What had been there all along
Confidence and presence start as a state of mind. You start to carry yourself differently. Four years ago at the age of 32, I began a process of mental and physical transformation. Since then, I have gained self-worth through self-love and self-care. I became more aware of the positive power of my plus-sized beauty.
I have always loved fashion. I was inspired by the supermodels of the 90s. I loved models like Claudia Mason. Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, and Yasmeen Ghauri.
Although my passion was in fashion and art, I decided as a result of not having confidence and not seeing a variety of diverse-sized models that I should pursue a different path.
Growing up, I heard statements like, “You would be so pretty if you just lost weight.” This affected my outlook and confidence in multiple ways. Although I was beautiful and perfect as I was, I began to view myself and my worth differently. I began this process of evaluating my strengths and weaknesses and came to the conclusion that I should focus on my mind because my body was not perfect and not worthy of my attention or care.
After my dad passed away about four years ago, something inside me changed. Sometimes it takes trauma to shake you and I decided life was too short and too precious not to do something I have always wanted to do. I decided in my grief to start up a fashion business with the support of my family. Later that year, I showed my first collection in our city’s fashion week. I remember being terrified to step out on that runway after my collection. For about two years, the thing that would scare me the most was stepping out on the runway after my design collection. Being around models makes you acutely aware of your own flaws and I was just fine being a wallflower in the background of the scene.
I had an epiphany that I would not ever get anywhere if I did not wear my own designs and wear them with pride. For health reasons, I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer. For one year, I worked on my diet and health and I did things I never thought I could like burpees and drink shakes with kale. It wasn’t the weight I lost, which was not an astounding amount of weight, but I started to have confidence in my body. I was used to having confidence in my mind and abilities, but this was a new feeling.
Soon, my skin began to glow and I felt better. I could run! This was a huge milestone as I had started at a brisk walk. I still have a belly but I can feel my abs behind them. My legs are still big but they have smooth curves from thigh to knee. My arms still jiggle but they have strong shoulders. I walk with poise and pride strutting with one foot in front of another and I do not look down anymore. I look up to the world and those around me. I still have grey hairs but I got a new haircut and color to match my new attitude on life. In my mind, I don’t look a whole lot different physically but the small changes and boost in my self-esteem and confidence I have been told by others is astonishing.
My life has changed. Not only am I still a designer but I began to embrace my wonderful uniqueness in the world of modeling. This year I was told if I wanted plus-size models on the runway, I would have to design a separate collection to showcase during fashion week. Other shows I had used all sizes of models but for this show I had to make a choice. My choice was to accept the challenge. I decided to design two separate collections so that I could include every woman’s body in my clothing. At one of the casting calls, I met Autumn Renee and she offered to assist me in any way she could so that I could get my designs done in time.
My next hurdle was to find the plus-size models to walk the runway. I started a plus-size modeling group in my city and rigorously campaigned for models. I was able to find nine willing models whose experience ranged from local runway to NYFW runway. I was short one model so I ended up modeling for my own designs. One of our models, Terry Kahala, trained us and drilled our walk as she was the one with the NYFW experience. The show was a huge success and we raised money for a local homeless shelter for women and children, the Reynolds home. Starting the plus-size modeling group in my community and showing the first full plus-size clothing line here in El Paso Fashion Week was a huge milestone for plus-size fashion and body acceptance in my city. None of this would have been possible if I had not come to an understanding and appreciation of my body and the power of beauty all bodies have.