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MAY 2015

Swimsuit Edition

She Shows

Chic Styles by the


Q&A with



AJ CRIMSON The Makeup of Makeup Artists


Confidence Captured

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Models: Mackenzie Barnes and Leslee Barnes Photog: Kori Spencer of Irok images Makeup: Asha Boulanger of Rosy Cheeks

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Models: Leslee Barnes and Mackenzie Barnes Photog: Kori Spencer of Irok images Makeup: Asha Boulanger of Rosy Cheeks

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Model: Tamara Dennyse Photog: Aniket Raj Photography MUA: AJ Crimson Hair: Tanesha Townsend Texas

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» A Message from the Publisher

It’s officially “swimsuit season!” At the beginning of every year, we make resolutions. We’re going to eat less and exercise more to get our bodies swimsuit-ready. For those of you that kept your resolution, great work! As for the rest of us, the gloom and cold of the winter months psyched us into believing that we had more time. Stop! Before you hop on the bandwagon of the latest fad diet, did you ever stop to think that you already have a “beach body?” Sure, we all have areas that we’d like to improve, but the insecurity of showing our figures shouldn’t stop us from enjoying life. Summer only lasts for a few short months. Let’s make the most of it! The right swimwear may actually boost your confidence. Do you want to feel cute, flirty, or sexy? You decide! There is a swimsuit that is right for you. Choose swimwear that will accentuate your assets and diminish your trouble areas. There are beautiful sarongs and cover-ups available in plus-sizes too. Accessorize with a great pair of sunnies and an over-sized tote and you’re ready to hit the beach or lounge by the pool. Have a happy summer!

Publisher/Model P.S. - Please share CCM with a friend today, and ask them to subscribe! It’s free!

Grow With Us! LIKE | SUBSCRIBE | FRIEND | FOLLOW u u Twitter and Instagram @tamaradennyse u Facebook and Instagram @curvyconnect u Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Google+ @curvyconnectmag

Thank you for all of your continued support throughout this thing called life. You have been there for me and Blake and we love you unconditionally. So proud to call you mom. Thank you for everything.

Happy Mother’s Day. Love, Denny

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p39 Models: Mackenzie Barnes and Leslee Barnes Photog: Kori Spencer of Irok images Makeup: Asha Boulanger of Rosy Cheeks

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Editor’s Pick Shooting for Confidence Memorable Money Moments Look on the Bright Side Motherly Advice Q&A with Gwen DeVoe Beauty² 6 Lessons from “Real Women Have Curves” Confidence Captured AJ Crimson She Shows Chic Styles by the Seashore

12 18 24 29 32 34 39 48 55 62 66


Tamara Dennyse Editor-in-Chief/Staff Writer

Jennifer Amoako Creative Director Contributing Editor/Photographer

Daniel Wilson Fashion Editor

Regina Hatcher Beauty & Lifestyle Writer

Abraham Joshua Prieto Contributing Writers

Chica Rosita Latisha, the Frugalicious Diva Lexi Placourakis Robert Skuja Timothy McVain

Cover Models: Mackenzie Barnes and Leslee Barnes Photog: Kori Spencer of Irok images Makeup: Asha Boulanger of Rosy Cheeks


p34 We Want Photo Credit - Dorothy Shi



Are your positive, upbeat, and love all things CURVY? Awesome... Join the team. Curvy Connect Magazine is seeking motivated individuals from all over. Become a Curvy Connect Ambassador! Submit your contact information and 1-2 paragraphs on why you want to be on our team. Visit for more information.

Curvy Connect Mag P.O. Box 112 Alief, TX 77411-112 832-819-4CCM (4226) © Copyright 2015 Curvy Connect Inc. Material may not be reproduced in whole or in part, in any form without prior written permission.

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» A Message from the Editor

Aaahhh… We can all breathe a sigh of relief. We survived the frigid winter! April showers have brought May flowers, and summer is just around the corner. Now that we’re all out of hibernation, it’s time to shed the winter layers and show a little (or a lot) of skin! It’s “Swimsuit” season! There are more plus-size swimwear options that ever before! We have the tried and true brands such as Always for Me and swimsuitsforall, as well as mainstream retailers like Lane Bryant and Torrid offering styles to compliment all body types. The designer offerings are plentiful this year too. Have you seen the collections from Monif C and Rue 107? SMOKING HOT!!! If you wear size 24 or above, there are lots for us to choose from too. I love my new two-piece from Avenue! Jessica London and Hips & Curves also carry trendy and sexy pieces in extended plus-sizes. If you do a little research, you’re sure to find something that flatters your figure. Remember that song with the lyrics, “…she get it from her mama?” We’re celebrating Mother’s Day with a gorgeous mother-daughter duo on the cover! Clearly beauty and curves run in the family! Often words of wisdom and sound advice gets passed down from our mothers too. Latisha, the Frugalicious Diva is sharing what her mom taught her about money in this edition. Look for more budget-friendly posts from Latisha on the Curvy Connect Mag website in the coming weeks. We’re really ramping up the website and looking forward to bringing you the latest news, trends, and issues in the curvy community. We’ll showcase more fashion and beauty bloggers with spotlights and collaborations. And we’ll give you our two cents with “Curvy Critiques” and reviews. Follow us as we travel and cover events. And of course you will always get a healthy dose of inspiration. Subscribe to the magazine and follow us on social media. We invite you to GROW WITH US! Tell your friends and family too! Have a wonderful summer!

Editor-in-Chief MUA: LoveFaces by Nikki Background photo: Boergeus Makeup provided by: AJ Crimson Beauty Hair: Tanesha Townsend

Grow With Us! LIKE | SUBSCRIBE | FRIEND | FOLLOW u Jennifer on u Facebook and Instagram @curvyconnect u Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Google+ @curvyconnectmag

I appreciate that you led by example and nurtured me into the woman I have become. Thank you for your unconditional love, constant support and many prayers. You are a true blessing and I’m so happy that you’re my mother and my friend.

