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“Summer’s Last Stand” by Jean “JNESS” Nerestant

Contents |

Beautiful You

P12 All Eyez On…:Wilbur Pack & SK Designs by Steffany Allen P18 Style File: Give ‘Em The Boot

Living It Up P22 P24

Dollars & Sense: Meet The Frugalicious Diva, Latisha Williams Keep It Moving: Take That Workout Outside!

The Scene P28 P30

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Hot Spots: Fall 2010’s MUST ATTEND Events! Spotlight: Angie Stone

Features P34 P45

Why I Love My Body!: Eight Women, One Declaration—I Love My Body! Photos by Michaela Dalzell Cover Story: Jeannie Ferguson: The Plus Side of Fashion by Danielle Young

Deep Inside P49 P50 P52

Wise: Golda Poretsky Big Fat Body Love! 40+ Diva: Finding Your Inner Diva by Toianna Wika Candidly Speaking: Renee Jennings

In Every Issue

page 18

P6 P5 P54

A Note From Ms. Aja B. Contributors Coming Next Month

On The Cover

page 34

Cover Model: Jeannie Ferguson Photo: Michaela Dalzell Photography Stylist: Steffany Allen Make-Up: Morgan Wells, Jane Doe Studios

Contributors | Thank you to the following contributors!

Golda Poretsky

Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. is the founder of Body Love Wellness (, a wellness company that provides individual and group counseling from a Health At Every Size perspective. Via her blog, podcast, and counseling programs, she helps women get off the dieting roller coaster, give their bodies what they really crave, and love their bodies and themselves. Golda’s programs and activism work have been featured on CBS’s The Early Show, ABC’s Nightline, NBC’s LX New York and Time Out New York. She is also author of the new book, Stop Dieting Now: 25 Reasons To Stop, 25 Ways To Heal.

Michaela Dalzell Photographer Michaela Dalzell was born and raised in Bay City, Michigan. It was in her father’s portrait studio that she found her love for photography and print making as she was intrigued by the blank page emerging into a beautiful photograph in the darkroom. Michaela recently obtained her Master’s Degree at the School of Visual Arts in New York City in the MPS Digital Photography program. Now a New York City based fashion and portrait photographer, Michaela continues to meet people and share their stories through her photography. Last year, her exhibit, “Finding Love” was featured in the New York Daily News. View more of her stunning photography at

Belle-Noir Magazine | Big. Beautiful. You.™ September/October 2010 Volume 1 Issue 1

Publisher & Editor-in-Chief Aja B. Stubbs

Contributing Writers Steffany Allen Toianna Wika Latisha Williams Danielle Young Renee Jennings


Jean “JNESS” Nerestant

Graphic Design & Layout Jessica Kane of Kane Kreative

Public Relations Manager Renee Jennings, R. Media Group

Advertising Inquiries

Interested in being featured in Belle-Noir Mag? Email us at

Belle-Noir Magazine is published by BelleNoir Communications. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the advanced written consent of Belle-Noir Communications. ©2010 All Rights Reserved.

A Note from Ms. Aja B |

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.� ~e.e. cummings

Growing up is not easy. The above quote completely reflects the attitude that is behind Belle-Noir Magazine’s debut digital issue. For those who are familiar with Belle-Noir, you know that over the past nearly seven years, we have been in every format on the web. When we first started out on Geocities (remember that?) in 2003, the link was so long, it was a wonder that anyone was able to find us. Purchasing the domain name in 2005 was the next step in what would be a series of hits (and admittedly plenty of misses). Still, our friends and followers remained loyal, all the while waiting for The Moment. Ladies & Gents, The Moment is now. As Founder of Belle-Noir Magazine, and the subsequent Belle-Noir Communications, this is the day that I have seen for so long, but was so hesitant to bring to fruition. A digital magazine? Now? When blogs are so much more on the forefront? Why bother taking it to this format? Because, at some point, we all have to grow-up. We all have to face the fears, put our big girl panties on, and, to borrow a phrase, do the thing we think we cannot do. Several years ago, my friend Nakki, in one of those Meme’s so popular on blogs, asked me the question: “When will I put the fear aside and just do it?” I am sure that many of you, in your everyday lives, have faced a similar question. When will I go for that big promotion? When will I go for that audition for that fashion show? When will I buy that dream house? Often, we let the words and sentiments of others deter us from accomplishing personal goals. “You’re not pretty enough to be a model.” “You can’t afford to buy a home—by yourself!” “Are you sure you can do that?” “You’re too short/tall/fat/dark/light/fill-in-other-selfdeprecating-words-here.” At some point, we have to tell the negative voices— be it those who, in truth, don’t want to see us succeed because of their own insecurities, or just that internal tape deck in our mind that constantly plants the seed of doubt within our hearts—to shut up!

This is our moment. And whether we are a complete success, or have to try again, at the end of the day, there is more pride and accomplishment in trying than never giving it a go. It is that same “can-do” attitude that our cover model, Jeannie Ferguson, uses as a successful petite plus model and as half of the brainchild behind Big Girls United (BGU) Clothing. It is the same attitude that many of the ladies in our “Why I Love My Body!” photo editorial had when they received the call to be models. Several had never modeled before, or knew all too well the rejection of those who deemed them to be not what everyone wanted to see. Belle-Noir has always been a voice for the everyday plus size woman of Color. We love fashion (and are happy to bring you our Beautiful You department, which has been a feature of Belle-Noir since day one). And we love talking about the hot events in the plus size community (be sure to check out our picks for the must attend events this Fall in The Scene). But what has always been—and will continue to be—the heart of Belle-Noir Magazine, is sharing the stories of empowerment. Our Wise column makes its return, and we are so pleased to have Golda Poretsky of Body Love Wellness leading the charge with her “Big Fat Body Love” declaration! Some of your other favorite columns will be making a return in subsequent issues as well. This debut issue is only the beginning! We are still growing (do we ever fully grow up?) and look forward to revealing more as the months—and issues—progress! Our ultimate goal? Print, of course! But, one step at a time. We must crawl before we can walk, after all. I hope you will enjoy our debut digital issue. Be sure to let me know what you think—what you love, what you are only ‘meh’ about—by sending me an email to This is our moment! Go out there, and create a moment of your own! With Love, Ms. Aja B.

