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#IAmFearlesslyMe with Catherines: The Skinny Jean

"Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day." ~  Author Unknown

Fashion is personal. So personal.

This rings true especially for plus size women as it's harder for us to find clothing we love that fits well. Now if you're above a size 24, it's even more challenging to find cute stuff. 

I believe we are all worthy of having access to clothing that fits us in our size and style. This is why I believe it’s important for customers to see bodies like theirs reflected in the models shown online, in store ads and in campaigns. Showing a diverse set of bodies not only shows a more accurate fit of the garment on different shapes and sizes but also empowers women to try new styles and shop more. 

Times are changing and with that, more visibly plus models are being shown in major campaigns and some brands are extending their sizes. YAY!

But there is still more work to be done and I personally feel like instead of griping and complaining, I should use my pen and voice to do something positive. We, as customers, have the power to let brands know what we want. Believe me, they are listening.

So this is why I have decided to create a new size inclusive series aptly titled #IAmFearlessly Me. I want all of us, no matter what size you are, to be fearless in who you are because we are all beautiful and worthy of being seen.

It seems appropriate to kick off this series with Catherines, a retailer who offers up to a size 5X. They're a great brand to shop for extended sizes and petites, offering quality basics, stylish (and cute!) dresses and tops, as well as amazing denim.

I have made no secret of my love for their Right Fit jean, which is the only jean I can wear without a belt. I recently did a dressing room video that you can see on my IGTV channel on Instagram where I loved almost everything I tried on.

Some may view Catherines as a matronly brand but honestly, it's all in how you style your items. I saw some major gems in store and honestly, their fit is much better in my experience than most plus size brands. 

Catherines recently debuted a skinny jean, which piqued my curiosity so I thought that would be a great item to feature in this series. I mean, who doesn't love a skinny jean, especially if the fit is right?

I asked my fellow blogger sister ShaKera of The Real Sample Size to join me and show how the jean fits both of us.

Here's our sizes and body shapes for reference:

ShaKera is a size 20/22 and carries most of her weight on top. She has thinner legs and ankles. She's 5'6".

I'm a size 26/28 and depending on the brand, I wear either size in jeans. I have a cross between a pear and hourglass shape with a defined waist. I carry most of my weight in my hips and my calves are fuller, measuring 23" around. I'm 5'6".

We're both wearing Catherines' skinny leg jean, styled our way. ShaKera is wearing a size 22 in the jean and I'm wearing a size 26 petite, as I have short legs and a long torso. 

I like to mix prints so I paired my jeans with this cute Printed Timeless Tunic Tank with Cutout. It was lightweight and fit so well. I added the Printed Effortless Linen Buttonfront Top that has this pretty white pineapple print. I opted to wear it open but will wear this tied in a knot in the front or closed with a belt. The styling options are endless.

When mixing prints, you have to choose colors that coordinate well. For me, the base color is pink with these two tops.

The jeans fit nicely, like a second skin. And I was shocked that it fit well in the calves as they are a slim fit. The only con for me was that the rise was a bit low for my taste. Since I have a long torso, I like a higher rise in my bottoms. 

ShaKera was pleasantly surprised that the jeans fit her calves and ankles well. She usually has the opposite problem than I have, where the calves and ankle area are too big on her since she has thinner legs. This shows that Catherines paid attention to the cut of that area as they sized up in the pattern to allow more room as the jeans got larger but not too much so that the stretch can accommodate calves of different widths.

The true test was sitting down while wearing these jeans and seeing how comfy they were. And they passed! We were able to sit with no issue and be comfortable. Yes!

Now back to the main reason for this collab. I want to know... how do you feel seeing bodies like ours? 

Would you like to see bodies like ours on retailer websites as models. Would you like to see bodies like ours featured in campaigns? 

Please let me know below in a comment or on social media @fearlesslyjustme on Instagram and here on Facebook.

Who would you like to see me collab with next in this series? And what brand? Let me know!

You can shop our looks below:


Skinny Leg Jean (wearing size 22)

My Look

Printed Timeless Tunic Tank with Cutout (wearing size 3X)

Printed Effortless Linen Buttonfront Top (wearing size 3X)

Skinny Leg Jean (wearing size 26W in petite)

Good Soles Sparkling Sandal (wearing size 9W)

**This blog post was sponsored by Catherines but all opinions and statements are my own.

Realizing Your Greatness During Bad Times

"Grief is never something you get over. You don't wake up one morning and say, 'I've conquered that; now I'm moving on.' It's something that walks beside you every day. And if you can learn how to manage it and honor the person that you miss, you can take something that is incredibly sad and have some form of positivity." ~ Terri Irwin

Today marks 8 years since my dad died.