Happy Mother’s Day. Love, Jenny

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Model: Alysse Dalessandro Ready to Stare Ohio

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Total Time: 10 minutes Serving Size: 1/2 gallon


1 cup sliced strawberries 1 cup sliced cucumbers 2 limes, sliced 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves Ice cubes Water

Instructions: In a half-gallon jar, or a 2 quart pitcher, layer the strawberries, cucumbers, lime slices, and mint leaves with the ice cubes. Fill jar or pitcher with water. Let chill for 10 minutes, and then enjoy! Source: strawberry-lime-cucumber-and-mint-water/

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In this edition of Curvy Connect Magazine, I’d like to introduce you to AJ Crimson. You’ll learn about his rise to becoming a sought-after Makeup Artist with celebrity clientele all over the world and how he is building an empire with a line of luxury cosmetics and an entertainment management company. Recently I and a small group of CCM friends spent an intimate evening with AJ. We were amongst the first to try his new S+M (Sultry+Matte) lipstick collection. With tantalizing names such as Pillow Talk, No Explanation, and Role Play, which I’m wearing, the alluring colors were a major hit! Of course the collection wouldn’t be complete without AJ’s signature color Crimson Rose modeled by Tamara Dennyse. AJ also has created a Dual Crème Foundation which is to die for! It provides great coverage, yet it feels as if you’re wearing nothing at all. It is available in an array of eight shades from the fairest porcelain skin to the deepest brown complexion. I am wearing #3. Complimentary Highlight+Contour Duos will be available soon and I can’t wait!

Model Tamara Dennyse & AJ Crimson

Keep reading for more about AJ Crimson, our evening with him, and the one-on-one interview! (p.62) Entrepreneur, Entertainment Mogul, Makeup Artist and Beauty & Lifestyle Expert, most trusted names in the industry and a leading authority in his field. Equally noted for his savvy business sense and charisma, AJ is the CEO of BLACKBOARDGROUP Management, overseeing the careers of some of today’s hottest talent within television, film, and the worlds of health and beauty (wardrobe stylists, makeup artists, hair stylists, etc.). He is also the creator of AJ Crimson Beauty, a range of luxury cos-

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EDITOR’S AJ fell in love with giving women the tools and permission to fall in love with themselves again, helping them find their true beauty both outwardly and from within.

Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Amoako & AJ Crimson MUA: LoveFaces By Nikki Photog: Timothy McVain

metics. AJ’s established reputation as an innovative beauty solutionist has made him and his products first choice for artists and celebrities including Fergie of The Black Eyed Peas, Estelle, Amerie, Letoya Luckett, Keyshia Cole, Brandy, Missy Elliot, Christina Milian, Raven-Symone, and more. AJ’s strong commitment to succeed and willingness to learn have been key instruments in paving the way for his success. Self-taught as a makeup artist, AJ fell in love with giving women the tools and permission to fall in love with themselves again, helping them find their true beauty both outwardly and from within. Through those experiences, AJ learned several invaluable lessons, and built his brand on the concept of, “It’s not about restructuring your face, but enhancing what you already have.” Setting out on his own to enhance the lives of women on a broader scale, he ventured into the world of entrepreneurship and never looked back. A decade later, AJ’s work has been featured in fashion, beauty, and music magazines worldwide including Vogue, Glamour, Marie Claire, InStyle, Esquire, LA Confidential, Essence, Vibe Magazine, and leading Japanese entertainment magazines Blenda and Luire. He has also had the opportunity to work alongside some of the best in the business including Pat McGrath for Paris Fashion Week and was delighted to have a hand in creating cutting edge beauty under the masterful instruction and eyes of makeup impresarios Joann Gair and Mathu Anderson. Excerpt from

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www .curv





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ion # FVIFW 2


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Model: Kim Tezeno Photog: William Harris Photography MUA: Jennifer Aronson Makeup Texas

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Model: Ana Laura Photog: Stanley Debas New York

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Model: Kassha LaQueene Photog: Kendra Pipkin Texas Curvy Connect Mag :: May 2015 Swimsuit Edition :: 17

By Lexi Placourakis

All sizes, shapes and colors are welcomed because confidence is an issue for EVERY woman.

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I have been a plus size model for about 6 years now, represented by agencies all over the country! More importantly, I have been an advocate for body confidence mostly through my Facebook Fan page which has over 200,000 followers whom are all organic (meaning none are paid for). Recently with the new buzz surrounding the Plus Size industry, I thought it would be cool to hold a contest on my page asking my followers to submit photos for a chance to shoot with me in my campaign called, “Shooting for Confidence.” I got over 400 submissions from all over the world as far as Switzerland! But I chose all four girls from Arizona (the state where I am currently located) and we shot a few weeks ago. We had an amazing team! Sorella Swim, a personal client of mine provided the suits, Brad Olson shot, and Pearl Espinoza did our hair and make-up! With beauties such as Robin Lawley, Ashley Graham, and Denise Bidot (just to name a few) breaking barriers, I thought it would be a great time to have my own voice and use the small platform that I have toward preaching body confidence! The first day I posted the picture on my page, it had over 100 shares within an hour! It has hit over 50,000 screens in an hour and I am loving the positive response! Since the original post it’s up to about 1000 shares hitting over 200,000 screens as well as about 10,000 plus likes! I plan to take the campaign to different states based on the feedback and response to this first shot! It turned into such an awesome message that I decided to start an Instagram page called @shooting.for.confidence which consists of posts from women all over the world that submit their idea of confidence to me! All sizes, shapes and colors are welcomed because confidence is an issue for EVERY woman. Learn more about Lexi at

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Model: Sabrina Servance Photog: Alexandra Arielle New York

Big Women: Big Love

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Model: Latoyia Photog: Evens Photography Louisiana

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Model: Tracy Feagiai-McNeal Photog: Honeysuckle Studios Washington State

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By Latisha, The Frugalicious Diva

Hey there Curvy Chicks!! Frugalicious Diva here and I am so excited to share some of my Mother’s Money Wisdom with you. This month, we can honor Mom by reassuring her that, even though it didn’t always look like it, we were listening when she spoke. As a mother, I remember how fulfilling it was to hear my daughter come back to me and say, “Mom, you were right.” It’s only befitting that Frugalicious Diva would honor her mother with Money Talk. Have you been given maternal advice about money matters? I have I’m eternally grateful that she’s

shared these nuggets with me. Sometimes she said it out loud, and sometimes it was subtle, but here’s what she said…

Simple words; they taught me to be an independent woman who will complement my man, instead of being a burden to him. While it is traditionally a man’s job to provide, we have to be realistic in the times in which we live. Before my parents met, Mommy was making her own money; she set the example. She reminded me I didn’t have to wait for a husband to get a degree, travel the world, build a business or buy a home. She taught me that a mate

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would come on the way to me being the best me. So, by the power vested in me by my Mom, I give you permission to go for your dreams and goals NOW whether the right one is nowhere in sight, here right now or on the way. Relationships aren’t promised, but what you make of your life will be your legacy.

This was a “silent tip” Mom shared. Though Dad was more vocal about this, Mom was much more diligent. She’s the type who would pay all her bills, then sit tight for the rest of

the month…or so I thought. In truth, she always had extra “surprises” whenever needed. For Christmas, she gave the best gifts; it was always what we wanted!! She’s why I believe in keeping an account for myself. Some couples think joint accounts are the only way to go, but in my parents’ house, the opposite worked just fine. Even now, my parents split bills and have separate accounts. If you have different money management styles, you can’t put ALL your eggs in one basket because one day, you might find an empty nest. When you have control of your own account, you can allow for “mad money” that can be used on anything you choose.