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All Eyez On |

Interview by Steffany Allen

Wilbur Pack Jr. - SKE Womens Wear Steffany Allen – Thank you so much for taking time to speak with me on behalf of Belle-Noir Magazine. Before we learn more about SKE - Womenswear, let’s find out more about the man behind SKE. Where are you from? Wilbur Pack – I was born and raised in Laurelton Queens, NY. I lived in Brooklyn for about 10 years and I loved it! But you know, while I am chasing my dreams and trying to save money; I decided it was better for me financially to move back home to Queens. SA – What inspires you as a designer? WP – I am inspired by women in general. I really like pretty women and it doesn’t matter what size they are. However I am not particularly fond of very skinny women, but you know from a size 2 to a size 22 to a size 32, I think there is beauty in everyone. That’s what inspires me. I am always drawn to making women feel their best, look their best and I think that when you have on something that is tailored, you always look your best. SA – How long have you been a designer? WP – I’ve been a designer all my life, sugar!! But professionally I’ve been designer for 12 years now! SA – What was the defining moment when you knew you had to create “SKE”? Is that how you say it…”SKE”? WP – YES! It’s called Sorta Kinda Enterprises! Coming up with a defining moment is very difficult, because for me it was a gradual process. I don’t know how to sew “well”, and so part of defining what I really wanted to do and defining my passion was based on that fact. So I thought that if I was going to be a fashion designer, then I needed to be astute in every aspect of fashion design. I went to school at F.I.T. (Fashion Institute of Technology), for my sewing class, and I had this teacher who scared the daylights out of me. I was so discouraged and de-

moralized by the experience, that I put away my sewing machine, sketchpad, and my markers and pencils! I was DONE! And then I broke up with my boyfriend at the time and thought, “you know, it’s now or never, you’ve got to go for it!” And ever since then, it was 13 years ago exactly, I have been doing fashion design! SA – Sometimes it is that setback or break up that takes you back to zero and forces you to make a fresh start! WP – Yes it is!!!

SA – How would you define your ideal client? WP – I think that she would be confident. And don’t think that she wouldn’t necessarily think of herself as a “diva”. Because I think “diva”, can have a negative connotation. So I think of someone who has confidence, is accepting of others and someone who likes to look good, and likes to be pretty. Someone who is just down! She’s down for looking good, laughing and having a good time! SA – What makes your line stand out from what is already available for the Plus Size women? WP – There is not enough available for the Plus Size woman! SA – You can say that again!! WP – Right!! So it’s easy to stand out from what everybody else is doing! My stuff is a little bit higher end, so retailing I think will be about $225 to $475 for my dresses. And at that level, we have a lot or career oriented clothing, we have evening clothing and we have some sportswear. I don’t think there is anything out there that bridges the gap. So I think my dresses bridge the gap for the woman who is career oriented, she has a lot on her plate, and she needs to be able to transition from the board room to the lounge for drinks, for dinner. These dresses will help her transition without having to run into the ladies room to change into a whole new outfit. SA – That’s great because every woman needs that for sure! Are there other designers that you look to for inspiration for your creations? WP – I like old school…so I like Charles James, who was just masterful with construction and his designs were just timeless. I like Norman Norrell, who was very sportswear based, but with a “wink and a nudge”! I like Dior and I love Balenciaga, so it would be the masters who really inspire me the most.

SA – What is the most challenging part of being a man designing for Plus Size women? WP – You know, if you are worth your salt as a designer, it doesn’t make a difference if the designs are for a larger woman or a smaller woman. Every woman wants to feel good about herself and she wants to look good. So if you address that, then basically you address the needs of the consumer, of the shopper. Probably moving forward, I just want to make sure my fit is really good, because that is going to be what differentiates me from some of the others. SA – Was fit a struggle early on? WP – No fit is never an issue because right now I do custom dresses. So everything is made to measure for that customer. But moving forward, we want to make sure we have the same aesthetic but more on a wide spread basis for a broad audience. So that is why we are moving into ready to wear and trying to get into stores. It’s not something that worries me, but it is one of my concerns about going into to production to make sure the fit is perfect. The fit must be consistent. SA – Do you have plans for a brick & mortar location? Your own boutique perhaps? WP – Oh yes for sure! That is always a part of the equation! You know when you dream you gotta dream big! You gotta dream in color! You have to know that the universe is available and it’s pushing you forward to do and be your best. So of course, who doesn’t want their own brick & mortar space? Who doesn’t want their own line of, let’s say hosiery or panties or bras or even have their own fragrance. You know, skies the limit! If you can dream it; then you can be it! SA – So it’s almost like you are starting to create brand or lifestyle of SKE. **continued next page ** Belle-Noir Magazine | 13

All Eyez On | Interview by Steffany Allen

Wilbur Pack Jr. - SKE Womens Wear **continued from previous page** SA – Where would you like to see SKE - Womenswear in five years? Ten years? WP – I would like to see us having some really good retail partners who believe in our brand and our aesthetic. I would also like to see our own store of course, not like mom & pop, but like some of the big brands out here. Even if we only have one store location, it is the best possible environment to dress these fabulous, curvy girls! SA – In New York I am hoping… that is my own personal wish please!! I don’t want to have to travel too far for fashion!! WP – Yes!! (laugther) SA – What are some events you have participated in recently and what plans do you have for events and projects in the future? WP – Well I haven’t participated in any events since I’ve decided to take that giant leap and do Plus Curvy Girl fashion. I attended the opening event of Full Figured Fashion Week ™ at Boulevard and that was a wonderful and awesome experience. I think those girls were dressed to the nines and they were ready to have a good time. The women were there supporting designers who are catering to their needs and it was a really a wonderful experience. I loved it! I also attended the meet & greet with the YFF (Young, Fat & Fabulous) Bloggers at ReDress. I met Gabi Gregg, the MTV TJ winner, and

several lovely women, including you!! On September 14 at 6PM, I will be doing my launch viewing event at the Alexandre Gertsman Contemporary Art Gallery in NOHO. This is something that is very exciting for me because it is all mine and I am not sharing the moment with anyone else…it’s all about me!! I will also be a participating designer in Queens Fashion Week

Photographer: Rebecca Rodriguez big name designers that are getting ready to get into that whole realm of plus fashion. But I am still a little disappointed with the scale, the range that is offered for plus women. What I see is either very inexpensive or very expensive; I think there should be a median somewhere in there and I am trying to be the median. I think what I do is affordable! SA – So what grade are you going to give it? WP – A C!! SA – A passing grade? WP – It IS passing! (laughter) SA – I have a hot first date coming up. What would you design for me? WP – It depends on how “hot” you are talking about! Are we talking about skanky hot or something elegant for the evening?? (laughter) No but I think any of the pieces from the collection would suit you well! SA – What’s one item in the SKE - Womenswear collection that no Plus Size woman should be without? WP – One of my denim dresses! You’ve got to have one!

and that is very exciting too. SA – If you had to give the plus fashion industry a grade right now, what would it be and why? WP – There are a lot of wonderful vendors and brands out there that are doing their best to cater to the full figured community. And it seems that there are several

SA – Agreed! WP – You’ve got to have one of my denim dresses. The reason I say that is because, I think that denim has taken on many different roles over the years. Not necessarily for the plus woman, but for the size 0 – 12 to girl. So the plus girl needs to catch up and the way she catches up is by wearing one of my denim dresses. These dresses are elegant and you might not even know they are denim just by looking at them. They are easy, but you are “pulled up” in that dress and you will look fabulous! And as long as you’ve got your shapewear, girl you will be fierce! **continued next page**

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All Eyez On | Interview by Steffany Allen Wilbur Pack Jr. SKE Womens Wear **continued from previous page** SA – Once again ladies, denim rules! Denim rules! SA – What advice would you give to anyone looking to join the plus fashion industry? WP – I think that you have to have a passion for curvy women. I don’t think you can do this without being passionate about that customer. Because that customer, has needs that have not been addressed. She needs a little love, and I love my curvy girls!! SA – We love you too Wilbur!! SA – What do you think of the “new “ popularity for the Plus Industry and the attention being paid towards the curvy girls? There’s more buzz about us out there! WP – I think that it boils down to economics. Really! It is what it is, and if the curvy community can get something from economics, then good for them. I think that these designers were missing the mark thinking that they had unlimited resources in the 0 – 12 community, when the average woman is a size 14. So I think they are getting hip to what is going on and finally doing something about it and expanding their sizes. While I am not pleased about the competition, I think that the curvy woman wins out in the end and she better be buying my dresses too!!

