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Gwen DeVoe: Trailblazing The Plus Size Community

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Gwen DeVoe: Trailblazing The Plus Size Community

18459_279707143178_610008178_4460568_7581930_nThe term “plus size industry” and the name Gwen DeVoe goes hand in hand.  She’s accomplished in what she does as the  Founder and Producer of Full Figured Fashion Week™.

In September of 2009 I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. DeVoe and I immediately understood why my peers spoke so highly of her. While sitting next to her during the Fuller Woman Expo panel discussion I saw the poise, confidence and openness that are found in a true leader.

To honor the many strides that were made in 2009 by plus size women, we asked you to vote for what you considered the plus size event of the year. In record numbers you (the readers) voted for Full Figured Fashion Week™.  As the Founder of such an extraordinary event, it was only natural that Ms. DeVoe be the first Venus Diva Woman of the Year.

I recently had the chance to interview the woman responsible for bringing attention to the plus size fashion community.  She’s a visionary who inspires so many women while uplifting an entire community to be the best that we can be.

For those living under a rock and don’t know who Gwen Devoe is, please tell our readers about yourself?

{smiling at “for those living under a rock”} First, thanks so much for giving me yet another opportunity to talk about what it is that I do. It is through publications such as yours that I am able and will continue to help women who aspire to enter this maze we call the modeling industry.

I am a former athlete and party promoter (which is what we called ourselves back then) who later became a freelance plus model. My frustrations in trying to advance in the plus modeling industry led me to turn my passion for plus modeling into a business whose mission is to provide education, consultation and opportunities to women who are interested in the industry.

First you have DeVoe Signature Events™. Is everything you do under DeVoe Signature Event™ or do you keep things separate?

Ultimately, everything I produce involves a portion of DeVoe Signature Events™ because that is the parent company, e.g. the root from which everything else grows. However, under that root are several “signature” events and programs. They include: The Plus Academy™, Full Figured Fashion Week™, Dangerous Curves…the Tou™, Project Curves™, Full Figured and Fabulous™, and the Ready to Runway Bootcamp™.

Have you always wanted to go into event planning and why work with Plus Size Women?

As I mentioned, I’ve been an event planner for many, many years. The truth is that when I produced my first fashion event, it was because the entertainment that I hired did not show up. I promptly pulled some friends from the audience and did an impromptu fashion show. The rest is Her-Story! Additionally, when I began producing fashion events, I didn’t use plus models at all. It was easier to find clothing for straight size models and they were plentiful. I was the owner of Diva’s Encore Models, which was THE most popular modeling troop in the 90’s. We were so popular, we were booked to do several shows a week. When I added my first plus model to the event (Sharon Quinn), the crowd went wild and I knew I was onto something. But, that’s also when I recognized the need to not only provide a platform for plus models, but to provide training to them as well.

I know you own the The Plus Academy™. How long did you model before you realized the need for The Plus Academy™?

My opening The Plus Academy™ wasn’t really fueled by my stint as a plus model. When I started producing shows that included plus models, I realized that a lot of aspiring plus models were not trained in runway because there were no runway opportunities. So, I killed two birds with one stone…I provided the training AND I provided the runway opportunities.

Is The Plus Academy™ a modeling agency, a resource that aspiring plus models can use or a combination of both?

The Plus Academy™ is not an agency, it is a resource and a development program for aspiring plus models to learn about the industry and what it takes to be successful at their craft. We actually have quite a few working models who continue to inquire about our runway workshops so that they can stay on top of their walking skills.

What is the process for women who want to be apart of The Plus Academy™?

The Plus Academy™ is expanding to several cities in 2010. We will continue to offer our program in New York, but will also have programs in Virginia, D.C., Maryland, Georgia, Michigan, and Illinois. We also have plans to open a program in Canada.

We will begin announcing the launch dates of these programs in early 2010 via our website (www.dseventsinc.com) and, of course, on Facebook. Each location will have an Open House event. Details on how to participate will be included in the announcement.

Now let’s talk about Full Figured Fashion Week™!!! I can’t wait for the next one.   There will be one in 2010, right?

{smiling}. Yes, there will be one (or several, hint, hint).

Will Full Figured Fashion Week™ be held in New York this year?

Full Figured Fashion Week™  is definitely happening in NY this year, approximately the third week in June. We are still working on the venues and hope to be able to announce the dates by the end of January.

How did the first one come about? How long had it been in the works?

As you know, Full Figured Fashion Week™ 2009 in NYC was incredible! I am still reeling from it and hope that those who were involved got as much from it as we all put into it.

Full Figured Fashion Week™ was a dream of mine that I, along with a small army, made into reality. Although it was in my head for at least two years, the team came together about 5 months before the event.

Is there anything about the 1st Full Figured Fashion Week™ that you would change?

We definitely had some challenges. So many people wanted to be involved and we were unable to accommodate them. But, I believe I’ve overcome that challenge and am ready to move forward to make FFFWeek 2010 bigger and better!

If someone said, “I don’t know what Full Figured Fashion Week™ is”, what would you say to them?

Really? (laughing). Ok, Full Figured Fashion Week™ is a collaboration of designers, models, industry professional and business owners who come together to showcase our talents and services to the plus size community, using the fashion industry as our gateway.

I just want to say that I am so proud of you and so happy to have met you. I wish you nothing but success in 2010 and years to come. What can Gwen DeVoe supporters look forward to in the future from you?

Thank you so much, Stephanie! I appreciate the support everyone has given me throughout the years. I have a few things under wraps for 2010, one of those things includes working with plus size teens in the NYC school system. I’m not sure how much longer I will be able to continue to do what I do, but if I stop tomorrow I know in my heart that my work has inspired many women to live their lives purposefully by doing what it is that they really want to do. Living your life with a purpose, that’s what it’s all about! Happy New Year!!!!

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