Mom paid her bills in full, but she was and still is very much a planner. She takes inventory and sets funds aside to enjoy things she wants. Now that she’s older, I help her write checks to pay her bills. She faithfully writes one to her credit union monthly, to ensure there’s “fun money” available during the year. Though I still haven’t mastered this, I know I’ll get to her level one day. I’m certain her way of thinking explains why we went on vacation every summer and never missed a family reunion.

Mom didn’t know about the stock

market, but she knew how to ask questions and invest in the future. She networked and found I had the grades to qualify for a full ride program to college. That meant NO STUDENT LOAN DEBT for me. She saw the opportunity and seized it; a trait that I’m glad I inherited. Based on Mom’s actions, I suggest you look for money opportunities. One way is to take advantage of the 401k (or 403b for non-profits) program if it’s offered at your job, and let your employer match it. Whatever the match, pay the max. It’s free money!! Retirement planning is an important reason to save because it keeps you from being a burden to family when you age.

agreed that bills are always going to be there, but everyone doesn’t always get the opportunity to go on vacation. When you can, take one. You may have to plan a little differently, but you only have one life to live. Saving money is great. Having money is wonderful. Seeing your money grow is awesome!! However, all the hard work we put into minding our financial business means nothing if we never take the time to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Mom says, “do the work, but also do the play!! Just a little extra planning gives you the freedom to take that trip you’ve always wanted; purchase a piece of artwork; and cross off items on your bucket list. Enjoy your ONE life because it’s the only one you’re going to get!!

Also, set up a 529 account for your future college kids. Everyone won’t get scholarship money, but if you plan, you don’t have to struggle to My bonus is another silent tip. send your children to college either. 529 accounts allow others to contribute, so instead of asking for gifts at holidays and birthdays, have them instead add to the child’s college My mother is so generous. She gives fund. It’s an investment from which frequently, whether asked or not. If she many will benefit for years to come. thinks there’s a need, she’s extending a hand. No matter what’s going on in our lives, there’s always room to give. It doesn’t have to be money, but time and donations work the same. I recently had an extended famI’m convinced our lives are blessed beily discussion about bills vs. vacacause of the seed she’s always sowing. tion. One commented that people Because of her, I’m a giver too. shouldn’t go on vacation if having So, that’s what my Mom says. What car issues (even though they’re not does your Mom say about money? taking said car). They were supBe sure to tell us at Curvy Connect posedly speaking to a matter of Magazine! Follow us www.curvyconpriorities, but…Mommy and I both

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Model: Tamara Channel Photog: AP at MUA: Jo-Anna at FernormFaces Stylist:Tina at Texas

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Model: Sheila Lopez Photog: Dulce Arreola Stylist: Leslie Delgado Texas

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Look on the Bright Side Reasons to Rock your Sunnies!

Lenses that absorb/block UV offer strong defense against eye and eyelid damage. It’s best to wear sunglasses year-round in the sun.13 UVA light can damage the eyes and the skin around them throughout the year. Even on overcast days, UV can penetrate through clouds and haze. Check if the glasses meet ANSI and/or ISO standards for traffic signal recognition, meaning they permit good color recognition. Sunglass lenses come in many shades, with neutral gray, green, or brown usually offering the most comfortable vision. Choose the color that works best for you. Before purchasing sunglasses, check tags, labels, or packaging to make sure the lenses provide proper UV protection. For extra assurance, look for The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation. For proper protection, sunglasses should offer the following:

1 n

The ability to absorb and block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB light. Ideally, they should also guard against HEV light.

2 n

Sufficient size to shield the eyes, eyelids, and surrounding areas. The more skin covered, the better. Wraparound styles with a comfortable, close fit and UVprotective side shields are ideal.

3 n 4 n

Durability and impact resistance.

Polarized lenses to eliminate glare, especially when driving, but also out in the snow or on the water, where reflection greatly magnifies glare. Continuing glare can cause fatigue, headaches, and even migraines.

Source: “Protect Your Eyes: Everyday Steps to Sun Safety” by Rene S. Rodriguez-Sains, MD via

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Model: Saucye West Photog: Isaac Alexander Designer: Ronita Wheatfall California

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I am truly blessed to have my mother train and guide me through each stage of my life. As she watched me step into my true stage of womanhood, the best advice she gave me was the “lightbulb” scenario. She explained to me, most (not all) females have a lightbulb. Once that lightbulb goes off, she will know what she will and won’t tolerate from anyone. That’s when you know that you have entered into womanhood. She also reminded me not all women’s lightbulb click. She is truly a girl’s best friend.

This was our last Mother’s Day together in 2007. My mom spoke in metaphors a lot. She would always say, “If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck... it’s a duck” as I child I would laugh and carry on. In reality as I became of age I realized she was merely stating when someone shows you their true character, believe them! I miss my mom and all of her good advice. Rest in Heaven MOM.... Idella “Dell” Griffin Kassha LaQueene

Shahidah Rahman My name is Latoya Dupree and I am a mother of two teenage boys ages 14 and 16. When I lost my mother in 2005, I also had the responsibility of caring for my two teenage sisters at the time (who are all grown up now with children of their own). I have since then reflected on the many life lessons she instilled in all of us. Many times I say things to my children, and when I hear myself…Wow! I sound just like my mother!

The advice I often think of that my mother instilled in all of us was, “A clown cannot perform without an audience.” Sometimes people will do or say things to you with the intent of getting a certain reaction from you. If you do not allow someone else to dictate how you react to a situation, they are like the clown without an audience to perform in front of. People are going to be who they are, and never alter who you are or what you believe in for someone else. You need to be the change you want to see in others. My Mommy (yes we all called her that) was a wise woman, and she raised all six of us as a single parent. She made sure the lessons she learned along the way she passed on to all of her children. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about and reflect back on my hero, my Mommy! A mother’s daughter, Latoya Dupree

My mother taught me many lessons over the years. It seems as though I hear her voice at some point each day. Either I am given reminders of, “What would mama do?” Or I sometimes notice it is my mother’s words and my voice. The advice that has been imprinted on my being forever is, “Be a woman on your knees, praying and constantly staying on the throne. Be married to Jesus and love Him with every fiber of your being. Never let someone make you choose between them and right.” I have lived with these principles and they have served me very well. I know that my foundation is solid and because of that, I know that I am on a path to honoring my mother’s legacy. Kind Regards, DeVonka Bratton

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Models: (Mother) Remondia Faye Atwater Photog: Kim Elliot Stylist: Fresh MaMa Georgia

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Photo Credit - Lucas Pictures

If you are a Curvy Connect Magazine reader and don’t know the WHO and WHAT associated with Full Figured Fashion Week®(FFFW), you’ve been missing out! It’s a celebration of fashion, models, and designers in the Plus Size Fashion market. For the last six years, Full Figured Fashion Week® Founder, Gwen DeVoe and staff have hosted the event in New York City. It’s the “curvy” answer to New York Fashion Week.

