with a lack of material things, but all material things can be replaced. I believed that my home would be restored and better than it was before, and it was. I thrived amongst tragedy because I never lost hope that things would get better, so I never remained stagnant and kept moving forward. No matter what you are going through in life, keep faith in God and never give up! If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it!”

Lewis’ story is so incredible and one that many should draw inspiration from. She is a leader, she is a motivator, she is a visionary and most of all, she is our sister in the plus size industry.

Her belief that community should be the focus on bringing plus size men and women together to celebrate body diversity and positivity helps keep this industry flourishing and moving forward.

Lewis continues to host events, get booked for lectures and workshops nationwide, and serves as the Chief Creative Officer for Chenese Lewis Productions, LLC, a media company she established in 2007. Her podcast continues to feature in-depth interviews with those in the plus size industry making their own impact in their respective fields.

Special thanks to Chenese Lewis for talking to us and for her contributions to the plus size industry. Here’s to 20 more years of pushing change and continuing to empower women to have a positive body image!

You can stay updated with the latest news on Chenese Lewis and her appearances here.

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You can learn more about her podcast The Chenese Lewis Show and listen to weekly episodes here.

Do you have an inspiring story to share? Use the hashtag #MyPlusJourney on social media and make sure to follow us too! @plusmodelmag:  Facebook  |  Instagram  |  Twitter

(Images courtesy of Chenese Lewis)

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#MyPlusJourney: How Climbing Mountains Changed This Plus Size Hiker’s Life

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Megan Banker #MyPlusJourney - How Climbing Mountains Changed This Plus Size Hiker’s Life

Plus size hikers come in all shapes and sizes.

Our #MyPlusJourney series will share the many stories of those within the plus size community who have persevered and thrived throughout their lives despite immense challenges. These individuals continue to inspire and empower others in the process.

Opening Photo, Tommy Corey

Meet Dr. Megan Banker and you’ll witness that firsthand.

I first met Banker last fall while in Portland at the Curvy Chic Closet fashion show and her story had me in awe. The size-18 chiropractor, who owns the Verve Lifestyle Center, is no stranger to the societal judgments that plus size people encounter in doctor’s offices and life in general.

She considers herself a HAES practitioner and in a world where many plus size people are hesitant to go to the doctor because of fear of being body shamed, Banker is so needed in the health community as an advocate for all.

Megan Banker #MyPlusJourney - How Climbing Mountains Changed This Plus Size Hiker’s Life

Photo, Tommy Corey

But her story extends past her impressive professional background. She is also well known in the Pacific Northwest as a hiker and climber, organizing group hikes for ALL, in a safe body-positive environment. Becoming a hiker changed her life, helping her love herself more and in turn, inspiring others to climb and enjoy the outdoors. 

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I recently chatted with this incredible superwoman because her story is meant to be shared and is so needed to be heard as we still live in a very fat-phobic world. 

PMM: Tell us how you started hiking and your first experiences as a plus size hiker.

MB: I started really hiking for the first time when I moved to Portland, OR from Dallas. I grew up in California, so I always had access to beautiful places like Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but my family was more into weekend camping at big sites rather than backpacking or hiking. When I moved to Portland, I was 26 and didn’t know anyone so I started joining hiking Meetups and fell in love with the Pacific Northwest. 

I started hiking with some women through a women’s only hiking group that had a few other beginners and some older women. I was instantly comfortable with them because it was never about the end destination. We often stopped for snacks or to take pictures and it was enjoyable. Unfortunately, this is not everyone’s experience when hiking in a bigger body. I attribute a lot of my success as a climber to these women that I started with for being so welcoming.  

PMM: What has been your biggest lesson from learning how to climb?

MB: My body is awesome, and I need to climb my own climb. What I mean by that is to not compare myself to anyone else. My first year of learning to rock and mountain climb was filled with so much comparison and honestly, toxic self-deprecation. I would get upset when I couldn’t keep up with the group or finish a route that I thought I should be able to finish. 