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Belle-Noir Belle-Noir Magazine Magazine || 19 19


Belle-Noir Magazine | 21

Frugalicious Diva | by Latisha Williams Introducing You to Savings!! I keep hearing “the economy is bad”. Well, how can you tell, the way people continue to spend money? Let's face it, whether we have a package or not, we will still stimulate the economy. Since you're going to spend money anyway, why not do it on a budget, save while doing it, and still live the “good life”? Frugalicious Diva will give you tips and inspiration to take you from bankruptcy to bank accounts, “Save Me” to savings, from being in the red to in the black, and lastly, from being dime less to getting divalicious dollars. In this column, I will share with you what I know to be true. I've been there and tried everything I present, so I invite you to create your own debt busting system and live life to the fullest, while saving big bucks! First up, SAVING.. Remember when your parents used to tell you to pay yourself first? While that is great advice, unfortunately we have taken it to mean that we treat ourselves first and often. What they should have said was, pay your BANK first! It is important to put some money aside for a rainy day...and in this day and age, rainy days come in the form of weeks, months and sometimes years. No, there is nothing wrong with getting a little something special for ourselves, but

take care of business first. One thing I have learned through my own fabulous, financial journey is that if you can waste money, then you can afford to save it, donate it or invest it. All of the latter helps you in the long run, while wasting it only provides instant gratification. When it's instant, it's done too quick!! Most often, we cannot even recollect where it went. You know what I mean; those quick debit swipes for a latte, casually throwing $10 on lunch, change for the vending machine at work. All those quick fixes, leave you with an ever dwindling bank. THAT is an issue, because if you cannot TRACK your money, then you cannot STACK your money. If you have read this far, I believe it means there is something in your financial life that you want to change. If you are serious about getting your money together and putting it back in your purse (or wallet), your first assignment is to take this oath: "I, fill in your name, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the funds in my budget and will, to the best of my ability, save, use coupons (or codes), and sacrifice my wants. I promise to do right by my money, so that it will work for me now, understanding that I must sacrifice a

little to get a lot in the end AND I can still live fabulously!" Congratulations!! You may now enter the world of the Frugal & Fabulous!! The second step is to track your spending. Every penny that leaves your hand or debit card, put it down on paper. After thirty days, take a critical eye to your paper. Where are you spending too much? Can you cut back a couple of days on the specialty coffees or bring your leftovers, as lunch, a few days per week? What about always keeping snacks in your car or desk? These little changes will put a smile back on your piggy bank's face (or at least increase your bank account balance). Last, once you have found where you waste, match that amount to put away for safe keeping. For instance, after looking at my budget sheet, I found I was spending approximately $50 monthly on dining out and fast food. That $50.00 could be in a better place than my tummy. So, I began to match that $50.00 and started an Emergency Fund with it. If you waste it, replace it in the bank. By doing this, you will either stop dining out or you will continue to build the fund. In either case you ALWAYS save, so it is a win-win. It does not matter what your financial situation looks like right now, if you want change, you can change it.

You can win! One way I win is by speaking positive words about money in my life. I am a firm believer in affirmations and how they shape our lives. I invite you to use them too.

Financial Affirmation of the Month: Money comes easily and frequently!! Say it! Believe it! Feel good about it!!

The Frugalicious Diva was birthed and coined in the Frugal Sisters Yahoo group. Her knack for living a frugal life and enjoying it, is what sparked it's name. Her journey has been a long one full of ups and downs, but through the support of her Frugal Sisters and her own personal determination, she has emerged from bankruptcy, high debt, job loss and living with her parents to being the debt free, selfemployed homeowner she is today. She understood that sacrificing now created a better later. Now that she is in this position, she is happy to share her experience and expertise with others, helping them reach financial goals, pay less for everything and live life without regret. Her advice always is, “If you really want it, write it down and save up for it�. Only Make Room for Abundance!!

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Keep it Moving | by Diane Raymond Fall Days are Perfect for Taking That Workout Outside In a funk because your daily trek on the treadmill has turned into an event only slightly more exciting than watching a pot of water boil? If so, maybe it's time to tuck your gym pass away in a safe place and step outside. Research conducted at the University of Essex showed that outside exercise has benefits that extend beyond the expected calorie-burning effect. It turns out that surrounding yourself with nature stimulates spiritual feelings and your senses, and gives you an escape from modern life. This should not be a surprise, but exercising outdoors also lowers stress levels, improves concentration and positively impacts health and wellbeing. Getting Started: Assess The Scenery How well do you know your surroundings? At first glance, your neighborhood or community may not appear to have the same tools and equipment you're accustomed to using inside. Look a little closer, however, and you will notice hills and trees, curbs, stairs, playgrounds, pathways, picnic tables, benches, rocks and large tree limbs. The landscape has plenty of "equipment" and once you know how to utilize it all, the world becomes your gym. Before you get started, spend some time driving or biking around your community to scope out potential workout sites. In addition to parks and playgrounds, note where the schools, community green spaces and cityscapes are these are all viable options for working out. Taking full advantage of the scenery and landscape will not only rev up your cardio routine, it will give you a mind-body experience that engages your senses, as well as your glutes! Belle-Noir Magazine | 24

Ten Ways to Get More from Your Outdoor Workout 1.Start close to home. Your most convenient option may be your own neighborhood. My own neighborhood, for example, has a surrounding pathway that is downhill on one side, uphill on the other. Combined with evenly spaced trees along the path, the set-up is ideal for interval training: downhill jog/run, followed by an uphill power walk or jog, then sprinting intervals between the trees, followed by walking lunges, skipping, and/or side-shuffling. 2. Go back to school. Most junior highs and high schools have tracks that are accessible to the public. Quarter-mile tracks make it easy to track your distance and they are also "give" more than concrete and cement, lessening the impact on leg joints. The green space in the middle of the track is a great place to practice agility drills, such as zigzag runs and shuffles. Run the stadium stairs and use the benches for pushups and dips. 3. Make working out an adventure. State parks and metro parks have an abundance of hiking trails set amidst beautiful scenery that changes with each season. If you like to run, take advantage of the varying terrain to improve your agility and kinesthetic awareness. Some of the hills are rough, so practice common sense: watch your footing to avoid stumps, rocks and bumps that you could trip over; keep an eye out for poisonous plants like poison ivy; and take your cell phone with you. 4. Head for the hills. Hills, especially sledding hills, can really turn on the burn. Running hill repeats, side skipping, and walking backward uphill works every leg muscle and challenges your cardiovascular system as well.