By Regina Hatcher

A major part of FFFW is the model castings. Each year, Ms. DeVoe and staff travel to various cities to select the most talented and diverse models to showcase. This year, Ms. Devoe, Casting Director Sharon Quinn, and staff made a visit to Houston, TX on February 7th. Curvy Connect Magazine was onsite for a behind the scenes view of the casting process. Each lady was asked to present her best runway walk for Ms. DeVoe and Ms. Quinn. Nerves were on edge, energy was high, and Ms. DeVoe felt the Houston leg of the trip was a success. Time was short, but I had a chance to interview Ms. DeVoe about her thoughts on the changes in full figured fashion, her expectations of the models, and what we could expect at FFFW this June. That interview was featured on the Curvy Connect Magazine website. I wanted to dig a little deeper into the dynamics of the FFFW process with Ms. DeVoe. She graciously obliged.

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{FEATURE} Here’s a look at that interview: How many ladies are selected to participate in FFFW each year? Of those, how many are professional/ agency-represented models? 50 curvy models are selected to walk in FFFW each year. About 40% are agency represented. Other than height, what are the most important qualities you look for when selecting models? What is the average age range of models featured in FFFW? One of the most important qualities a model should have when auditioning for FFFW is runway experience. Participating in FFFW is a highly competitive role and we look for the absolute best walkers. The only age requirement is that you are at least 18 years of age. On the other end of the spectrum, we do not discriminate against models

that are older, you just have to look fresh, be a great walker and be able to embody the spirit of the brands we showcase. Historically, the average age range for models featured in FFFW is 22-45. Does every model have to audition each year? Yes, they do. We audition each model every year because there just aren’t enough runway shows of FFFW’s caliber to keep the models working. If they don’t get to practice their walks in large shows, they won’t remain competitive enough to make the cut at our audition. We can tell who has been working/practicing at the audition. We want to book the best walkers. You stated “A willingness to work hard” is an expectation of each model. Have you ever had to fire a model after they were cast? If so, are

you able to elaborate on the circumstances? I do not recall having to fire a model after they have been cast. I actually don’t work with the models after they are cast. That is the role of Sharon Quinn, my Casting Director. Being cast in FFFW can be the launching pad for an international modeling career! What is the most important thing you want the models to take away from their experience? I would like them to understand that every production is different. It is a guaranteed fact that they will experience new things at FFFW, not necessarily better, but definitely new. They should avail themselves to everything that is presented at FFFW and take full advantage of the ability to use this new knowledge as a tool for escalating their careers. Network, network, network!

…every production is different. “If they don’t get to practice their walks in large shows, they won’t remain competitive enough to make the cut at our audition. We can tell who has been working/ practicing at the audition. We want to book the best walkers.”

Photo Credit - Plus Model Shoots for POSE Magazine

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“…we STRONGLY advise them to be inclusive of ALL shapes/sizes.”

Photo Credit - Brian Luvar Photography

We love switching up our models… There has been a debate in plus size fashion about whether designers discriminate against ladies who wear extended sizes (beyond size 18) and don’t have an hourglass figure. Your shows appear to include a variety of fullfigured shapes. Do you allow designers to participate who cater exclusively to traditional hourglass-shaped, plus-size women? We do not dictate what shapes our participating designers can use at FFFW but we STRONGLY advise them to be inclusive of ALL shapes/sizes. Speaking of designers, how do you decide who will present at FFFW?

We pride ourselves on our ability to provide a fresh showcase every year. We love switching up our models, designers and of course our unique set design and with our new partnership with Fit for Me by Fruit of the Loom, we anticipate another grand slam this year. Another thing that is very important to us is customer service. Our Hospitality Team is the best! What do you know now that you didn’t know in 2009? I now know that Full Figured Fashion Week can/has become an international sensation! Who knew?????

We look for brands that we feel will appeal to the vast majority of our guests. We also look for designs that are well made, using good fabrication and universal fit.

There you have it! Straight from the lady they call “The Mogul.” Be sure to SAVE THE DATES! FFFW is June 14-20, 2015 in New York City… the “Big Apple!” Bloggers, fans, designers, and fashion enthusiasts will be on hand for LUCKY year number seven!

This is lucky year number seven for FFFW! What are the most important elements to make the show successful each year?

Visit for the latest updates and Full Figured Fashion Week® news. The Curvy Connect Mag team will see you there in June! Photo Credit - Lucas Pictures

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Credit ::- Rick Jones Photography Curvy Connect Mag :: May 2015 SwimsuitPhoto Edition 37


Models: Leslee Barnes and Mackenzie Barnes Photog: Kori Spencer of Irok images Makeup: Asha Boulanger of Rosy Cheeks

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By Daniel Wilson

It’s one thing to have a bona fide superstar plus model in the family. But to have two generations of models in the very same family is almost unheard of. This is where Leslee Barnes and her daughter Mackenzie break just about every rule in the book. Both these ladies are gorgeous, working models in the highly competitive and ever changing plus model industry. We caught up with them recently and got them to open up on a variety of topics including the challenges and rewards of working as models. The catch is, we asked the same questions but interviewed them separately to compare their responses. What we got is a candid and eye opening look at the world of fashion from two generations of models in the same family.Â

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First up I’d like to find out what prompted you to take up modeling and how you got your start?

to them because I could see myself in them. That was one of the only places to see myself.

I started modeling when I was 14. I was actually asked by our schools career placement counselor my freshman year. So, my very first summer job was a modeling agency/school. I answered phones, did some filing, etc. in exchange for training and booking for occasional bridal shows. Nothing big, but it was enough to hook me. I had an opportunity to go to NYC but didn’t really have the support or confidence to pursue it. After I graduated, I joined the military and again was recruited to do some modeling in Germany, but military life and modeling as you would guess didn’t go hand in hand. After returning home, I was a mom and student and really thought that idea of modeling had passed, but I would still get asked to do some local gigs here and there. I really didn’t know that this plus modeling world existed to the extent that it does. It’s really amazing! I jumped back in when my daughter started. I would take her to the casting and they would assume I was there to audition as well, so I jumped back in.

My favorite show was Style with Elsa Clench. It showed the runway shows in Europe, and interviewed top designers.