And it still feels like yesterday.

8 years may seem like a LONG time. But when you lose someone of this magnitude, time holds no meaning. I can still remember getting that call, finding out that he was gone. He was only 61.

But I also remember his laugh, his deep voice calling me "Marce" and the gap between his two front teeth. I remember his smile and how he always looked at me with such pride. I was his only daughter, his oldest child and I was a reflection of him through my personality and spirit. 

I have his eyes, nose and chin. I inherited his love for baseball and the gift of gab. When he walked into a room, he owned it in a way where people were drawn to him and his light. He had kind eyes but a strong presence. He was simply, a quiet storm and anyone who has ever met him, never forgot him.

He always left a lasting impression wherever he went.

I cherished those times we'd spend hours walking around Home Depot, him showing me various tools and giving me tips or how-to's on building things from shelves to even installing my own light fixtures.

I lived for our movie moments... he exposed my brother and I to the art of cinema and we watched everything from old spaghetti westerns to action movies. He'd take us to the triple feature in Times Square where my brother and I fell in love with old school kung fu flicks from the Shaw Brothers.

Every Easter, he would make my brother and I sit through King of Kings, which was one of his favorite Biblical films. At the time, we were so annoyed (that movie is LONG) but now every Easter, I watch it with a new appreciation. 

My dad loved music... some days he'd be rocking out to some Jimi Hendrix and some days, he'd be sitting in the dark, listening to Barbra Streisand. I still cry when I hear the Commodores' Easy because I can hear his deep voice singing along to it. 

I miss talking to him the most. He was my mentor and advisor. He always knew the right things to say or do. And he reminded me of my greatness. So when he died, I felt lost. How was I to move on if he wasn't here in the physical sense. Who would help guide me on my life's journey?

Through loss (my brother would die 3 years later and then my oldest niece, his daughter, would die 7 years later), I was forced to find my voice on my own and realize my greatness. And that is a gift my dad left behind for me that is more valuable than anything else.

I'm sure he knew I would be okay without him and I would not be shocked to find out that that was part of his final thoughts as he laid in pain on the side of the NJ Turnpike, 12 miles out of the Lincoln Tunnel.

But I had to learn that on my own. I learned that I'm stronger than I ever thought I was. And I learned that it is possible to realize your greatness during bad times.

I've been through A LOT in the last 8 years. But I have also accomplished a lot. I continue to hear his voice in my ear, edging me along on this path. Now I have my brother pushing me and my niece.

It's not easy but I commit to taking it one day at a time. I'm still mourning my niece who has only been gone 7 months and sometimes it is overwhelming to grieve for 3 people. But I push through.

So on this day, I cry, I feel so heartbroken and I'm so sad. But I also feel hopeful and proud of how far I have come. I know he is proud of me. Grief is something that holds no timetable and it's a different journey for everyone. I try to stay focused on channeling my grief into something positive. Some days I am a mess and some days, I am winning. 

But one thing I do know, I'm still standing. My heart hurts. But I am still here.

I love you, Daddy. And I miss you very much. You will never be forgotten.

Why You Should Never Base Your Life's Timeline on Your Age

"Art isn’t something you need an outside license or a paycheck to pursue. It’s a way of life. It’s a way of adding up what you feel and where you’ve been and what you fear and what you can imagine. It’s a way of seeing your life through a lens that makes everything — good and bad, confusing and clarifying, uplifting and depressing — valuable." - Heather Havrilesky, Ask Polly 11/28/18

I stumbled upon the Ask Polly column on The Cut.com a few months ago while sick with the flu and to say it blew my mind is an understatement.

The author Heather Havrilesky answers letters weekly under the name Polly and honestly, some of the topics she tackles are deep and thought-provoking.

In the column titled ‘I’m Broke and Mostly Friendless, and I’ve Wasted My Whole Life’, she advises 'Haunted', who has written in about how disappointed she is in her life, haunted by the things she had set out to accomplish in life but at the age of 35, feels she has accomplished nothing. 