Cooler temperatures & changing fall foliage are the perfect backdrop for taking that 30 minute walk outdoors.

5. Play like a kid. When was the last time you did the monkey bars? It’s hard! Wear a pair of weight lifting gloves (available at most all-purpose stores, such as Wal-Mart or Target) to protect your hands and give the monkey bars a try. Challenge yourself to try pullups and chin-ups too. Use a low step for reverse leg lunges. Take resistance tubing with you and use the playground structure as your anchor for performing countless strength exercises, such as rows, overhead presses, and bicep curls. Want cardio? Take a jump rope with you. 6. Play with your kids. You’ll earn your smoothie after an afternoon game of tag, kickball, flag football or catch with your kids. As an added bonus, children who have active parents typically grow up to be active adults, so you’ll be setting a good example. 7. Practice backyard basics. If your backyard is like mine, it probably has some bumps, dips and many small rocks, creating an uneven surface. Try doing walking lunges across the yard. It is a much differ-

ent experience than doing them on the flat gym floor. The uneven surface challenges the assisting muscles in the upper leg, as well as the stabilizing muscles of the hip, knee and ankle joints. Because you use those joints and muscles regularly in daily living, it makes sense to challenge them in ways that mimic real life scenarios. If this setting inspires the child in you, try crab and bear walks, inchworm push-ups, or mountain climbers. 8. Take your equipment with you. If you have small hand weights, weighted balls, resistance tubing and/or a jump rope, consider taking it with you to the park. Park benches can double as weight benches, railings can be used as an anchor for resistance tubing and the jump rope, well, that can be used anywhere and it is a fun way to get your heart pumping. If you haven’t jumped in a while, start slowly - 10-20 seconds for beginners. Over time, work up to 2, 5, even 10 minutes. Try to beat your own record each time. 9. Learn something new. Tennis, basketball, swimming, cycling, kayaking, horse back riding and rock climbing are just a few activities you can to try. Attempting something out of your comfort zone is a great way to boost self-confidence. You’ll surely meet new people, and you never know - you might discover an inner athlete in you that you didn’t know existed. **continued next page **

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Keep it Moving | by Diane Raymond Fall Days are Perfect for Taking That Workout Outside 10. Sites and Cityscapes. If you live in a metropolitan area that has little green space, fear not - there are still plenty of opportunities here for working out. Take your elastic tubing and tie it around you waste, then head to the nearest set of stairs (think Rocky in Balboa here). Go for a jog, run up the stairs, use the railing as an anchor for your tubing, then knock out a set of squats. If there is a hill nearby, try walking lunges up the hill. No railing in sight? Use a tree, or even a parking meter. Be creative - that is half the fun!

Remember -- no workout is effective if it isn't safe. Some Do's and Don'ts: - Do follow the rules of the road. If you have to walk/jog on the road, be sure to go against traffic. If biking, go with traffic and be sure to wear a helmet. Stay alert to potential hazards, such as rocks and wet patches. - Do wear sunscreen - the sun's harmful rays span all four seasons. - Don't visit places you aren't familiar with, especially at night. Belle-Noir Magazine | 26

- Do take a buddy, especially if you will be in unfamiliar surroundings. - Do abide by park hours. Most parks are off-limits from dusk to dawn. - Do watch the weather and dress appropriately. - Do drink plenty of water before your workout and take a water bottle with you. - Do wear quality footwear that is designed for the activity you'll be doing. - Do take your cell phone and tell someone where you'll be working out. The outdoors, with its varied terrain and natural beauty, can do more for your mind, body and spirit than you ever imagined. But as long as you're still looking out the steamy window of your indoor gym while logging yet one more mile on the treadmill (yawn), you'll never know. Diane Raymond is the Founder and President of Blue Sky Gym, a Columbus, OH-based personal training business specializing in in-home and outdoor personal training, lifestyle and weight management coaching, live workshops and educational resources. She is also a noted consultant and workshop presenter. You can visit her website at:


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Hot Spot | The MUST ATTEND Events for Fall 2010!

Project Curve Appeal Convention The International Fuller Woman Expo

When: Saturday, September 18, 2010 Where: Westin Book Cadillac Hotel, Detroit, MI Why: Where else can you get a full day of fashion, workshops, vendors and seminars designed to empower women to recognize their internal and external beauty—and all for (what?!?) ten dollars? Only the International Fuller Woman expo has Kim Coles as Keynote Speaker, Gwen DeVoe as host of the Curves in Motion Fashion Showcase, and the Curvy Girl Lounge, complete with beauty treats (and, from what we’ve heard, an after party called “The Afterglow” that is sure to be super sexy and not to be missed)! How: Reserve your room and purchase your tickets at

When: Friday, October 1 through Sunday, October 3, 2010 Where: The Riviera Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV Why: It’s Vegas, Baby! Hosted by Plus Model Chenese Lewis, the event will include a Bachelorette Expo (think of it as the ultimate Big Girl Bachlorette Vegas Bash), several workshops and presentations for aspiring plus models, and “Accessories in the City”, a vendor expo dedicated to shining the spotlight on the designers & creators of accessories for plus size women (among other things, we are sure, that will stay in Vegas!) How: Find hotel reservation details and information on purchasing tickets at .

Hollywood NOW’s Love Your Body Day

When: Friday, October 22 through Sunday, October 24, 2010 Where: Various locations throughout West Hollywood, CA; check website for specifics Why: Celebrating its 5th year, the Hollywood chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) is bringing Love Your Body Day to West Hollywood, CA. This year’s weekend long event, which includes a launch party, festival, comedy show, and body image panel discussion, features plus model Whitney Thompson (America’s Next Top Model) as the events host. Thompson and event organizer Chenese Lewis’s bold promotional photos posing nude have created quite a buzz! We couldn’t think of a better event to support that truly shows that we need to love the skin we are in! How: for more information and full schedule of events.

Full Figured Fashion Week(end)™-LA

When: Thursday, October 28 through Saturday, October 20, 2010 Where: Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles, CA Why: For two years, Executive Producer Gwen DeVoe and her team have created a weekend dedicated to plus size fashion and the fashionistas who love it in the form of new designer showcases, panel discussions on the business side of the plus community, modeling workshops, exclusive buyers markets, and of course, the Grand Finale Fashion Event--always hosted by a fab plus celebrity—to New York City. West Coast? It’s your turn to show up and show out! We are looking forward to seeing which designers—both seasoned and undiscovered—use FFFWeek(end) to make their official mark on the plus fashion community. How: Visit for more information on tickets, the official schedule, and how to take part in the event. Belle-Noir Magazine | 29

Spotlight| Angie Stone For three decades, vocalist Angie Stone has been surprising audiences, critics, peers and the music industry itself. Born and raised in the Southern gospel tradition – while at the same time absorbing the gritty and impassioned anthems generated by soul icons of the 1960s – Stone has since mapped a life-long journey that encompasses rap, neo-soul, hip-hop, R&B, jazz and more. Along the way, attempts to pin her down according to this category or that movement have been challenging if not impossible. With each new recording, with each next step in her career, she has consistently hit the world with something it didn’t see coming. In an exclusive interview, Ms. Stone sat down with Editor-In-Chief Ms. Aja B. to discuss the current state of the music industry, her saying no to pressures to conform with popular images, her recently weight loss journey and why she still considers herself a full-figured woman, and of course, why she loves her body! Belle-Noir Mag (BN): Thank you so much, Ms. Stone, for sitting down with Belle-Noir Magazine. Let’s talk about your most recent album, Unexpected. It definitely has a sound different from your first three studio albums. Why did you decide to make a departure from the soul sound for this album?

know that I’ve done all different types from hip hop to soul music. And this last album was a reflection of the music that I loved to listen to in the past, as well as music that I would love to record in the future. So I combined all of that together to come up with Unexpected.