Megan Banker #MyPlusJourney

Photo, Ralph Daub

When I first started, I was climbing with people who were much smaller and who had been doing it for longer than I was. Yet, when I couldn’t keep up, I would go into this mode of telling myself that if I just lost weight or made it to the gym a few more times that week that I would be better. I would tell myself I deserved to be at the back for eating bread that week. I wouldn’t let myself eat the celebratory post-climb pizza or burger because I didn’t perform like I wanted.  

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My biggest obstacle when I first started climbing wasn’t the attitude of the other people I was with; it was my own toxic relationship with my body. Of course, this was due to a lifetime of societal norms and pressures over what health looks like and what kind of body equates to “athlete”. 

PMM: When it comes to outdoor activities and culture, larger people are often not “thought” of, when it comes to equipment, gear and etc. What frustrates you the most about that and how do you think we can make change?

MB: This is one of the most frustrating things and probably the biggest barrier. There is a vicious circle that exists in the outdoor gear and clothing space, and the fashion world in general now that I think about it. 

The circle is this: people with bigger bodies don’t even think about doing certain activities because there are no indications that they can get appropriate clothing or gear. Companies in the outdoor space use this as a metric to say “well, we aren’t going to make plus size gear because there are no plus size rock/mountain climbers”.

Dr. Megan Banker, plus size hiker

Photo, Tommy Corey

Representation matters and when you don’t see a person who looks like you doing an activity, or even any indication that you can get the proper equipment to do it, you assume that the activity is not for you. It’s starting to change, much slower than any of us like. 

We can make a change by being louder about what we want. I would love for outdoor companies to be loud and proud about their plus size offerings. There are a few major outdoor brands like REI and Columbia, who make plus size outdoor gear (up to 3X, which is another annoying thing), but they are often not available in the store or they are hidden in the deepest, darkest corner and almost always in black. 

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If a company can figure out how to make plus size clothing that is true-to-size and up to at least size 5X, in colors other than black, with models who are larger than a size 14, and marketing that speaks directly to a plus size audience, they will dominate the market. 

PMM: What has been your biggest challenge in your hiking journey? Your best moment?

MB: I touched a little on this in the biggest lesson I learned. My biggest challenge has been my own self-doubt and self-confidence, which of course, is a byproduct of the way our culture treats people with bigger bodies. It is a constant choice to stop listening to the voices in the back of my head who say I’m too big, too slow, too something-other-than-capable. 

My best moment was the very first time I decided to change the voice in my head. I distinctly and clearly remember that day. We were climbing Mt. Elinor in Washington and I was in the back. It was about the time that I was going to start going into my usual self-doubt spiral when I started thinking about a conversation I had earlier with my partner, Andy. We met in a climbing class and became climb partners and now we are getting married this year! 

We talked about how this hobby we have is really hard, but it’s supposed to be fun. I decided in that moment to thank my body for getting to that spot and to stop caring about how far behind the group I was. I made it to the summit 5-10 minutes behind the group, so I wasn’t even that far behind. I just kept repeating “thank you, I love you” to myself during the hard parts instead of “you’re too fat for this, what were you thinking?”. When we finished the climb, I realized it was the FIRST time I completed a climb and didn’t cry. I had FUN. That was a huge turning point. 

PMM: What’s your advice to plus size people who want to climb? How should they start?

MB: Just start! Try to see if there are any Meetups or Facebook groups in your area. This is where I started. Don’t be afraid to start a group if there isn’t one (or ask me for help!). If you’ve never hiked before, familiarize yourself with some beginner hikes in your area. There are some great resources online about the 10 Essentials, which are the 10 things you should always have with you when you decide to start hiking. 

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plus size hiker - Dr. Megan Banker

Photo, Kaitlyn Rupert

If you want to get into rock and mountain climbing, I recommend looking into classes or groups in your city. In Portland, we have a mountaineering organization called the Mazamas. Seattle has the Mountaineers

My only caution here is that people may not be as welcoming or inclusive in these groups. Change is happening, but it is slow and there are going to be missteps along the way. If you are wanting to try rock climbing and are larger than a size 14-16, call the gym ahead of time to ask if they have harnesses that will accommodate your body. Don’t be afraid to ask them if you can come in and try one on privately or ask if they are willing to invest in more inclusive harness sizes. 