Haunted has moved many times to different cities, traveled, had relationships and jobs. She is currently unhappy with her current job and is at a point where she is tired. She has tons of debt, no friends, single and no children. And the kicker? She's a writer.

I said out loud to myself, "Am I reading something from myself?"

I used to be Haunted, literally and figuratively. In the past, I have said many times how I felt like I have not accomplished what I set out to do in my life. I'm now in my late 40's and never married or had children. I've always felt like I should have done so much at this point of my life. I was haunted by what I didn't do because it made me feel inadequate and at times, worthless.

But this is something that many of us feel. We base our timeline on our age. 

We're told that by a certain age, we should have X amount of things done. We should be married. We should have children. We should go to college and/or be set in our careers by a certain age. I could go on. But guess what? Life almost never goes as planned.
"Shame is the opposite of art. When you live inside of your shame, everything you see is inadequate and embarrassing. A lifetime of traveling and having adventures and not being tethered to long-term commitments looks empty and pathetic and foolish, through the lens of shame. You haven’t found a partner. Your face is aging. Your body will only grow weaker. Your mind is less elastic. Your time is running out. Shame turns every emotion into the manifestation of some personality flaw, every casual choice into a giant mistake, every small blunder into a moral failure. Shame means that you’re damned and you’ve accomplished nothing and it’s all downhill from here."
When I read that, I was completely mind-blown. 

Shame. These feelings I have, they have a name. I never thought of how I was feeling as shame but it is. One of the mantras I live by is change your mindset, change your life. And the difference between living inside your shame versus looking at your shame with an open mind and heart is that you look at life through a different lens, which then determines how you live that life. 

Polly goes on to tell Haunted how she can create a new life for herself by simply looking at her shame differently. By not being afraid to accept that while life is not perfect, it can still be wonderful.

"You need to discard some of this shame you’re carrying around all the time. But even if you can’t cast off your shame that quickly, through the lens of art, shame becomes valuable. When you’re curious about your shame instead of afraid of it, you can see the true texture of the day and the richness of the moment, with all of its flaws. You can run your hands along your own self-defeating edges until you get a splinter, and you can pull the splinter out and stare at it and consider it. When you face your shame with an open heart, you’re on a path to art, on a path to finding joy and misery and fear and hope in the folds of your day. Even as your job is slow and dull and pointless, even as your afternoons alone feel treacherous and daunting, you can train your eyes on the low-hanging clouds until a tiny bit of sunlight filters through. You are alive and you will probably be alive for many decades to come. The numbers on your credit-card statements can feel harrowing, but you can take that feeling and keep it company instead of letting it eat you alive. You can walk to the corner store to buy a newspaper and pull out the weekend calendar section and circle something, and make a commitment to do that one thing. You can build a new kind of existence, one that feels small and flawed and honest, but each day you accumulate a kind of treasure that doesn’t disappear. Because instead of running away from the truth, you welcome it in. You don’t treat what you have as pointless. You work with what you have."
Havrilesky does an incredible job of issuing advice while being transparent on how she identifies with the person's feelings, including admitting her own flaws. This makes her a real person and not just someone writing a column for a major website who also has a book out. Everyone, even someone like Oprah, has their struggles. 

We always tend to look at the end result instead of the journey, when looking at people. So it's easy to compare our lives to theirs and feel some kind of way about their success in comparison to ours.

"When you carry around a suspicion that there’s something sort of embarrassing or pathetic about you, you find ways to project that shame onto completely innocuous things. You find ways to tell yourself that everyone is laughing at you behind your back somewhere, possibly at a party where they are serving beautiful tasty drinks but you weren’t invited. You’re too old now. You’re no longer exciting or important. You don’t matter. You never really did. Shame creates imaginary worlds inside your head. This haunted house you’re creating is forged from your shame. No one else can see it, so you keep trying to describe it to them. You find ways to say, “You don’t want any part of this mess. I’m mediocre, aging rapidly, and poor. Do yourself a favor and leave me behind.” You want to be left behind, though. That way, no one bears witness to what you’ve become. It’s time to come out of hiding. It’s time to step into the light and be seen, shame and wrinkles and failures and fears and all." 
That last line! I'm done! 

This year, my mission is to step into my power. I want to show up more for myself and others. I want to put myself out there more with positive intentions. I want to walk in a room with a positive attitude and be open to what awaits.