Angie Stone: I wanted to take some of my past years in the industry and combine everything that I am about because I think a lot of people put me in one category and I’ve actually been across several different genres of music throughout my career . Then, of course I went on to do Black Diamond, which was a soul album, and then Mahogany Soul, which was another soul album. By the time I got to The Art of Love and War, I started to branch out and let people

BN: When you came out in 1999 one of the things that I think a lot of plus size women loved was seeing this beautiful plus size woman getting some play in the music industry since we know the music industry can very much be about image. Over the course of your career, did anyone— labels,management -- pressure you to conform with a certain look and a certain style?

AS: I did initially, but when I came out with Black Diamond, I wasn’t as full figured as I turned out to be. I was pregnant with my son. On top of that, I was taking a medicine called prednisone [a steroid], which caused me to really gain a lot of weight, which became a concern from a label from a marketing stand point because they knew that image was everything. I wanted my music to speak for me because at that time I had no control over my weight, it was a health issue and a lot of people didn’t know that. But did I have the pressure from the industry? A whole lot of it! I had to put on filters through that and allow my music to be a healing source for me as well. BN: How did you face the pressure? Did you basically put your foot down and say I am who I am and this is where I am?

AS: Absolutely! This is who I am and this is what God made to be. This is the journey that He has placed me on before I even knew it. So I could either succumb to it, or I could challenge it. And I decided to challenge the rest of the world’s views and what they thought beauty was because I knew from the person on the inside that I was beautiful. What their perception of beauty was, it didn’t make any difference to me because it was God’s choices for me. A lot of people think that “oh you’re obese because you overeat.” I’m really not a huge eater. I’m a person who based on her genes and on my structure, that was the journey that life was going to take me on. However, I put my foot down because after crying about— worrying about -- what people had to say about me, I had to love me for me. I later wrote a song called “Happy Being Me” because I was happy in the skin I was in because it was my body, it was journey, it was my life, and it was what God ordered for me. Nothing happens by chance or coincidence-- I think everything has been mapped out. BN: One thing that was unexpected was when I saw the video for the 1st single off of Unexpected, “I Ain’t Hearing U” and there was a very svelte Angie Stone. It seems you have lost quite a bit of weight

over the past few years. What do you attribute to the weight loss?

AS: Well, yes. As a result of being overweight I developed diabetes. I had to think about my children, my life in general. I started to eat healthy and do different things to help me for health reasons, but not because I was worried about what people thought about me. I wanted to see my children grow. I absolutely did change my diet. The one major contributing factor was that I was able to come off of prednisone which was making me gain weight constantly. While you are on that medication you’re not allowed to exercise. So of course you are going to get bigger. I didn’t have the option to get a trainer or any of that, because it was only going to make me bigger [muscularly]. Once God released me from the medication, the weight naturally started to come down. But I had to do some extra stuff myself because that weight wasn’t going to just fall off. I had to make some changes on my own. One of the changes I made was started drinking pure alkaline water, which is water that cleanses your blood stream and takes all of the toxins out of your body. I’ve been drinking that for years, and as a result it helps me to clean my body out on a regular. A lot of us eat, eat, eat, and sometimes we don’t think about using laxatives or anything we need to keep us out of harm’s way. And when I say harm’s way look around you, there are so many things that are causing disease and destruction to our bodies. I had to make a necessary change for myself as well. I’m down to a nice comfortable 14 and I’ve been all the way up to a 22, so to come down to a 14 is a blessing to me. BN: I will ask your opinion of this: there is much argument about what is considered plus size in the plus community. Do you still consider yourself a plus size woman now?

** continued next page ** Belle-Noir Magazine | 31

Spotlight| Angie Stone ** continued from previous page ** you see is , in my opinion, what they [the label] want the world to get. You see “beauty”, you see sex appeal. You begin to listen to the music from a perspective of what you see. I think a lot of great music gets tossed to the side because people are not comfortable seeing the norm. There’s a lot of people that are more open to Angie Stone’s image, than there is to –I won’t call any names because I will get in trouble for doing that—but you know who the who’s who are—all these famous beautiful people, so to speak, that are categorized as better than. And the reality of it is, you know, the proof is in the pudding. I don’t have to say any names. I think people get it. If you look great, we accept you, if you don’t we reject you. BN: So, who does Angie Stone listen to? When you’re riding in your car, whose CD is in the deck? Who’s in your iPod?

BN: Let’s talk a little bit about the music industry. I recently read an article in the UK magazine Blues & Soul where you spoke about your time at J Records and your current relationship with Stax records, specifically when it comes to their selection of other artists that they sign with similar sounds to yours, and those who encompass today’s R&B sound. What grade would you give the state of R&B today if you had to give it a letter grade?

AS: If I had to give it a letter grade, I would say it would be close to a X or a Z (laughs). I think it’s in bad shape. I think it is suffering majorly because a lot of what we cherish as heartfelt music has now been boiled down to eye candy. A lot of the ear candy is insignificant. What I mean is, people are not just listening to music anymore unless it has a picture to go along with it. Image has always been something that has been, in my opinion, catastrophic to music. What

AS: I love a lot of the old school stuff. As far as the new school people, I love Fantasia, I love T-Pain. I love T.I. I love Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, a lot of the people who paved the way for us—Charlie Wilson--you know all of these people who have paid some dues. BN: The theme for our debut digital issue is “Love Your Body” and we have asked everyone that we have interviewed, what do you love about your body. So Miss Stone, what do you love about your body?

AS: I love the fact that my skin is smooth, I have the graciousness of being black, and you know black don’t crack. [laughs] I also love that it’s not a high maintenance body, you know? I drink a lot of water, and my body appreciates that. For all the women who really love themselves? The key is water! BN: What advice would you give a young woman that wants to get into the music industry today, but she might be scared to go to that audition she hears about. She might be scared to try out for that talent

show because she feels insecure about her weight, or in the past she has been told, “oh you’re too fat” or “you don’t have the look”. What would you say to her?

