An exclusive interview with Cassandra Jones-McBryde, the Founder of the Int’l Fuller Woman Network and Executive Director of the Fuller Woman Festival.
Over the past eight years, thousands of fashion enthusiasts and body positive activists have converged in Detroit for events produced by the International Fuller Woman Network. Normally an Expo, this year’s festival is comprised of panel discussions, live entertainment and valuable opportunities to network with like-minded individuals. Whether the Network is producing events with a sensual theme, hosting model casting call series, Expos or Festivals, one face looms above them all: Executive director Cassandra Jones-McBryde, who is the founder of the network and has presided over all network events since 2009.
A philanthropist and journalist, Jones-McBryde is known for her passionate opinions and sound bites related to issues concerning plus size women. In a complex ecosystem sandwiched between activism and fashion, Jones-McBryde has managed to forge her path while honoring the influence that both interests have on plus size women. DailyVenusDiva sat down with Cassy (as she is affectionately known as) to discuss the upcoming Fuller Woman festival, her goals for the event and the future of the Fuller Woman Network.
How did you get your start producing events?
I modeled in my first show fashion show in 2006 for a traveling show based in the MD/DC area. No one remembered who I wore but talked about the feeling they had in seeing a reflection of who they were on the runway. I knew then I wanted to create events for my local area on a permanent basis.
There are several components to the festival. Is there a way to characterize the International Fuller Woman Festival? How do you manage to bring all of the components together?
The festival is an all-day celebration of who we are as vibrant, beautiful, undefinable, undeniable people. The festival is free and open to the public so that the entire community can celebrate with us. It is spread over a three day weekend, and it has elements of what our participants ask that we bring to them year after year. It is a difficult task to jam pack everything into three short days, but we manage to do it!
This a grassroots initiative that is made possible by the support of many community partners including Corporate Sponsors like Bandelettes, Eloquii, Lane Bryant, Motor City Woman Radio and of course DailyVenusDiva.com! Proceeds from this initiative will support Sisters Acquiring Financial Empowerment, a nonprofit that assists Domestic Violence Survivors.
In addition to attending the Curves In Motion Fashion Showcase, what are some of the other things that people can take part in?
Industry Forum and Plus Modeling 101 with Christina Mendez will be held on the opening night of the festival. The forum will feature Alexandra Boos of TRUE Model Management, Mickey Leon, producer of District of Curves and Plus Model Shelly King. Then we will open the floor to International plus model Christina Mendez who will give our eager attendees industry insights on the business of modeling.
Saturday, September 17th is our Free outdoor festival at the Charles H. Wright Museum. In the evening while we get ready for the fashion showcase our attendees will enjoy guided tours of the historical museum. When they return, they will enjoy some of the best in plus size fashion modeled by women from around the country.
Speaking of the Fashion Showcase, can you tell us about the designers featured this year and what makes them stand out?
Each year we are careful in selecting designers that are part of the fashion showcase. Along with our valued sponsor Lane Bryant, we are pleased to welcome International brands Gatsby Girl of London and Pheline Couture of Canada. Joining them are indie designers Who Diggs Me from Maryland, 2Bcontinued Jeans from Chicago, boutiques Curve Culture from Chicago and Curve Bella from Detroit. We are also excited to welcome Mr. U’s Closet who will be curating a fashion presentation for Plus size men.
The Festival is produced by the Fuller Woman Network. What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the Network’s events?
That it is merely fashion focused. We recognize that fashion is what drives people to the plus movement. We also want to give people who are in attendance information about the entire movement that fashion is a part of.
At each event, there’s a modeling 101 session featuring the current year’s campaign model. Why is that element so important?
This is our most requested event that we have. Many women want to be a plus model but are unsure of what the business of modeling is. It is way more than just shutting down the runway. Each year we have trusted working industry insiders who share valuable information.
Over the years, you’ve been asked to take the event on the road. How are you bringing those requests to life?
In April 2017 we are having the first ever International Fuller Woman Expo in Indonesia near the capital city of Jakarta. It will be a 2-day event with the second-day taking place in Bali. We still produce events in Africa. Our first foray into another event in the US was the Model Call series in Chicago. We had an amazing turnout! This validated that the need is there to create initiatives around the country.
First the Expo, now a Festival. What’s next?
We are tasked with creating new and informative ways of serving the plus community. We will always be committed to that goal.
To learn more about the International Fuller Woman Network and Festival visit www.fullerwoman.org. Tickets for the 3-day weekend are on sale now!