One influencer takes the co-host of "The Real" to task for not doing her research.
Loni Love, comedian and "The Real" co-host, recently announced her holiday collection in collaboration with plus-size brand Ashley Stewart. But while promoting the line, Love made a statement that has led to many sidebar conversations and eye rolls in the plus-size community: "There are no real plus-size icons for me," she said during an exclusive interview with Hello Beautiful. It made me angry. How dare she shortchange me and my curvy girls? We've fought too hard to be seen, heard and respected for one of our own to make a statement like that.
But I checked myself and thought about my upbringing; though I've been plus-size most of my life, and I haven't gone without incidents of shaming, I wasn't as affected because I saw my beauty, potential and strength in the women I loved and respected most. My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother and many of my aunts were full-figured women who taught me to be like them in my own way. I was born with my own personal plus-size icons and that made all the difference in my life. Perhaps Love isn't as connected to the plus community as I am; yes, she has familiarity with plus-size brands because she must wear clothing (duh), but her fingers are not on the pulse of the community.
Love was correct in stating that evolution has occurred within the plus-size community, but many individuals — including myself — disagree with her statement about the lack of icons, because we know that our community and industry is full of iconic fashion moments. Many times, that brilliant truth is dimmed by the fact that there is still work to be done. There is still a lack of inclusion, society is still policing plus-size bodies and there are still brands who either ignore us or throw us a bone just to say they are serving our community. But why can't we celebrate the amazing things that have happened in the plus-size community, the many leaders that have emerged and provided great influence while working towards greater things?
As an influencer who takes pride in my communities, I could teach a semester-long course on the plus-size community and industry; that history lesson would include prominent moments in plus-size fashion, like the opening of the first Lane Bryant store in 1904 and the many times the icon Aretha Franklin wowed the world with her voice while flaunting her curves in beautiful gowns and furs. I won't even obsess over the fact that Love failed to mention the media mogul who paved the way for plus-size women like herself to be on television — my idol and auntie in my head and heart — Oprah Winfrey.
However, I want Love to know that there are women like Gabi Gregg, Marie Leggette, Nicolette Mason and Chastity Valentine who have carried this community on their backs. These ladies paved a lane for other influencers like myself to have a smoother ride while being bold and unapologetic in our plus-size bodies. Without question, these women deserve a huge portion of the credit for the curvy revolution we are currently experiencing. We needed a voice, we needed doors opened, and thanks to them, we have those things and more. They garnered the support of millions, they negotiated and formed partnerships with top brands, they gained the attention of mainstream media and earned seats at tables that plus-size people were never invited to sit at — what could possibly be more iconic?
There have always been girls with curves who dared to step out of the box and leave their footprints in the sand of every industry. Maybe Love doesn't know that when we couldn't step foot on the runways of New York Fashion Week, Gwen Devoe created FFFWeek, a space where indie designers like Jasmine Elder of Jibri and models like Liris Crosse could share their gifts with the world. Perhaps she has never checked out Plus Model Magazine, an online publication created by a plus-size woman for plus-size people.
It seems impossible, but perhaps Love has not noticed that since she first signed to Wilhelmina, Ashley Graham has popped up and out everywhere, including this year's Met Gala rocking Gucci's collaboration with Dapper Dan. Did Love not hear us cheering when Tess Holliday became the first signed plus-size model of her size? Even if Love didn't think dancer Akira Armstrong of Pretty Big Movement was newsworthy, she has danced her way into icon status, too.
And since it seems Love isn't one for doing research, I will name a few celebrity icons who are plus-size, proud and slaying life daily: Jill Scott, Queen Latifah, Danielle Brooks, Dascha Polanco, Melissa McCarthy, Rebel Wilson, Gabby Sidibe, Adele and Mindy Kaling are just a few. I could do the #DMXChallenge ten times and never repeat the name of one plus-size icon because there is such a multitude.
Nearly seven years ago, I created an event called Life Styled Honors, which celebrates the beauty and brilliance of the women in the plus-size community. Annually, myself and my team welcome hundreds of plus-size men and women into a safe space that allows these icons to mix it up with supporters while being empowered through fashion, beauty and entertainment. I would love to invite Love to come out and soak up the energy and culture of the plus-size community, or to other plus-size spaces like The Curvy Con and CurvyNoire that are just as dope and fat girl friendly. Just remember, positive vibes only.
So Love should know that there have been big things (pun intended) popping in the plus community that are, without question, iconic. With these facts in place, how is it conceivable that Love couldn't find one plus-size icon to mention? If nothing else, she could have given herself a nod.
Sis, you are a plus-size black woman who has gained celebrity status as a comedian and a co-host of a nationally syndicated talk show. There are women and girls who aspire to one day be where you are; that makes you someone's plus-size icon too. Congratulations on the collection. I just hope that you will find the time to educate yourself and be more of a positive voice for the community of women who are your target consumers.