AS: First off, I would say to you and the public that you can’t blame them for being scared, because they already recognize that there is a strike against them for having excess weight. There’s a strike against them for not being Barbie doll style beauty. They are already intimidated by what the media and industry has placed in our minds and thoughts. However, there are still breakthrough moments, and I thank God that He is in charge. Like the movie Precious—no one thought that this young woman [Gabourey Sidibe] would become a superstar. There was a time when Jennifer Hudson was on American Idol—no one thought she would be a super star. But it turned out that God had ordained for their lives to be successful. He does these things to poke us, and wake us up and let us know that he is

in charge and we just have to put forth the strength and the faith and the gift he has given us and allow him to work for us through faith. I think a lot of times we hinder ourselves when we don’t go for the gusto. Jennifer Hudson refused to be a failure after Idol. She went for the role for DreamGirls, and she went in hungry, and as a result, she landed the role. She fought, she prayed, she didn’t give up. One of the things you have to do is trust God, and trust the gift He has given us. I’ve been in this business for over 30 years, and if I had given up based on what people thought I should be doing, I wouldn’t be where I am today and a lot of people might not think that is very far, but I can name quite a few people who would love to walk a mile in my shoes. I have seen things a lot of people have never seen before and if I never see another day, I can honestly say that I’ve seen the world from an angle that most people have not, so I’m grateful for that. Angie Stone’s current album, Unexpected is in stores now. For more information, visit her website at Belle-Noir Magazine | 33


Why I

My Body

Photos by Michaela Dalzell


n Saturday, August 21, 2010, twelve women came together in a photo studio in Williamsbridge, answering the call of Editor-In-Chief Ms. Aja B. to take part in an editorial entitled “Why I Love My Body!”Eight women, one message: “I Love My Body!” One fab photographer, one super stylist, two make-up artists, seven models (and ONE air conditioner seemingly on its last legs) later, the following is the result and declaration to serve as inspiration for plus size women everywhere—LOVE YOUR BODY! TODAY!

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love my body because it’s so... womanly. It’s round, curvy and oh so soft. The cherry

on top is when my 7 year old nephew lays on me and says “auntie, I love laying on you, you feel so soft”.... how adorable.” - Gabrielle Barnes

“The truth of the matter is if I don’t love my body, I don’t love myself. I’ve spent too many years trying to fit the mold of what society, entertainment or some guy deemed as aesthetically appealing. I am too big for that mold and instead of trying to squeeze into categories that don’t fit, I now realize this frame is not a replica of what I see on TV or a music video. It is a one of one, where there is an unseen certificate of authenticity etched into the small of my back! From my irregular curves to the high arches in my feet, to the golden brown complexion of my skin that my wide width expands like an umbrella in the rain! I am liv-

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ing proof that BIG is spunky, fearless and beautiful!” –Renee Jennings

“I love my body, because it defines who I am. My low cut hair says to the world I am not afraid to take a chance. The fullness of my waist, hips and thighs proves I’m not afraid of good meal. I mean sure, I could lose some pounds, but at the end of the day that wouldn’t make me happy.

I like being the bigger girl with the personality to match. My body tells the world I am full of life.” – Natasha James

“I love my body because it works for me! It moves, it stretches, it pulls, it walks, it runs (not to fast, but it still runs), it skips, it jumps, it breathes, it gets me from here to there, it’s mine and it works for me! How can I not love a body that is beautiful, healthy and strong? I love every wrinkle, every dimple, every bump, every blemish and every single roll.

My body laughs, it cries, it lives, it works! It’s me, and I love me!” – Erica Watson

“My body is one of God’s most beautiful creations! To sum it all up,the best way I can this an adventure land! I love my body because despite what mainstream society may think, in my curvy soft Supersize frame is my pride and heritage, the total representation of my lineage, my tribe. I am big, brown and beautiful. I am every

woman--living my life to the FULLest. The pun is intended!” – Lynx Garcia

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” I work in a nursing home and rehabilitation center where everyday I encounter people, due to physical or mental ailments, who are not able to care for themselves. It is very humbling and I often think about just how fragile life is. I’m thankful for

every breath and step I’m able to take in sound mind and body.”

– Tiffany Braxton Belvin Belle-Noir Magazine | 40

“I love my curvaceous body because it shows my hard work and determination. There was a point in my life when I was about 325lbs with hyper tension and on the verge of having diabetes. One day I decided I wanted to be healthy and live. I began eating right and working out on a regular basis and dropped 125lbs in 1 year. I am

living proof that hard work and determination can truly pay off.” – Jeannie Ferguson

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The Models (clockwise from left): Gabrielle Barnes, Erica Watson, Renee Jennings, Tiffany Braxton Belvin, Lynx Garcia, Jeannie Ferguson, Natasha James Photographer: Michaela Dalzell ( Stylist: Steffany Allen Make-up Artists: Judy Figueroa (Make U Beauty), Morgan Wells (Jane Doe Studios) “I Love My Body” T-Shirt Design: Jean “JNESS” Nerestant, JNESS Graphics, exclusively for Belle-Noir Magazine For more information on the ladies and exclusive behind the scenes shots, visit us on Facebook:

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Jeannie Ferguson |

by Danielle Young

The Plus Side of Fashion Photographer Jason Thomas for Manik Magazine March 2010

“Most of the girls don’t look like me. I think I’m pretty unique in so many ways.” -Jeannie Ferguson Her silhouette has curves that could make the famed winding road of Lombard Street in San Francisco jealous. Her walk-completely untrained, but all her—is confident, feminine and demanding of a standing ovation, which is exactly what Jeannie Ferguson received the day her modeling career started. “I’d never walked a runway. I was there to assist my sister,” Jeannie humbly admits. Jeannie’s sister, Tasha Hill, is the cofounder of Big Girls United clothing line (BGU). With her degree in Fashion Merchandising and Management, Jeannie’s always had a passion for fashion, “but modeling-never in a million years.” Jeannie still didn’t consider herself a model, even after her show stopping debut. To each and every request for her to walk in a show, Jeannie would say no. Her “aha” moment happened at her first photo shoot for a Bald and Beautiful coffee table book. From there, Executive Producer Gwen DeVoe invited her to be a Dangerous Curves Tour Model. “She had a spectrum from tall and curvy to very curvaceous on a smaller scale-different types, ethnicities, everything. She told me I gave her everything she wanted in a model. She never paid attention to the fact that I was 5’3.” Yes, you read that right! Jeannie Ferguson is only 5’3! She’s a part of a really small niche--petite plus. “Going out on tour, we’ve been to D.C. a few times, Virginia, we’ve done a lot of different things. Everyone is always like, ‘You’re that little one!’” [laughs] **continued next page ** Belle-Noir Magazine | 45

Jeannie Ferguson |

by Danielle Young

The Plus Side of Fashion It’s the kind of determination that propels talent to the forefront. Jeannie’s knack for modeling was organic, instilled in her before she even knew she wanted to model. There was no way she was going to let a few no’s pull her away from her path. “If you constantly let anything get in the way of you getting there, you’ll never get there. You know how people say you block your blessings, you deserve them. That’s what you do. If you know you deserve it, you go get it,” Jeannie proclaims. As the yes’s started flowing, Jeannie’s life was laced with amazing opportunities.