What type of challenges did you face in the beginning? Even when I was much smaller, I always had a curvy figure. That was a barrier since there wasn’t much of market back then for curvy or African American models. Back then, there weren’t anything called “plus-size” models. Either you were standard size or you didn’t get booked. The other challenge was not really having a support system to give me the guidance I needed. That is really important in this industry especially when you are young to avoid unnecessary mistakes. How has the industry changed since you began? I really didn’t know much about the plus industry until I had to research it for my daughter. I was reintroduced to a very different world than what I remembered decades ago. It’s also not about being just a “hanger.” Models today are brands. They have to manage their persona. What has really changed is the access to information. Anything you really want to know you can research and get solid answer free via the internet. I’m often surprised how little aspiring models learn about what it means to be a model.

What has been your favorite modeling assignment so far and why? My favorite was my most challenging. It was the first time I wore a swimsuit on the runway for Beach Bling at 1426 Fashion Week in Houston last year. I was terrified! It is not easy to show your flaws on a regular day. When they are on display for an audience… multiply that by ten! I did it and felt good afterward and have done two other shows in swimsuit since then. How would you define your own personal style? Eclectic. I go from Bohemian Chic to Pin Up, to tailored professional looks. I love accessories. They change the feel and look of an outfit. I shop vintage as a hobby. I hunt for clothes, unique pieces and shoes are a habit I got honest from my mom- and my dad. He is a clothes horse to this day! What’s the most common mistake you see big girls make when choosing an outfit for themselves? The biggest mistake is not wearing your size or investing in alterations. I try on almost everything. I don’t care what the tag says. It should fit you well. Even if you need to go up a size- do it! The proper undergarment will also go far in achieving a pulled together look. Other than that curvy women can wear anything, no rules.

Did you have an inspiration or a role model when you started modeling? What was it about that person that you looked up to? I grew up on Essence magazine. I studied it front to back. Iman, Pat Cleveland, Beverly Johnson. I looked up

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easy to flaws on a When they lay for an ultiply that it and felt

d‌ Model: Leslee Barnes Photog: Kori Spencer of Irok images Makeup: Asha Boulanger of Rosy Cheeks

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Model: Leslee Barnes Photog: Kori Spencer of Irok images Makeup: Asha Boulanger of Rosy Cheeks

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You are very recognizable and well known. When you go out casually to shop or run errands do you ‘glam up’ or do you dress more comfortably and laid back? I dress for my mood. The weekends are when I take more risk with fashion. But I’m not the women that you will ever see in public in PJs. I like casual but put together. A good hat and shades help on an off day. What’s your one ‘go to’ accessory right now and why? I love aviator shades and chunky wooden accessories. What’s the most exciting trend that you see this season? Jumpers and jumpsuits. I’m obsessed! I also love the floral on floral trend as well. I buy and try lots of clothes. I do take chances and shop plus designers on line. I appreciate the details. I grew up sewing. Quality fabrics and attention to tailoring are must if I’m investing in a garment. I love Kenneth Doswell of Betty Jean Couture for that reason. He is making quality clothing for the plus consumer. The best pair of slacks I own are made by his shop. They fit me like no other. I’m disappointed when I pay good dollars and a “designer’s” clothing is not well made. No excuse for that! If you are a designer you should know your craft. I also really love Michael Costello. His gowns are amazing and a curvy girl will fill them out nicely! What has been the most rewarding aspect for you personally since you began modeling? Meeting other positive professional and aspiring models. I meet women who are supportive, respectful, and willing to share tips and information. That is promising for an industry known for cattiness.

I’m disappointed when I pay good dollars and a “designer’s” clothing is not well made. No excuse for that!

How does plus modeling differ from straight size modeling? I think plus models are expected to be better than straight models. It’s almost as if you have to prove yourself more because people don’t think you should be modeling anyway. It seems when I am in show that has both straight and curvy women, the curvy girls really bring it! What advice would you give a young lady just starting her own plus modeling career? Invest in yourself. Seek out photographers who work with plus models. They know angles etc. Get a comp card. Network. Find out if there a market for plus work in your area. Is this a profession or a hobby for you? Know that answer. Know what you have to bring and set your boundaries accordingly. Learn to walk in stilettos. Wedges don’t count! Where do you see the industry going in the next couple of years? Acceptance of different plus-size body types and more mature plus women in print (Yaay for me)!

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Models: Mackenzie Barnes and Leslee Barnes Photog: Kori Spencer of Irok images Makeup: Asha Boulanger of Rosy Cheeks

Who’s you favorite designer and why?


First up I’d like to find out what prompted you to take up modeling and how you got your start?: I started modeling because I saw it as a way to really boost my confidence and get out of my shell. It took some encouraging (and shoving haha) to get me to really try it, but once I began to experience the awesome feelings that it gave me, the feelings of really being comfortable in my skin, I knew I had to go for it. I got my start modeling for a local designer, Kenneth Doswell of Betty Jean Couture. I had done some small things locally as well, but his show was my first real job. What type of challenges did you face in the beginning? Mainly, thinking that I could actually do it. People would tell me all the time that I should model, and it was just one of those things that I sort of shook off and didn’t really believe. So, the most challenging thing was getting out of that negative mindset and really being my own cheerleader. How has the industry changed since you began?: I’ve only been doing this for little over a year, so it hasn’t changed much. I’ve still got so much to learn about it, but I have definitely seen the showcasing of different body types, which is so incredibly awesome. Did you have an inspiration or a role model when you started modeling? What was it about that person that you looked up to? My number one role model always is my mom. I’ve always looked to her when it came to style and how she carried herself. She’s always been so confident and sure in herself (or at least she always makes it seem that way haha), so it’s something that I’ve always tried to take and exude in my own self. What has been your favorite modeling assignment so far and why? Modeling for Full Figured Fashion Week®, hands down. All of the women in the show were so amazing and so nice, I got to walk down a fabulous runway in fabulous clothes, and I had such a blast! How would you define your own personal style? Overall, my style is super chill. I’m all about being laid back. Neutral colors are my favorite; I’d say 75% of my wardrobe is black. What’s the most common mistake you see big girls make when choosing an outfit for themselves?