Another barrier to entry is clothing. I started shopping in the men’s section because their sizes were bigger and have more options. I also started exploring other brands or stores that weren’t “outdoor specific”. I also tried to start out buying second hand or clearance items because it can get expensive. 

PMM: Who inspires you in the plus size hiking community?

MB: Jenny Bruso is probably my biggest inspiration. She started an online community for the “others” of the outdoors called Unlikely Hikers. Following her on Instagram gave me comfort in my own skin but also permission to be vulnerable. Through her, I met some of my other outdoor lady loves: Sam Ortiz (@samortizphoto) who started doing plus-size rock climbing trips in Seattle and helped me start a group in Portland; Bennett Rahn (@bennettrahn) who is a plus-size rock climber that is working on becoming a rock climbing instructor; Amanda Soares (@withthesethighs) who is my Portland rock climbing partner in crime. She and I met and started asking the rock-climbing gyms here in Portland to carry harnesses for people up to 5X because traditional harnesses at rock climbing gyms barely fit a 1X person. We also run a plus size climbing Meetup for people in Portland to teach them how to rock climb in a safe, supportive environment. 

Others that inspire me include Mirna Valerio (@themirnavator) who is one of the OG’s in the outdoor adventure space and a plus-size ultra-marathon runner, which is just bananas, and Tasheon Chillious (@chilltash) who is a plus-size personal trainer.

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PMM: What’s next for you in 2020?

MB: More Meetups! More climbing! Sam, Bennett and I are working on some cool things for the climbing world. As I continue to work on creating space in the outdoors for bigger bodies, I am simultaneously trying to create and support bigger bodies through chiropractic care as well. I own my own practice and am a fierce advocate for Health at Every Size (HAES). My mission is for people to love and celebrate what their body can do for them, at every size. 

Special thanks to Megan Banker for talking to us and for her passion in pushing the message that anyone can climb and enjoy the outdoors regardless of size. 

You can follow Megan on Instagram here.

You can learn more about Verve Lifestyle Center here.

Do you have an inspiring story to share? Use the hashtag #MyPlusJourney on social media and make sure to follow us too! @plusmodelmagFacebook  |  Instagram  |  Twitter

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Saucye West #MyPlusJourney

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Saucye West #MyPlusJourney

Saucye West shares her #MyPlusJourney

Saucye West: How This Plus-Size Model is Honoring Her Mother’s Style Legacy

Our #MyPlusJourney series will share the many stories of those within the plus size community who have persevered and thrived throughout their lives despite immense challenges. These individuals continue to inspire and empower others in the process.

A person’s style can be part of their legacy.

This is what plus-size model Saucye West personally realized after losing her mother to thymic cancer in July 2019. 

Saucye West's Mom, Brenda

While West found solace in work, which included appearances to promote her essay in the new book The (Other) F Word: A Celebration of the Fat & Fierce, the grief was still overwhelming. 

It was that deep sorrow that kept her from donating her mom’s clothing. Her mother’s closet was like a style treasure chest, where every piece told a story of her history.

Saucye West and her mom Brenda

Saucye West grew up idolizing her mom’s style, which inspired her to use fashion herself as a way of expression: 

“My mother was a very stunning woman, who was soft-spoken but mighty. Her style was always chic and classy. She loved to dress. Her closet was a mix of things, old and new. She still had timeless pieces in her closet from when I was in high school and they were still in pristine condition. My mom was plus size almost her whole life and always made sure that I never ‘dressed for my body’; she encouraged me to wear what made me feel good, no matter what size I was.”

This is how the #BrendasCloset style series was born.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B41egQipLCE/

West wanted to honor her mother via her style legacy while also continuing to tell her story.