**continued from previous page **

“I got to do Rip the Runway--four years out of the five. I’ve been blessed. I’ve done Glamour Magazine, People Magazine, Tyra, E! News, The BTE TV, I’ve recently done MTV with Gabi Gregg--MTV’s new TJ, Plus Model Magazine, Manik Magazine, Mike Epps “I Love Big Girls” video, recently did a music video with Brasco and Jay’s “So Fresh”--it was a brief cameo. I got good feedback from it. People wanted to see more of me in it. I’ve gotten to do a lot of different things! Not to mention Full-Figured Fashion Week--which is growing at an alarming rate around the U.S. I’ve been blessed to do it last year and this year. They’re doing L.A. and Chicago--I hope I get to do those as well!” Jeannie’s accolades are a-plenty and it’s because she knows hard work is what’s going to fuel her towards her future--which is as bright as her aura.

Every goal comes with setbacks. “Most of the time when I first started, I was always told no. Was I going to sit there and let it overwhelm me or was I going to do something. I thought up a game plan,” Jeannie recalls of her road to stardom. So began her weight loss journey. “Maybe, if I can come down a little bit more, it will balance out me being so short. No, it’s not going to make me look taller. No matter how much yoga I do, I’m not going to grow. I came down a little bit. I just constantly worked on my walk. The next casting, I was going to be there. Somebody was going to see me.” Jeannie’s determination to get fit was a testament to her commitment to plus model success.

Jeannie’s not 100% a good girl. Don’t get me wrong-she’s absolutely fabulous, but this beauty’s got sass. Nothing tickles her pinker than running into an exfling. Why was he a fling? Well, mostly, he was a secret chubby chaser. “There’s guys that really like you, but don’t want to be seen with you in person. They think you’re beautiful; they like taking you to their house to feed you and love you up until no end, but don’t walk around the streets with you. I’ve had two secret chubby chasers at a size 24. It was ok to be the big girl and be with this fine dude. It only took two dates to realize he didn’t take me out in the streets, I’d only come over at night,” Jeannie’s had her expe

ences with secret chubby chasers. She’s also experienced her victory. ” The best thing is, seeing these bastards now, walking down the street on my way out, all dolled up in the tightest clothes, highest heels, face beat. He looks and does a double take--can’t stop staring. I look down on my nose at him and go, ‘How are you?’ Priceless! Love it!” I told you this diva had sass! She’s doesn’t mind making people eat their hearts out because she represents a group of us--who are confident in who we are, no matter what size we are. Jeannie stresses self love. “Nobody is going to love you or treat you better than you. You have to know how to love you for what you are and who you are.” Jeannie studies herself. She tells me over and over again, that there are things about your own body that you appreciate and even love that you have. “Getting in the shower, I have mirrors all over the place. I have to look at myself when I get dressed. It’s something about you that you actually like. You may have a big butt, but your sides aren’t bad. You have those big old legs, but they’re smooth. A lot of women don’t pay attention to that. something about you that your friends secretly envy, believe it or not,” It’s like Jeannie’s an advocate for self-esteem. She’s clearly got a love for herself that goes past her now size 14 frame. Jeannie used to be a size 28. “I was 325 pounds. I am a work in progress and it’s a lot of work,” When Jeannie was at her largest, she still loved herself. It wasn’t a self loathing that made her want to get fit. It was self love that changed her life. “I got to a point when I asked myself, ‘When are you going to take care of you? You’ve been taking care of everyone else for so long. When are you going to do for you?’ Each day that I made that step, when it was time to cook dinner, go to lunch and I wouldn’t get that big sandwich or the McDonald’s, I’d have a salad,” Jeannie recalls of completely altering her eating habits. All, the while, things were at a standstill with BGU. Jeannie’s sister, Tasha gave up because she felt she didn’t have the time or ideas to keep up the line. It was Jeannie’s appearance on Tyra that made her want a new dress and who better to go to for it than her designer sister? “I told her I would get the color and work on the [idea of the] dress and she needed to just make it--it was the Neffe Dress. It was a teal . I don’t know what made me think of this dress.” I know Jeannie is glad she got her sister to create the dress of her dream because it was the dressed that rejuvenated Tasha’s dream of BGU. The Neffe dress was in

high demand. “A friend --a designer from Brooklyn calls me and says they need Tasha to make something and have it done right now. They wanted her to be in Brooklyn Fashion Week.” That same friend called back with better news--Tasha had a full segment in the show and was asked to make 12-15 pieces. “Within two days, we came up with the entire line--2008/2009. The Neffie dress was created. The Nia dress was created and from there, we built the website, started the photo shoots and started all over again. She’s happy, comfortable and we have a lot more stability on what we’re doing.” Since fashion is Jeannie’s first love, it was such an amazing thing that their Brooklyn Fashion Week appearance was so successful. “We’re working the way we’re supposed to and I thank God for that because we got the only standing ovation at Brooklyn Fashion Week and we were the only plus size line in the show. It was an excellent move.” Jeannie doesn’t take any of this lightly, in fact, she remembers words that her idol, Sharon Quinn told her at the start of her journey. “Your time is going to come. When it comes, you’ve got to tell me if you’re going to be ready for it,” Jeannie recalls of Sharon’s words to give her patience. “When I’m told something, I have to pay attention. They say you have to be prepared and ready, you do it. If you can’t make it, do it, or don’t see it happening, you find a way. If you exhaust all your options, say this is what I can do riand how I will do it. Is it possible? You find a way!” Jeannie advises. Dreams never come true without the footwork and Jeannie stepped boldly. She continues to stepping into her brilliant future. Jeannie wants to be the spokes model for petite plus. “I’d love to do seminars, speak to women and promote good health.” Jeannie proudly admits, knowing she’s come such a long way and can inspire women just like her to invite self worth into their lives. “To be chosen to be a part of this, I just do it. I learn how to humble myself, be respectful to others and always keep a professional attitude no matter where I am.” Jeannie’s smile stretches across her face I can tell that she’s got confidence and pride--the type of qualities that are priceless and only rooted in people that have learned to first love themselves. Danielle Young is a freelance writer currently residing in New York City. Follow her Frugal Fashionista exploits at http:// Belle-Noir Magazine | 47