Not knowing which pieces flatter their body type the best. Sometimes we see a style that we love, and we try to emulate it, but we don’t always do it in the way that is best suited for our shape and it makes things seem illfitting. I feel that as bigger women, we must be snooty and bougie when it comes to what we wear. Although I believe you should always wear what makes you feel the best on the inside, sometimes you have to be scrupulous about what you wear so you don’t look crazy. Unless crazy is what you aim for, haha. You are very recognizable and well known. When you go out casually to shop or run errands do you ‘glam up’ or do you dress more comfortably and laid back? I dress comfortably to shop, because I know I’m going to be out for at least half a day, so I want to be in something I can be in for a while. Some jeans, a comfy t-shirt, flat shoes and a cardigan is usually what you’ll find me in. What’s your one ‘go to’ accessory right now and why? My oversized weekender backpack from Asos. It’s super cute and it is huge so I carry all my things for school, plus all the things I’d have in my purse in it. Since I’ve had it, I’ve not switched out my bags much, haha. What’s the most exciting trend that you see this season? Tees and sweaters with side splits. There’s so many ways to wear it, and it can be layered! So cute.   Who’s your favorite designer and why? I honestly don’t think I’ve got one in particular, but Jeffrey Campbell shoes give me life! They’re so eclectic and funky and I’d buy every pair if I could. Also, I live and breathe the Asos Curve line. Their jeans, dresses, and playsuits are heaven.

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I feel th bigger w we must be and bougie comes to w wea


hat as women, e snooty e when it what we ar. Model: Mackenzie Barnes Photog: Kori Spencer of Irok images Makeup: Asha Boulanger of Rosy Cheeks

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Model: Mackenzie Barnes Photog: Kori Spencer of Irok images Makeup: Asha Boulanger of Rosy Cheeks

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What has been the most rewarding aspect for you personally since you began modeling? The traveling. Getting to go to places like NYC and Miami, places I had never thought I would be seeing a year or two ago. How does plus modeling differ from straight size modeling? I feel like as plus models, we’re kinder to each other and are more supportive of each other. We all know what it is like to feel like we don’t meet the standard of beauty, and we take that experience and use it to empower and uplift each other. It’s all part of a movement to love ourselves more and showcase our beauty inside and out, whether that is our intention or not, it just is.

We like to look cute! Make us cute, stylish clothes in our size and we’ll buy them and rock the hell out of them!

What advice would you give a young lady just starting her own plus modeling career? Research, do a lot of it so you know who key people in the plus world are. Watch videos of your favorite models walking, study their pictures, try to emulate and work that to fit your own body. Get to know your own body intimately, the things that are comfortable to you and are not, know your measurements by heart and, also, you have to get used to hearing a lot of no’s and waiting, but you never stop reaching for your goal despite that. Where do you see the industry going in the next couple of years? Expanding greatly and becoming even more mainstream. I really think people are opening their eyes to the fact that plus sized woman are in fact not just sitting on their butts and eating cake all the time, but they are active and involved and have ... gasp!... a sense of style! We like to look cute! Make us cute, stylish clothes in our size and we’ll buy them and rock the hell out of them! What a concept!

You can follow all of Leslee and Mackenzie’s modeling adventures through their facebook pages. Leslee can be found at barnes.9 and Mackenzie’s page is Be sure to follow their successes, like their FB pages and watch their careers flourish over the next few years!  - 30 - 

Model: Mackenzie Barnes Photog: Kori Spencer of Irok images Makeup: Asha Boulanger of Rosy Cheeks

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6 Lessons

from “Real Women Have By Chica Rosita


I recently revisited one of my all-time favorite movies starring the lovely leading lady America Ferrera, Real Women Have Curves. I was first introduced to this film back in high school, summer of my sophomore year, by an older cousin. She recommended the film, hinting that I should be confident about my body, that my curves were something worth celebrating and embracing. As a teen, I struggled with body image issues that continued into my adulthood. It didn’t matter if I was a size 10 or a size 22, I couldn’t see the beauty reflected in the mirror. It was pleasure to see this film again with a fresh set of eyes. I take away more from the film at age 27 than I did at 15. That’s perfectly fine, but I do wish I would have started my journey to accepting my body in all its glorious splendor at an earlier age; it would have made a world of difference to me. At times, I would beat myself up about it. But, this is my journey and reaching this level of confidence is not easy. No one is perfect and there’s beauty in that; it makes us unique.


Here are the six lessons I took from Real Women Have Curves:

Eat the Flan-Ana defiantly eats the delicious Mexican flan that her mom says will make her fatter. She tells Ana, she would look so beautiful if she lost weight. Ana’s stand-off with her mother rings truth to a woman’s personal choice regarding her health and meal choices. I say, “Eat the flan girl!” You are allowed to enjoy this and you shouldn’t feel guilty. Often, people who are fat, chubby, and curvy or however you define yourself, are ridiculed by family and strangers when eating at home or in public. There’s the stares, the giggles, and the “You’re still hungry?” comments. So, what? We are not privy to other people’s medical history, nor should we be. These are conversations that happen between the individual and their nutritionist or physician. Mental note though, watch out for personal judgements and biases by those in the health professions. While they may have good intentions, there are many stories about bullying or harassment from physicians.


Pretty Dresses Aren’t Just For Skinny Girls-Ana’s older sister, Estela, fashions a beautiful dress especially made for Ana. Ana stated earlier in the film that she admired the dresses they made in the atelier so much, but realized they weren’t meant for her, or more poignantly, they’re not meant for fat girls. If you love the dress, try it on, buy it, and rock it! There are many plus-size lines emerging with mad style like Monif C., Torrid, Shop Majour, Nadia for Boohoo Plus, Target’s Ava & Viv, Zelie for She, Swimsuitsforall, Ashely Graham’s lingerie line with Addition Elle. Tons and tons of fresh and fab designs by Rue 107, Charlotte Rouse+, Voluptuous Inc., and so many other fashion lines. The fashion industry is taking note and making these fashionable pieces available to the curvy girl.

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Embrace Your Body-Ana makes a powerful move by showing her boyfriend, Jimmy, her naked body, full frontal with the lights on. “See, this is what I look like,” says Ana. By no means am I demanding that you strip yourself of clothing and do exactly what Ana did, but there’s empowerment in seeing your body. You can stand in front of a mirror, your body in all its voluptuous splendor, and really take a look at the beauty in your curves. Some women find empowerment in a boudoir photo shoot or strutting on the beach in a new bikini, but whatever the choice, do it at your comfort level and when it feels right for you. Remember that this your body, your choice.