Does it scare the shit out of me? Hell yes. But if I am to live out this life of mine as fully as I can, I have to let go of my shame, my past (including past negative stories I told myself) and being afraid of the unknown.

This year has already kicked off amazingly and I keep thinking of my niece. She now watches over me, along with my dad and brother. And I can hear her voice in my ear, saying "Auntie, you got this!"

Typing that out makes the tears flow because she's only been gone 7 months. But as I learned when I lost my dad and then my brother, time does not stand still. Grief is painful but in order to live and keep moving, I have to learn how to carry that pain with me and channel it into something positive. 

Honoring their legacy and continuing her work is what drives me. I'm going to be 50 next year but you know what? It's never too late to do whatever is on my life's to-do list. Gray hairs, pre-menopause and all. No wrinkles yet but I am not complaining! LOL! 

Here's to living my best life and you living yours at any age. xoxo

#FearlessFashion: Where To Find Amazing (& Comfy) Bras

"Fashion is not about clothes. It is about a look." ~ Carine Roitfeld

And my look won't be on point if what's underneath is not right. So finding amazing (& comfy!) bras has become my mission.

Shirt: Walmart - Terra & Sky / Bra: Parfait via Livi Rae Lingerie

As I wrote about in my last blog post here, I had to get professionally fitted first so I knew what bra size I really was. It was a no-brainer that I was wearing the wrong bra size as 80% of women are in that same situation.

Once I was armed with information that was a combination of my true bra size (and knowing my bra size zone), my breast shape and what I should look for in a bra, I was all set. Now to find bras that can fit my lifestyle.

For me, I need a few bras for different things I have happening in my life so I was not looking for just 1 bra and I knew I would have to shop around and try different brands. 

I relied a lot on word of mouth also. I'm that girl who reads reviews and really looks at feedback and comments on social media. Hell, I've even easedropped on some conversations in-store and interjected my own self into them! LOL!

So here's my fave and go-to bras for every aspect of my life...

For Fit Modeling and Strapless dresses:

This bra is the truth! I'll be honest. I haven't had the best luck with Torrid bras. I need a supportive band and can't do the lacy band that many of their styles used to have. But Torrid has improved vastly with their bras and now they have supportive options that I love. This is the my go-to bra for when I go to fit modeling gigs as it is imperative you have a nude bra. Plus, the option to remove the straps or cross them in the back is so important.

Also, I have been wearing more strapless styles lately as my confidence grows and a great strapless bra that holds the girls up and keeps my back and side fat smoothed out is a necessity. This bra does ALL OF THAT. You can find it here.

For when I need a basic everyday black bra:

I discovered Trusst over a year ago and haven't looked back. Launched via Kickstarter in 2015, Trusst Brands has become a company that not only offers an innovative alternative to underwire but also caters to the D+ cup woman. They offer comfortable but supportive bras using 3D-printing for their bra design and obtaining a patent for their Breast Advanced Support Technology (BAST™), based on the engineering principles of a bridge truss. They now use that technology to create bras that use the core of your body to lift your breast weight from underneath the bust, reducing strain on the shoulders and back. Their bras also have a moisture-wicking, antimicrobial jersey lining and molded cups.

Let me tell you... if you ever hated your underwire stabbing you in the sides or poking through your bra, you MUST try a bra from Trusst. It has changed my life. I love how you can wear the bra as a racerback too! Plus, it's a company founded by a women for women. It can't any better than that. 

Supportive Sport Bras:

The Ultimate Sports Bra from SHEFIT had me so happy that I was dancing all over the place. I admit I was skeptical when I first heard about the bra. The sizing is different where they fit you by band versus cup and they state that their sizing fits up to 97% of bra sizes. 

That's a high percentage to boast so I was intrigued. After the SHEFIT representative showed me how to put on the bra (you slip it on like you would a jacket, then close the three clips in the front and zip up, then do the scoop and swoop technique), she helped me adjust the velcro straps and band. I was fitted into a size 6 Luxe and it fit SO WELL. The girls went up and didn't move. The support was so real, I didn't take it off and wore it home under my top.

So their patented Zip, Cinch, Lift is the truth. I can see how they secured an investor on Shark Tank last year. Read more about their story here - it's pretty incredible. I also love how they spotlight women of ALL sizes on their blog being active while wearing their bras.

