February is Black History Month, chocked full of 28 days of opportunity to recognize those in the African American Community who have helped advance our people. Along with the brilliant women of color whose contributions have advanced the plus agenda through fashion such as FFFWeek Creator Gwen DeVoe and the late great Plus Model Mia Amber Davis, I would like to acknowledge a few women of color that I feel have blazed a trail that has significantly furthered the movement.
Jackee started her career as a singer and actress on Broadway and was reluctant to give television a try. She auditioned for the role of Sandra in NBC sitcom “227” and it became the opportunity of her career. She is significant to the plus movement because hers was the first television portrayal of a strong, confident, sexy African American women who was vocal and unapologetic about her killer curves. Jackee’s performance on 227 earned her an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, the first African American to do so.
Dynamic motivational speaker DeLores Pressely is world renowned for her commanding presence and ability to inspire through her initiatives like The Born Succesful Institute and Up Woman Nation. We love her for creating the path that we all follow. She was President of Dimensions Plus Model Agency which represented over 100 models during a time when valid representation was scarce. She was able to place them with major retailers such as Nordstrom, Lane Bryant and Just My Size. She is also the Founder of the Plus USA Woman Beauty Pageant and Convention that began in 1985 and toured select cities during its incredible 16 year run.
Lisa Tealer has dedicated her life to diversity education and advocacy. In 1997, Lisa became the co-owner of “Woman of Substance Spa” in Redwood City, California. a nontraditional fitness facility for women of all sizes, body types and fitness levels. The facility was free of scales, diet programs and body fat measurements. She joined the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) in 2006 as a member of the Board of Directors. She is responsible for creating the Child Advocacy and Size Acceptance tool kits that are widely used as the blueprint for discussions in the plus movement. She is also responsible for restructuring the organizations core mission to support diversity and inclusion.
Originally from Detroit, plus fashion blogger known as Gabi Fresh burst onto the blogashpere in 2008 and quickly became known for her candor and personal style. In 2010, Gabi became the first ever MTV Twitter Jockey. What made her win so significant was that she boldly chose to incorporate size acceptance into her platform, challenging the viewers and the MTV Network to address the need for diverse representation on television.
Gigi is a entrepreneurial powerhouse! She is significant to the movement because each and every endeavor she creates has always been used benefit the community she serves. Gigi founded the Voluptuous Woman Company (VWC) in 1997 that produced numerous fashion shows and workshops for the plus size woman. October 2008, VWC launched the first auction site dedicated to the plus size industry, Plus Size Clothing Auction.com. She is the founder of the Plus Size Marketing Group created to provide companies with informed polling results that would help them to cater to the plus demographic. Gigi is also brilliant marketing strategist who has created products that have helped aline plus focused businesses with their straight size counterparts.
Of course this is just a small few of the amazing African American Women who have used their talents to further the plus agenda. I challenge you to take the rest of this month to identify some powerful women in your community doing great things!