Form a Community of Women-Cheer on your curvy sister just as much as your skinny girlfriend! Ana decides to take off her clothes since it is so hot and sticky at the atelier. Her mother gasps, offended by such actions. Ana points out to her mother, “it’s just us ama!” Her sister Estela, and the other two seamstresses soon follow thereafter, unashamed to show their stretchmark’s, cellulite, and lonjas. They feel comfortable with each other and cheer each other on, poking fun at themselves, but quick to complement their curvy sister. Positive reinforcement at its best. Who you surround yourself with is paramount. People who are overly judgmental and critical of others just might be talking about you behind your back chica. It’s the whole Queen Bee and Wannabes of high school. That crap is so petty. Instead, surround yourself with women who are like you. That doesn’t mean they have to be curvy or yield to your every opinion, but form a community of women that uplifts each other, not a catty group that brings

you down. Start an online blog or community, join a support group, read articles, watch movies about positive body image, tweet, and retweet; use the tools at your disposal to get the word out that fat is fabulous! Take back the word! I’ve mentioned before that there are many plus-size fashion and lifestyle bloggers that are spearheading the fat girl movement. #fatgirlsheretostay


Walk With Confidence, That’s the Best Outfit-So there is much hate and criticism spewed on Ana by her mother, Carmen, but there is some good advice. Ana took what her mother said and either tossed it out, true to form, or redefined its value. When her mother criticized Ana for walking sluggish like a pig, she also told Ana to “walk like a lady.” What does that mean? Well, for Ana, at the end of the film, it meant walking with confidence. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or 22, the energy you exude is what makes you radiate with beauty. You better work it girl! Whatever you wear, love it and own it!


All Women are Real Women-I struggle a bit with the title of this film. However, its message is empowering for curvy women. I read it as, real women are also women who have curves. I see it as inclusive rather than exclusive, and I think ultimately that’s what the filmmakers were driving at. So, while real women have curves, real women are also slender, skinny, small butt, no butt, fat, flabby, short, tall, you name it. There are many body types and we shouldn’t restrict ourselves with these labels. I am fat, fabulous, curvy, fiery, inspired, radiant, vocal, demanding, and curious, all in a lovely package. You, my lovely luscious lady friend, are real and your opinion matters. xoxo Chica Rosita

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Model: Chenese Lewis Photog: Erica Dunlap Photography MUA: Errol Coleman Chenese Lewis Show Louisiana

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Model: Latara Griffin Photog: Don Mills MUA: Beverly Lawton Florida

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Model: Sarah Bowles Photog: Javier Leite Ireland

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by Robert Skuja


wanted to be in politics but I am Russian and, by being Russian it means you have to support Russian politics, which I am not the biggest fan of,” Victoria Janashvili candidly tells me. It’s mid-morning, late March at her New York City home. Cold temperatures are still hanging around from a long, cold winter. “I didn’t sign up for this,” she laughs. “I came (to America) from Northern Russia for palm trees. I feel cheated!” All joking aside, this young, successful fashion photographer has seen her share of palm trees. Working in cities like London, New York and LA, to name a few, her photographs have appeared in such publications as GQ, Cosmopolitan and Sports Illustrated. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia and growing up in London, Victoria always felt like she wanted to make a change in the world. It is while chasing her dream of contributing to the world’s peace that she found herself studying Law in London. Not enjoying her choice of education, Victoria was becoming disenchanted with the political and legal arenas in her pursuit for making a difference. Perhaps in her search for another vehicle to bring such changes she realized that,

“I can fight in another way for whatever I believe in and that is so much better because visual content in a lot of ways can be a lot more powerful than any UN resolution,” she tells me. Victoria, speaking of how she discovered photography, explained that she was beginning to understand the power of an image, but coming from a strict family of doctors and lawyers, she was always cautioned that art is not a real job. “They don’t make any money and they live on the streets,” she was warned. It wasn’t until she met a well-known London fashion photographer that she learned that you can be a photographer and also pay the rent! “Inviting herself” to become his assistant and the subsequent discovery of a world that was “so much cooler” than courtrooms, led to Victoria’s departure from Law School and arrival to the London College of Fashion to study photography. In telling me how she related to the

other students and faculty, she said, “I don’t think we were like-minded at all and we had different perspectives on life.” The curriculum of teaching film processing and the delving too deeply into artistic interpretation left her feeling that the whole experience was pointless, describing it as a complete waste of time and money. In justifying that statement, Victoria continued, “Photography is like fast food and creativity, in a lot of ways, needs to be levelled to the point of understanding. A photographer needs to understand what people want to see and the message that they want to come across. A commercial image speaks to people and they shouldn’t have to figure it out for themselves.” One thing that Victoria Janashvili surely figured out very well during her time assisting photographers in London and Paris was how to capture a commercial image and with that, came success. The world that opened up to her took her around the world and introduced her to “the most amazing people.” It is one of these amazing people she met in 2011, that changed Victoria’s life. At this point, having had her own studio in New York since 2009, Victoria quite by chance, had the opportunity to photograph her first plus-size model, Jennifer Maitland. At five-foot nine, 40-32-47, hair and make-up already done and wearing high heels, Jennifer walked into the studio as one of the most confident models that Victoria had ever seen. “I’m also a woman,” Victoria playfully pointed out before adding that she had always worried she was either too big, too small or too curvy. “I had a big list of things that were wrong with me,” said Victoria, at a time in her life and in an industry where a size 16 model was not commonplace, especially a woman so confident. Victoria was awestruck with Jennifer. “Oh my God, she is gorgeous,” Victoria recalls. The fact that this woman wasn’t even trying to lose weight or diet was “shocking”. This experience and working with more plus-size models is what “changed me as a human being,” Victoria said. She went on to explain that it changed her life professionally and personally. Professionally she began to seek out more plus-size models and they began to come to her also. Victoria didn’t think the photographs that she took of Jennifer Maitland were all that special however, Madeline Jones, the Editor-In-Chief of the magazine that published the pictures would disagree.

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In a February, 2012 interview Jones said, “Photographer Victoria Janashvili came over for an interview and during our chat she let me see (the photos of Jennifer Maitland) on her iPhone. I fell in love with them.” The reaction to the published pictures would also support their significance. They went viral. “The response was amazing,” said Jones. Hundreds of media outlets, blogs, emails of support and gratitude were coming in for publishing the photographs. Victoria herself was overwhelmed by the feedback. She received an enormous response from “regular people” asking for more. This all changed me personally too, Victoria stated.