With Alysse of Ready to Stare at the Curvy Couture LA Office

I had no idea sports bras with underwire existed so when I learned during a visit to Curvy Couture's offices in LA that they had one, I was elated and eager to try it on. Two years later, they have a newer version than the one I tried on and it is fabulous.

I actually fit into a 44 band at Curvy Couture when I am usually a 46 so knowing your bra size zone is key. Most women are wearing too large a band and too small a cup size so believe me, once you know your bra size zone, the fit becomes magical.

For those sexy but comfy moments:

Elomi has so many styles that fit this category that overall, they are one of my fave brands to buy bras from. So it's no surprise that my top fave sexy-comfy bra is from Elomi, courtesy of Livi Rae Lingerie while I was in Atlanta.

I have this bra in black (courtesy of my Elomi fitting above) and then in blue and pink (courtesy of Livi Rae Lingerie). I love that it's sexy but also comfy while lifting the girls to new heights.

When I saw the blue one at Livi Rae, I swooned! I was already on Cloud Nine from my experience there so this sealed the deal. If you're ever in the Atlanta area, you MUST check them out. They really are the bra experts and know what styles are perfect for you by just looking at you. The dressing rooms are so big and tricked out with a comfy chair, long-view mirror, pretty curtains and positive affirmations on the walls. And the owners and salespeople there are fabulous!

In Elomi, I wear a 46F. Again, bra zone, people! :-)

I like to have a sexy but comfy black bra to wear under shirts that will be seen through in a subtle way. I think it gives your look some sexiness. I also sometimes will wear a bra under a mesh top or blazer. This bra from Parfait is perfect for that. This is the bra I put on and left on as I walked out of Livi Rae Lingerie and headed to the airport. 

I am wearing a 44FF in the Marion.

Now that I have a nice bra collection to wear and wearing the right size, I feel like I can conquer the world because my back doesn't hurt anymore and no more straps digging into my shoulders. 

Next up, I want to try ThirdLove, more Trusst styles and more Curvy Couture styles. I especially can't wait to get my hands on the Morgan in Coral Haze, the Bijou Flirt in Raspberry and the Kim in Caramel from Elomi. I will definitely be sharing my thoughts on those styles on the blog so stay tuned.

What are your favorite bra styles? Have you tried ThirdLove? I'd love to know. Let's chat in the comments below.

**FYI, this post is not sponsored. All opinions and thoughts are my own.**

#FearlessFashion: It All Starts with The Right Bra

"Change your bra, change your life." ~ Oprah

I was shocked to learn a few years ago that 80% of women were wearing the wrong size bra. That number has come down to 64% but that's still a big number of women who are walking around with ill-fitting bras. Add to that, 24% of those women know that they are wearing the wrong size and just deal with it.


I was one of those 80% a few years ago and what led me to my first bra fitting as an adult was an influencer event. I was just starting out as the Blog Editor for PLUS Model Magazine back in 2013 and got invited to an event at DreamDry hair salon being hosted by Nicolette Mason and Panache Lingerie called Bras and Blow-outs

At the time, my go-to bra was a wireless Just My Size full coverage bra I bought at Walmart. It was comfy but not supportive at all. As I got fitted at that event, I was shocked to see my breasts actually lifted and the bra was gorgeous. I walked out of there with 2 of their new Sculptresse bras courtesy of Panache and a new attitude when it came to bras.

Underwire is not comfortable but I got used to it over time. However, I still had my issues where the wire would poke through or I would constantly have to "fix" myself. So thus, my journey to finding the right bra for me began.

Since that event, my career has involved me going to many more events and wearing the proper bra is key, especially with evening wear. Now that I am a fit model, wearing the right bra is a necessity because it affects garment fit and can ultimately affect how seams are placed in the bust area when being fitted. My agent told me during our first meeting to make sure I invested in some great bras. 

During this bra journey of mine, I have learned some key things that have stayed with me always and have helped me in finding bras that fit well and work for my lifestyle.

#1: Find the style that fits you well and that you like.

There are tons of styles out there to choose from... plunge, balconette, t-shirt, bralette, etc. It's so important to arm yourself with information. Ask questions in-store. Your breast shape has a lot to do with what styles will work for you. I wear balconette, full coverage and plunge styles because I want lift and those styles work with my breast shape.