Wise | Golda Poretsky Big Fat Body Love

About ten years ago, before the fat-o-sphere, before I had ever heard of size acceptance and couldn’t conceive of organizations like NAAFA or NOLOSE, I fell into a pit of body-based despair. It had gotten so bad that I literally couldn’t look in the mirror. I was working really long days at a law firm, feeling the summer slip away as I headed into my last year of law school. I was miserable, working too much, hating my body that couldn’t conform to my tight-waisted business suits. One night I left the office early enough to see my acupuncturist, and as he pinged needles into my body, something just broke in me. I was able to confide in him what was really going on with me, and he suggested I start working with affirmations. Affirmations sounded so ridiculous to me at the time, but I felt desperate so I tried it. (As a life-long dieter, trying things out of desperation was kind of my M.O.) Within a week, I could look in the mirror. Within a month I was feeling so good, I even went to donate blood and found that my blood pressure was lower than ever (a good thing, in my case). I felt good and foxy and sexy. I didn’t mind being the fattest person at yoga, or in class, or at work anymore. Though I never reached those depths of body hatred despair again, I did lose my way once again a few years ago. Luckily, this time, the fat acceptance movement sort of saved me. Yet, as much as fat acceptance and body acceptance has deep meaning for me, when I finally accepted fat acceptance, I realized

that fat acceptance just wasn’t enough. I don’t want people to accept me, I want them to love me. I don’t want to accept my body, I want to love it. I don’t want to accept who I am, I want to love, cherish, adore, and thrill at the thought of who I am. And I don’t want anyone to accept you, I want them to love and cherish and adore and thrill at the thought of you. And I want you to do that for yourself as well. In my practice, Body Love Wellness, I counsel people of all shapes and sizes to love their bodies and heal their relationships with food. What I see, again and again, is that self-love, big, beautiful, radical self love, is an incredibly unselfish endeavor. The bigger your love for yourself gets, the bigger your worldview gets. When you love yourself, you feel abundant, full of hopes and dreams that wouldn’t dare not come true. You cannot help but share your gifts and talent and love with the world. With self love I know that I will always be able to look in the mirror, whereas acceptance feels a little to tenuous. In other words, acceptance just isn’t acceptable to me anymore. It’s way too small a word for the big fat necessity of big fat self love. For more information on Golda, visit her website at www.

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40+ Diva | Toianna Wika When we are honest with ourselves, how many of us secretly envy women who boldly let the world know who they are rather than allowing others to define them? How many of us daydream about transforming magically into one of these women, who appears comfortable in her own skin, seems to know who she is, and is not apologetic for going after what she wants? When we encounter these women in person or in magazines, we need to ask ourselves whether we are more inspired and motivated by them, or do we feel threatened and annoyed? While “diva” formally and historically describes opera stars, actresses, and musicians, who strut like peacocks, carry themselves with the air of royalty, have notorious reputations for being rude, demanding, and difficult to please, the truth is that true divas are simply women who project and exude tremendous self confidence, attitude, sass, and style. They are oftentimes daring and take chances. Think Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, Janet Jackson, Oprah, Tyra Banks, Jennifer Lopez, and up and coming Zoe Zaldana. All of these women have figured out how to package their best qualities and sell themselves to the world.

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According to MeChelle,, the true meaning of “DIVA” is “Divinely, Inspired, Victorious, and Anointed Sister.” Given this definition, all of us ought to be aspiring divas. And in reality, the title and benefits are open to all of us. All of us can and ought to be comfortable with ourselves and proud of whom we are, know what we want, have the courage to pursue our dreams. Sometimes we think that younger women have the natural advantage, while, in fact, they are struggling to prove themselves. “40 + Diva” is going to be about taking a look at how we see ourselves, our comfort in our own skin, and any blocks or obstacles coming between us and where we stand with self confidence, what we project to others, how we define attractive, and attracting what and whom we want. We will launch with what older women bring to the table. Older women have the advantage of life experience and the wisdom that results.

“Learning From Others and Choosing Who We Learn From”

The only way to know which direction we want to go is to know also where we are coming from and where we are. Otherwise we have no perspective, no means for comparison.

All 40+ divas have the advantage of life experience, although some have gleaned more wisdom than others, by ensuring that their tough times strengthened them rather than tore them down.

Once we can map out who we are and which direction to go, we can identify specific objectives to realize our potential and develop our “inner diva.”

Those who are more empowered and wiser are usually the ladies who take calculated risks, step outside of their comfort zones, stretch themselves, and thereby, grow. How do we transform into one of the women who is in charge of her life and destiny? Oftentimes, the extent to which we are willing to grow can be measured by our willingness to associate with women who command attention and attract success.

I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Please tell me your thoughts and feelings about divas you know, what the term means to you, and why you would or would not want to become a diva. We will publish as many of your opinions as possible. Also, my intent is to feature a 40+ diva’s story in every issue, both a brief piece by the diva herself about how she embraces her “inner diva” and her photo. Please write to me and tell me about your inner diva. Write me at

A first step is accepting that the familiar adage that we need to associate with those who are where we want to be or who have what we want. This challenge in itself can be daunting to many of us and serves as practice in having the guts to carry the title of diva. Those of us who are intimidated or feel threatened by successful women have internal work to do in terms of getting to know who we are and making peace with ourselves, discovering our strengths, and accepting our limitations. And we start by accepting ourselves for where we are, rather than beating ourselves up mercilessly for where we want to be. This too is simple, but not necessarily easy.

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Candidly Speaking | Renee Jennings Our EIC kicked off your perusal of the new digital issue of Belle-Noir Magazine with a letter that talked about growing up. As I debated what to write for my newly acquired column, I started to think about my own personal growth and that of the people around me. Have you ever noticed that if you leave a town or city and move somewhere else, you can always come home to find certain people doing some of the same unproductive things they were doing five, ten, twenty and even thirty years ago? Perhaps, you have witnessed this in the neighborhood in which you currently live. Yes, some people never grow up. They hang on to the notion that if they “look” the part, that will cut it in life without backing the look with hard work as their foundation. Yet if we dig deeper, they’re credit scores are shameful and that guy or girl that he or she should have gotten rid of three years ago is still making late night appearances for temporary satisfaction. If we look around in our circle of friends and even associates, they too suffer from some of the same issues leaving them still trying to find a way to feel FULL. My grandmother used to say, “You are the company you keep.” If you want to tap into personal Belle-Noir Magazine | 52

growth, you may have to eliminate those who are actually stifling you subconsciously. Oh baby, I know she has been your friend for ten years but how many of those years did she spend laughing at you and not with you? We are conditioned to want to hold on to relationships because of the duration in which we have been in them. Yet, what good is the duration if the relationship does not allow both parties to grow? If you are not growing, you are dead! You contribute NOTHING to your current circumstance and that is not good for you or the other person. Gandhi once said so eloquently, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Truer words have never been spoken and sometimes we can’t BE that person if we are still associating with people who aren’t aspiring to be anything at all. Sometimes you have to love folks from a distance. It doesn’t mean you love them any less it simply means that in order for you to progress you can’t hold on to relationships going no where fast. Example: If you tell your friend you want to be a barber and he laughs at your dreams, how can you honestly be in this damaging friendship? It’s a difference between weighing pros and cons verses being critical and cruel. Life is not a picture perfect journey. It has blemishes, red eyes and uncomfortable moments that are a direct reflection of us. Yet, if we can take the time to see the bigger picture, rearrange the setting and focus, we create the perfect image inward, which is a bigger reflection outward! Renee D. Jennings is the founder of R. Media Group, a boutique PR firm in Brooklyn, NY. Check her out on Facebook at: or email her at


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Profile for Aja Stubbs

Belle-Noir Magazine  

Belle-Noir Magazine is the lifestyle magazine created with the Plus Size Woman of Color in mind and at heart. We provide everything that a p...

Belle-Noir Magazine  

Belle-Noir Magazine is the lifestyle magazine created with the Plus Size Woman of Color in mind and at heart. We provide everything that a p...