Prior to her death, West’s mom chronicled her treatment journey on Facebook, which included sharing her impeccable style: 

“I remember her wearing this flowy skirt and peasant top on the day she was admitted to the hospital prior to her passing away. She had lost a significant amount of weight because of the treatments and couldn’t fit into her clothes anymore. I could tell that it really affected her, especially her confidence. 

After she passed away, I would sit in her room and look at her clothes in the closet. I would go through each hanger, remembering where she wore each piece and for what occasion. I began taking things out and seeing if I could fit them and I could. So I decided to pay homage to her by showcasing her pieces on my Instagram page. It was my way of letting her know that I loved her and letting the world know how amazing she was and how she influenced me.”

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Saucye West

West’s earliest fashion-related memory of her mother speaks volumes as to the deep impact she had on West’s fashion style and confidence: 

“When I was a little girl, I loved singer Anita Baker! And my mom would wear those same flowy dresses and skirts. So when I used to watch Soul Train and Anita would perform, I would run into my mom’s room, grab her skirt (that would be entirely too big) and put it on. When Anita would sing ‘Caught up in the Rapture of Love’, I would just sway away in my mom’s skirt and sing. My mom would be so tickled. I still love a good a-line skirt ‘till this day because of that.”

#BrendasCloset has now become more than just a tribute. It has become a way to inspire other mothers and daughters to share fashion/style experiences and bond while helping each other to build their self-esteem. 

Saucye West feels happy knowing this may offer a bridge for generations to connect more via fashion:

“We often make fun of our parent’s style but don’t realize that fashion always rebirths itself.  When I was growing up, I would wear pieces of hers because fashion and trends for plus teens were non-existent. Having conversations with your parent(s) about feeling good and being confident is just so important! If I didn’t have a confident mom who was plus size, I don’t know where I would be today. I’m so grateful for what she taught me and she probably didn’t even know she was doing it. She was just being ‘jazzy’ as she would say.”

Saucye West and her mom Brenda

And it was those valuable lessons that also helped West continue to define her own style over time: 

“My mom taught me to always buy staple pieces. She believed that those pieces that mix and match well with anything are key, since they can create multiple new looks.

Mom also taught me the importance of having a conversation piece as part of my look, such as a purse, shoe or brooch. She never wore anything too ‘busy’, as she called it, and while she was more modest than I, I have learned from her how to choose thoughtfully when to show skin and when not to.”

We can’t wait to see what Saucye West will showcase from #BrendasCloset in 2020. 

She’s already sporting her favorite closet piece this winter, a fun length black IGIGI coat with animal print lining, to which West calls “badass” and “to die for!”.  

She tells us that in 2020, we will definitely be seeing some of her mom’s older pieces, including her “After 5” dresses and some 80s/90s throwback looks.

“She loved to get dressed up and be fancy! My mom loved red, so I will definitely be showcasing one of her red numbers.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4gfYNAp7O6/

Saucye West also hopes that #BrendasCloset will inspire others to appreciate their loved ones while they’re still alive and see the greatness in ourselves by being more present:

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“I never appreciated the things that I’ve done in my life until she was gone. I hate that we didn’t have more time. But through this, I hope to get through my sadness and my grief. My mom was my rock. She stepped in to help me after my daughter’s father passed away in 2013. She taught me so much and I’m just grateful that I had her as my mom. I feel like we were just becoming friends in my adult years so I hope that she sees me and is proud. I miss her and love her so much.”

You can check out #BrendasCloset on West’s Instagram page here.

We think Brenda is looking down now, tickled at the fact that her style is inspiring a new generation of fashionistas to express themselves and not be afraid to make a statement. 

And we’re sure she’s extremely proud of her daughter for honoring her in this unique way.

Visit Saucye West online at saucyewestplusmodel.com

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Do you have an inspiring story to share? Use the hashtag #MyPlusJourney on social media and make sure to follow us too! @plusmodelmagFacebook  |  Instagram  |  Twitter

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