This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending The Dream Big Midwest Curvy Fashion and Beauty Conference. The conference didn’t only bring curves, talent, and confidence, it also brought the restoration in our childhood dreams as well. The conference took place at Venue Six10 this year, located at 610 S Michigan Ave here in Chicago and was organized by The Curvy Express, a organization that curates social events to inspire curvy fashion and beauty enthusiasts to manifest their dreams. This years theme was “Reprogram, Rebuild, and Re brand” and included many curvy influencers in fashion, beauty, media, radio, and much more. The event concluded with a Fashion Show sponsored by Macy’s that previewed some of the latest trends in fall fashion.
The host of the conference was actor and comedian Erica Faye Watson. Moderators included curvy model Jessica Milagros, blogger, model, and influencer Natalie Craig of Natalie In The City, and Stephanie Penn, founder and co editor of the Daily Venus Diva. The morning segment started with Liris Crosse, plus size supermodel and model winner of Project Runway’s Season 16. Crosse is the definition of turning trials into success. The Baltimore native faced high-school bullying and rejection from four modeling agencies. Though she was a great fit, weight was the barrier. This use to and still is a common issue when it comes to modeling but these things didn’t deter Crosse from pursuing her dreams. Due to her extreme determination, she came back a year later after losing the weight that was requested and was picked by a Batimore modeling agency that end up sending her to Wilemena Models where she was signed instantly. If there was anything that I could take away from Liris Crosse is to turn your pain into gain and to speak and visualize your dreams into existence, you just have to believe they can happen and stay active and motivated. The sponsor of Liris Cross’s segment was by Parfait Lingerie who also has a body positive movement going on. There were plenty of talent agency all accepting of diverse, plus size models. This included Bridget Halanski, vice president of Runway in the U.S for MP Mangement, David Sanchez, CEO of 10 MGMT Management, Lily LIU of Lily Talent Agency, and Jessica Needham, co-owner of 4 Star Casting. The take away from this panel for anyone who is interested in being a model is to utilize basic manners. Following up after being signed with a nice thank you note would aide you in being memorable. Showcasing what makes you unique, rather that be hair color or style. Less is more, it’s suggested to show up for a casting with a natural face, natural hair, plain clothing, and plain tall heel. Communication is key and always follow directions, this means being punctual, proper preparation, and making sure you do as client says. Bridget Halanski is looking for a solid size 18, 5’7 model and David Sanchez is looking for a trans model. Now is the time more than ever to break into the industry as a ethnic and plus size model.
During the Big Time Beauty segment of the conference makeup artist Nena Mondonedo- Perez and Denise Mallory both prove that you can always break into a new career path at any time. Both ladies started off in other professions, Mondonedo-Perez in accounting and Mallory in clinical for over 28 years. Both ladies had a passion for the art of make-up and made it happen. Marie Denee Leggette of The Curvy Fashionista in her segment “Sustaining your business via self-care,” expressed how important it is to take care of yourself in everyday life, especially when building a brand. Leggette expressed that it is more than just taking a nail or spa day but it’s making sure to map out “you” time, getting errands down like laundry, and celebrating your achievements. Ashley N. Kirkwood, lawyer/host of The Ashley Nicole Show and passion, purpose, and paychecks, gave the audience the rundown on the importance of branding alongside Taylar Barrington, Ceo of Cliquish and Katherine Rousonelos, a wadrobe stylist. Kirkwood shared her story of how she broke the 9 to 5 cycle as a lawyer who was making 6 figures to pursue entrepreneur. She used her experience to express to everyone the importance of staying true to who you are and how vital it is for your brand to express that. She also has launched a workbook on how to be your own press secretary that teaches ladies how to pitch to the media to get theie name out there and secure the bag of course. Barrington’s Cliquish teaches brands how to grow and profit. Passion, purpose, and authenticity is a common theme that was presented at this conference. Ann O’Brien of author of Life of Glitter quotes “The most successful thing is being your damn self.” That is exactly how she built her brand.
The “Engagement vs Algorithms” consisted of Alex Stewart of Sassy Confettit, Megan Hillard of Curves, Clothes, and Curls, Pamela Kieck of It’s Pamela Kieck, and Tot Jones of Totally Tot. Moderator of this segment was Natalie Craig of Natalie in the City. All of these ladies can be classified as content creators, influencers, and bloggers, Meghan Killard started her blog by posting selfies and 5 years later here she is. Pamela Kieck moved to Minneapolis for work and started doing Polyvore boards. Her mom would take her pics for her and eventually she began working with brands. Tot Jones always loved people and was given the idea to blog by her ex husband. She put her love for people and creativity together and birthed her blog. Alex Stewart was a Journalism major and got her start by her friends asking her about restaurants and people inquiring about her outfits. These ladies saw opportunities in the mist of creativity as well as believed giving value. The advice from thus panel was to ask your audience questions about things they want to see. People want to be able to take away from your content.
The last segment was Keke Hampton of 107.5 WGCI, Kristina Kage of IHeart Radio, and Maha Gorgi of Power 92 Chicago. Hampton knew since she was a child that she wanted to be a radio personality specifically for 107.5 WGCI. Maha Gorgi attended Columbia Chicago for radio becoming a radio personality shortly after to being let go as a intern. These ladies discussed alternative career paths in the radio industry as well as the stereotypes such as a radio personality being perceived as a easy job. Gorgi tells the audience that that is not the case, explaining that she has various task that go into her 3 hour segment such as getting her playlist of songs ready to go on air, nailing sponsored material, as well as going live. When asked if curves are ever an issue in radio, the panels concluded curves are usually rarely an issue and well received.
Day 2 of the conference was concluded with a fall fashion preview of some of the latest and greatest trends at Macy’s on State st here in Chicago. Natasha Williams, CEO of The Curvy Express opened the show. Fall trends such as moto jackets, cheetah, plaid, navy blues, purple, sequins, and red were all extremely prevalent in the show. Check out some of my favorite looks below as well as leave your thoughts and opinions on what you think. The Dream Big Curvy Fashion and Beauty Conference overall taught us the importance of never giving up, authenticity, faith, passion and purpose. I am looking forward to next year.