Our January 2021 cover star is plus industry trailblazer Chenese Lewis. During this lengthy interview, Ms. Lewis dropped so many gems that I decided to break it up into 3-parts.
Make sure you read part 1 of this 3-part interview with Chenese.
Stephanie: What made you launch your podcast, The Chenese Lewis Show? When did you launch it?
Chenese: I launched my podcast in 2008. Again, I was networking and trying to meet people and one of the people I was introduced to was a woman named Tomiko Fraser Hines. She’s a black supermodel and she was the first black face of Maybelline cosmetics.
She had a group called the Goddess Gathering and one of my actress friends introduced me to the group. Initially, I was just going to the group to make friends. It was positive black women supporting each other and meeting to give positive affirmations to each other and I met a lot of cool people. So Tomiko was taking Hosting classes. I did not know Hosting classes existed. I didn’t even know that was a thing. She offered the classes to everyone in the group and we were able to go to the Hosting school and get a discount. I was one of the people that acted on it.
I went to Hosting school and I was learning how to be a television host (like Oprah) and they were teaching me how to read the teleprompter, giving me skills to host on a red carpet like the Oscars or the Grammy’s. I was in training to do big-time hosting and going on auditions in Los Angeles for hosting gigs. One of my teachers told me about podcasts. Podcasts were fairly new in 2008. I wasn’t listening to podcasts, I didn’t even know what a podcast was. One of her other students had one and she told me I should start a podcast to practice my hosting and interviewing skills. The platform I started with (and currently use) is a Live Podcast platform so it’s not edited and I can’t go back and take stuff out. Really, my podcast was created so I could practice my interview skills so I could be on TV or the red carpet.
Stephanie: What interviews stand out the most to you?
Chenese: I see my podcast as an oral history of the plus-size community. I have interviewed some of our icons that have passed away, like Mia Amber and Joanne Borgella. I’ve interviewed all of the top people before they were famous like Ashley Graham and Tess Holliday. I’ve interviewed people with the top plus size fashion shows when they were promoting it for the first time. I was one of the interview stops for the premiere of Full Figured Fashion Week, Curvy Con, the TCF Style Expo, I feel like The Chenese Lewis Show is more than just interviews, it’s like history where I could probably go back and write a book.
Stephanie: Is there anyone that you would like as a guest on your podcast that you haven’t had just yet?
Chenese: Of course! The happening person of the moment is Lizzo. That’s who I would like to interview right now.
Stephanie: What’s important to you when you’re selecting your guests to feature on your podcast?
Chenese: I like to feature people who are established and that doesn’t necessarily mean a certain amount of social media followers because there are people with way more social media followers than me, but my bio is longer. I feature people that are established and doing major things in the industry. I try to book the most notable brands and influential people.
Stephanie: Wow! 13 years later, your podcast is still going strong. You’ve worn many hats from pageantry to event producer and being on television shows. Why is versatility so important to you?
Chenese: When I moved to Los Angeles my original goal was to be a plus-size model and an actress. But as you know to be an agency signed plus-size model you have to be a certain height and certain size and I was too short and I was on the larger size. Now today was social media there are bloggers and influencers of all sizes, building brands, and modeling but that wasn’t the case back then so modeling opportunities were very limited to me. I did model and I did some freelance for companies like Torrid and some other independent companies but I wasn’t able to make a career out of it. As far as acting, I was able to do some good stuff with acting but because of my size, some of the roles were stereotypical that I felt was a conflict with my brand and I didn’t want to do anything disrespectful to me or to plus size women in general.
Come back next Monday for Part 3 of the Chenese Lewis interview!