For singer/songwriter Chel, there’s nothing more important than following your dreams and staying true to what you believe in.
It’s a principle Chel follows in her life and budding music career, where her talent and authenticity combine to create a pop force on the rise.
Born in Springfield, Illinois, Chel always knew she wanted to make her mark in the world. She has a passion for music and women’s empowerment, things that haven’t always served her well in the male-dominated and superficial industry.
She faced hurdles immediately, including people telling her she didn’t have the “look or body type” to succeed in music.
Thankfully, Chel didn’t like being told she couldn’t do something. She refocused her energy on herself and her gifts, finding her voice and confidence along the way, creating a lane for her that truly fits her goals and desires.
She’s an outspoken advocate for people of all backgrounds and body types, aiming to use her musical skills to her story: a tale of perseverance, hard work, and blossoming into the queen she always knew she was. It’s a story familiar to many and Chel’s determination along her journey has resonated with them.
She quickly became a prominent influencer with an audience that spans millions across her Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram pages. She uses her growing platform to spread a message of body positivity and power for major clothing brands and more. She’s also a host on DASH Radio, where she interviews the hottest new artists on a primetime weekend show that reaches millions of listeners. She has been featured by Billboard and New Music Friday.
Through her music and social media presence, a career in modeling emerged. This is something Chel never saw for herself but sees it as an opportunity to be the person she wished she had growing up. This has lead her to work with the likes of Good American, Anthropologie, Target, and Disney.
No matter what life has thrown her, Chel has persevered and kept going. With new music out and on the way and her accomplishments and influence only growing, Chel is a name you won’t soon forget.”
PMM: As a singer, model, and radio host you are in the spotlight often. Was this the life little Chel dreamed of?
Chel: Little Chel started putting on weight at 7 or 8 and was on weight watchers by 10. Little Chel went to school and was told she wasn’t worth anything. My parents loved me and wanted the best for me so they tried to help by encouraging weight loss but that deepened the already deep wounds and insecurities. Throughout all of this, little me held on to my dream of one day being a real pop singer. There is part of me that wants to say little me always knew I could do it because she never stopped holding on… but there’s also a part of me that wants to say she would be staring at me now with disbelief and tears of joy in her eyes.
For those that are not familiar with your music, can you tell us about your exciting career and how you balance it all?
I’ve been making music for about 10-11 years now. I find so much joy in the creation process and can definitely say that’s by far my favorite part. As much as I like making the music, opening up stadium shows for Jason Derulo and Nelly or headlining the pride festival a few years in a row doesn’t hurt either.
I have a bunch of new music that I will be releasing this year. I have an album ready to go and I just need to choose a date. It is so cool to get to reinforce the messages of all the things I care about in my music and I can’t wait to share that with everyone.
I’m not going to lie, it can be really challenging to balance everything. I do everything myself. I have three careers and making time to build/maintain a brand, create content, market yourself, manage yourself, find opportunities, network, and still make time for a social life can sometimes be overwhelming.
As I’ve continued this journey, I’ve found that it’s really important to
1. Make lists
2. Have a day planner (organizer)
3. Have a mom or a friend who reminds you to get your things done
4. Let yourself take breaks
It’s really easy to overdo it when you work for yourself because you’re technically never off the clock. Realizing that you need to step back sometimes is the key to making it all work.
Most people will be very shocked that you are considered a “plus-size” model in the fashion industry, but here we are… let’s chat about your modeling career and why you feel diversity and inclusion are so important.
It’s funny… I still feel imposter syndrome sometimes in regard to my modeling career. I still feel the need to tell people I’m a “plus-size” model when they ask what I do because I fear that if I say “model” they won’t believe me.
I have had people argue with me about if I’m “plus-size enough” and I’ll be honest, it’s frustrating. I don’t fit into straight sizes. I’ve been over 200 pounds since I was a teenager. I’ve been called a “whale” in a swimsuit and “miss piggy” in my regular clothes. To this day, there are still men who won’t date me publicly because they don’t want to be seen with a “fat” girl.
I say all of this to say that my experience in this world as a heavier-set woman, has not been easy. Even as the industry changes, and even as the weight and size I’m at have become more accepted there’s still so much pressure on how my body should look. To some people, I’m still “a big girl” and to others “I’m not big enough.” To that I say, no matter what your body looks like, someone will always have something to say so you might as well rock what you’ve got and do your best to make peace with the internal war on yourself.
The reason this is all so important to me is that I don’t want ANY other 13-year-old to sit in their room and wonder if their life is worth living based on their weight. I didn’t have any examples of gorgeous, confident, plus-size women in the media growing up. If I can make just one other person feel comfortable in their skin because of something I did, then it’s all worth it.
With so much happening in the world, often we turn to music to help during heartbreak or ease anxiety or just to start our day. What are your days like and how does music fill your soul?
I start the day by responding to emails and texts. I then move to writing down a list of all the things I need to get done that day. I proceed to go through that list. I’m constantly on the lookout for new opportunities whether it be music or modeling or influencing. Some days I’ll have a modeling gig, some days I’ll have a studio session, and some days will be filled with content creation.
It’s actually kind of interesting, lately, I haven’t been listening to a lot of music. I don’t really know why. I do sing in the shower every day, love to go to karaoke, and I love to see live music. When I do listen to music, I really take it in. I listen to the words that are being said and I really feel it. Music is definitely a form of therapy and writing music has gotten me through some of the hardest points of my life.
On the cover you are wearing a swimsuit that says CHANGE… what changes would you like to see in the entertainment and fashion industry and why?
So much. In the music industry, I’d love to see it become more equal. I think it’s a VERY male-dominated field and women in the industry get paid less, taken less seriously, and are taken advantage of. I’m currently working with TuneCore and Gritty In Pink to bring awareness to this. I’d also love to see the music industry become more size-inclusive. We are starting to see it but I want to see so much more representation.
In the modeling world, I would also like to see more representation. I want to see not only size inclusivity (plus, mid-size, thin) for both men and women, but I also want to see more inclusivity in race, religion, and age. We all want to feel beautiful and the more different kinds of beauty we represent, the less the industry can profit off of insecurities. I’d also love to see equal pay. I know sometimes in the industry women of color are paid less and that’s unacceptable. It’s cool to see pages like @shitmodelmgmt where models can finally have a voice and a platform to discuss what should and should not be happening in the industry.
Is there a mentor in your life or a favorite quote you can share with us and why it resonates with you?
I wouldn’t be here and could not do any of this without my parents. It took them a second to get on board because of their fear of this being a harder path. That being said, once they did, they have been my biggest fans and my biggest support system. They are my world and I am so lucky to have them and to be doing all of this with them right by my side.
I got my love of music from my Dad (he’s taken me to almost all the concerts I’ve been to in my life, which is a lot)… and my refusal to give up from my mom.
My favorite quote is; “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”
Thank you Chel… we are so incredibly honored to feature you this month.
Follow Chel: linktr.ee/musicbychel
Photographer: Kat Thompson
MUA: Chel Sgro