To learn more about breast shapes, ThirdLove has a great Breast Shape Dictionary that I think is amazing:  https://www.thirdlove.com/pages/breast-shape-dictionary

One of my faves... Elomi Matilda Plunge Bra (I have it in black - see below). It's sexy but offers so much support.

My fitting at the Elomi offices in NYC (see how my breasts look higher and my overall posture is better)

#2: Get a bra fitting twice a year.

I cannot stress this enough. As women, our weight always fluctuates and that can affect your bra size. Also, you may be different sizes in different bra brands. So knowing your "bra zone" and being knowledgeable of sister sizing is key. 

I usually get fitted twice a year, every six months. That may sound excessive but is necessary since I'm a fit model. At least once a year, you should be fitted. My bra zone is now between 44F to 46DDD. As someone who is a size 26/28, I was shocked to learn that I could fit into a 44 band. But don't ever let your clothing size make you think you should be wearing a larger bra size. We all carry our weight differently and are shaped differently. So you could be the same bra size as someone who wears a size 22/24. 

#3: Know what little details you need to have it fit right.

I tend to look for a wider strap for more support and I always make sure to adjust the straps to where they feel the most comfortable.

I also learned that you should wear your new bra with the first hook closed. As your bra stretches out over time, move over to the next hook. 

When putting on your bra, lean forward and do the scoop and swoop technique:

The front gore of the bra (the middle area) should rest against your chest and not float in the air. And if your cups are not sitting under your breasts or your breasts are leaking through the bottom of your cups, you might need to size down in the band and up in the cup size. Your breast tissue should be contained in the cups and your band should be comfortably snug, which will lift your breasts high (no sag!). This is why a bra fitting is so important.

According to Eveden National Fit Specialist Frederika Zappe, "the underwire should surround the entire breast, with the back end of the wire sitting behind the breast tissue on the bone." Now I have met Freddy and she knows her stuff and is also one of the nicest people I have ever met. If you Google her name, several articles will come up with her dropping major gems of wisdom on bras and getting the fit right. So she knows what she's talking about.

I know that's a lot to take in. But arming yourself with this info is EVERYTHING. 

After you get fitted professionally and properly, you then get to choose what bras to wear. I have my personal favorites for work, events and even everyday wear.

Check back this Friday for my blog feature dedicated solely to my favorite bras and places to shop for bras. It will not be a sponsored post, trust. I only share what I truly love. Wearing a bra ain't fun so if I can make your life easier by sharing my experience, I'm down for it.

Please comment below and let me know of your bra fitting experience. I would love to hear about it and chat more about this important topic. Let's change our lives, people!!!! xoxo

Size Inclusivity, Size Privilege and Mean Girls

"I'm sorry that people are so jealous of me. But I can't help it that I'm popular." ~ Gretchen Wieners, Mean Girls

Last week was a real eye opener for me that made me reflect on my feelings about the fashion industry and my place in it.

I got invited to cover The Femmy Awards and Gala, taking place at Cipriani 42nd St. This event was sponsored by The Underfashion Cluba non-profit fashion industry group dedicated to "all facets of the intimate apparel industry: foundations, daywear, sleepwear, robes, and loungewear".

As someone who is considered media via my job at PLUS Model Magazine, I will admit I get some amazing opportunities to attend events like the Femmy Awards.

So I decided to put on a red dress (from Catherines) that had been sitting in my closet for the last 6 weeks. I was sick with bronchitis for about 5 weeks so my 2019 actually started on 1/25. Wearing red is always something that gives me some extra uumph, which was needed for this night.

See, this was not a plus size event. The theme of this year's awards and gala was body positivity and plus supermodel Emme was hosting (YES!), BUT this was an event where there would be media and some heavy hitters from the Intimate Apparel industry. Folks from Kohl's, Dillard's and other major brands were in attendance.

They were also having a design contest featuring six Fashion Institute of Technology students studying intimate apparel. For the first time, students’ designs were on exhibit via mannequins from size 7 to size 2X, in keeping with the theme of “Body Positivity.” The three top finalists won $5,000 and an all-expense paid trip to Paris.

Me with the gorgeous Emme

Emme hosting the Femmy Awards 2019

I was basically walking into a huge event, not knowing a soul and possibly being the biggest girl in the room. Of course, in Fearlessly Just Me fashion, I did just that.

People stared and looked but not for the reasons I was used to. It was because I was wearing red in a sea of black and because people wondered who I was. I mean, I'm a gorgeous big girl wearing a body con red dress with short hair. And I'm walking up in there, like I own the place, lol.

The Intimates Apparel industry is a tight-knit community too, I learned later that evening. And they accepted me with open arms, actually intrigued by the plus size industry and how they can bridge that gap between mainstream/straight size and plus sizes.

Words cannot explain how included I felt and it had nothing to do with seeing someone else who looked like me. It had to do with being seen as more than a plus size woman. They saw me as someone who was their equal, someone in the media who came to the table confident, humble, professional and engaging.

My size was actually an asset in this situation as they now had access to someone who was visibly plus, looked fabulous and proved that plus size women can be stylish too and know their stuff. People came up to me, introduced themselves, asked where my dress was from and just wanted to know about ME.

I left that evening with a clutch full of business cards, including a few requests to be interviewed or featured on their website. As I walked out of Cipriani and to my waiting Uber, I skipped and danced a little, with a smile on my face.

I feel like we are now experiencing a shift in the industry where plus sizes are becoming mainstream. If you're a size 20 and under, you have become mainstream as almost all plus size brands and companies who expand on sizing, always offer up to a size 20. Those who offer above a size 24 are considered radical and really pushing boundaries in an industry where many brands think women above a size 20 don't shop or buy stylish clothing.

Why should my size speak for how I should dress? Why should there be an immediate asumption that separates how women view style and fashion according to their size?

As a size 26/28, I should not feel like I am outsized and not accepted by my own community and industry. But I do.

TCF Style Expo 2018 - Size 24+ panel

I just want to be around women who get me. But I also want to be around people who are looking past my size and seeing who I am as a person and what I bring to this industry as I have a seat at the table.

The use of the words "curvy" and "curve" have become the norm. And I feel like women like me have become lost in the shuffle.

I can't shop everywhere I want and while the fashion industry is changing, when I am vocal about my struggles with shopping, women smaller than me try to challenge that by saying they experience the same issue. NO.

I feel like I have to remind them that their situation is totally different than mine. If you're under a size 20, you can shop in mainstream stores like The Gap, NY & Company and countless others. I recognize that smaller women have their own fit issues but they have more options than I do when it comes to fashion.

Most plus size brands stop at a size 3X and 24. So while I get excited when a brand expands their sizing into plus sizes, I can't help but feel a little deflated when I see they are still not carrying my size.

Having empathy for other bodies is a part of being body positive. Admitting your own privilege instead of playing the victim is a sign of growth and truly being someone who believes that all bodies are beautiful.

The Femmy Awards taught me some valuable lessons.  It showed me that you don't have to be around people who look like you, to fit in. At the end of the day, I am more than a plus size woman and have much more to offer as a human being.

It also showed me that there are people out there who want to be educated more on the state of plus size fashion and that as a visibly plus size woman who does not have access to all plus size fashion, I have a strong voice that can help with that.

While I may encounter the "You can't sit with us" mentality at times, I want to focus more on where I do sit and use that opportunity to educate, engage and network. Not being able to sit at every table doesn't limit my worth in this world or stop the work I am doing. 

I'm more focused on inpiring the next generation of designers to embrace designing for ALL sizes and not just a range that excludes women who want to dress just like their thinner sisters. 

As I chatted with the six design student finalists from F.I.T., I had hope for the fashion industry in becoming more inclusive. They all spoke so passionately about wanting to design for plus sizes with many of them even offering to create a dress for me! I never thought I'd feel or experience this in my lifetime but I am! 

I'm excited to see what the generation of fashion holds for ALL women, especially those of us that are excluded at times from the plus size range AND the conversation.

You can find my Catherines red dress here and it's on sale for $40, up to size 5X including petites. (I'm wearing a size 3X petite)

You can follow those amazing F.I.T. fashion design students below on Instagram - hit them up if you need some custom lingerie or dresses:

Aura Alvarez: @aurahalvarez
Breanna Childers: @bre_childers
Laurel Yau: @yauleru
Dorshelle Guillaume: @dorshelleguillaume
Jessica Trusio: @jesstrusio
Sierra White: @intimatelysierra

Let's support and educate the next generation of fashion.