“I started liking myself a lot more. I stopped dieting and I now think I’m pretty hot,” she chuckled. Since childhood Victoria would never wear a bikini. Self-conscious about being a little chubby and having some fat around her “tummy”, she felt that bikinis were for girls with flat bellies only. Now she wears bikinis because “if these plus-size models look that hot then I probably look hot too!” In the world of a fashion photographer of which Victoria describes as superficial, came a rare opportunity to “do something good, to make people feel good,” she explained. Going back to her youthful aspirations of making a difference in the world and to people’s lives, now she had found an opportunity to do work both as a professional fashion photographer and to bring about change and enhance people’s lives. “I felt very much at peace,” she ends. So that was then, this is now. Three years later where has this new direction taken Victoria? She has produced a coffee table photography book called, Curves. 56 Curvy Connect Mag :: May 2015 Swimsuit Edition ::


Each photograph is not just a picture; it is also the story of an individual woman. There is truth to be told that whenever we look at someone we draw our own conclusions. Curvy Connect Mag :: May 2015 Swimsuit Edition :: 57


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{FEATURE} It features over 70 women, including herself, posing nude. Each model wrote their own words about what beauty means to them. “Everybody is different. Some of the girls are “super famous” models,” Victoria tells me. “But I also have transgender. I have a girl who was born without arms or legs. I have girls that are super skinny, I have girls that are plussize, I have girls that are in between.” She added that some women in the book are short, some tall, some famous people and some have never modeled. The one thing they all have in common is that they are all women and that is the point. Each photograph is not just a picture; it is also the story of an individual woman. There is truth to be told that whenever we look at someone we draw our own conclusions. In this book, because they tell their own stories, it can help to erase these assumptions we make of each other. Asking 70 women to share and bare their insecurities is bold and brave. To have that many accept the challenge, or some may think of it as an opportunity, is extremely inspiring and, if not at the very least, thought provoking - each of which can foster change.

ourselves and our own, personal self-worth. The power of an image is vast. Images go viral every day in social media. Consistency in showing only a certain image type can cause it to become engrained in our psyche and become the perceived social standard. However, the story behind an image - the open, honest unveiling of understanding can change this perception. Victoria Janashvili, I sense, understood this from a young age and as she told us earlier, “Creativity in a lot of ways needs to be levelled to the point of understanding.” By capturing the confidence of all body types, Victoria has excited and inspired people in a positive manner. In doing so, I would also say she has taught us that showing only a minority of model types in media has had a global effect on society contrary to that of happiness, self-worth and yes Victoria, peace!

If we look ahead now to after the book is released in July 2015, people have seen the images and read the stories and, I suspect, will be moved with inspiration and looking to help make a difference. How could someone do that, I ask Victoria? “Just like yourself a little better. Be kinder to one another. Judge each other less,” she responded. It seemed to me that by understanding each other a little more, by looking further than the physical image someone displays, that we can in turn, gain a better understanding of

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Model: Plus Model Sxy Lxy Photog: Charlton Reed of Charming Charlton Photos MUA: Domonique Thehairstylistmua White Texas

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Model: Madeleine Havell Photog: Gavin Chapman MUA: Laura Goodwin United Kingdom Curvy Connect Mag :: May 2015 Swimsuit Edition :: 61


By Jennifer Amoako

What’s your beauty philosophy? “It’s always better to look good than to feel good!” If you feel crappy, you can go pull yourself together. By looking good, you induce yourself to feel better. What sets you apart from other makeup artists? I don’t know. I think that’s something you’ll have to ask other makeup artists. I think there are a lot of great people out there that are great at what they do and I’m great at what I do. So I don’t ever really compare myself to other people. I think that’s a waste of time. I just focus on what I’m doing, so that’s something that someone else would have to answer. I think I bring a quality to the table that is unique to me. My clients have enjoyed that from me for many many years. I just focus in on the esthetic of things that I like and the things that make me, “me.” That’s a little bit of luxury and a calm demeanor; while at the same time being creative and helping people that come my way to express themselves in a new way. I think that’s it. Do you follow makeup trends or stick to your own style? I look at things that are trendy. You have to stay fresh in that regard but you have to determine, “Is that trend right for me?” When you walk into the room with your kit, you may have seen something

earlier that day that inspired you; maybe there was something I saw in a magazine 10 years ago… there has to be something about the person in front of you that inspires you to go in a certain direction. For me it’s not about following the trends, but maybe incorporating them and using them in my own way. What are some common beauty mistakes that women make? Using too much makeup or using all of the trends. I think we should all experiment and try products, but moderation is best. Usually I see them going all the way in or not doing enough of something and they need to turn it up a notch. Sometimes you gotta commit. If you’re going to wear blue eyeshadow, wear it! If you’re going to wear red lipstick, go for it… really put it on. Don’t be afraid to wear makeup because it does wash off. Do you believe that makeup is for women only? Whoever wants to enjoy makeup should be allowed to wear it. It’s a tool for enhancing and perfecting. There are men that wear it every day and you don’t necessarily know they have it on…If you’re committed to a glossy lip whether it has color or no color, that’s “a look.” Every touch to the face is a look. A look isn’t defined by how beat it

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is… Simply putting moisturizer on your face… a clean canvas with mascara and little lipgloss or lip balm, that’s a look. What story are you trying to tell visually? What staple products do you think every person should have in their handbag? Well, I think that you should always have an AJ Crimson Crème Foundation. Not because it’s mine, but because with the slightest touch it really does perfect and filters the skin in a way where it looks effortless, flawless, and it can also be undetectable. So it works great for any person…whether a guy or a female… if you want to be polished. The Dual Skin Crème Foundation is actually pretty genius that way How long should we keep makeup before it needs to be replaced? My Dual Crème Foundation you can have it literally for 20 years and it will never change. Other products like mascara, you may want to get rid of those after 3 months. Eyeshadow depending on if you wet them to apply them, maybe 3-6 months because if you keep them too long, bacteria can grow on those products. Lipstick you can keep a year or two or until it starts to smell. If the brand tells you how long to keep a product, you should adhere to it.


Now that we’ll be tossing half of our old makeup, we’ll need to replace it with AJ Crimson Beauty. How did you come up with your new S&M (Sultry & Matte) lipstick collection? I knew that I was going to do color. I knew that it wasn’t going to be lipgloss because I had done that before. And I just love the idea of something matte… I wanted it to be the accessory and not the focus. However because the colors are so bright and vibrant, they can absolutely steal the show. I wanted them to be a little provocative. I felt like I wanted the colors to be fun with fun names... like “Bondage” and “No Explanation.” Then there are names that speak really well to what they are. They each have a little bit of a story behind them as well. Like “Chasing Saturday.” Like how awesome is that? You have the best Saturday night of your life and you want it again. It reminded me of a time when I visited Milan. I had the best time! After my tour, I immediately booked a trip back to Milan that same week just to kind of relive it. And “No Explanation” is such a bold color, you don’t need to say anything more. You’ve worked with lots of wellknown celebrities, who is on your wish list of people you’d like to work with? Natalia Vodianova… she’s always been a favorite model of mine. I’d love to do something with Cara Delevingne. I’m more into models and fashion icons now as oppose to musicians and celebrities. I’m moving in a different direction creatively and mentally. There’s only so much you can do on a celebrity. They want to be “pretty.” And that’s fine. I just think there is more you can do with models. There are more risks you can take because that is what they’re there to do. We met you while you were in town teaching a course…Can you tell us about Skinsation? Is it only for professional make-up artists? It was the first time I did this. I had a vision over a year ago that I wanted to create a master class that was pretty intimate. You know… everybody has a makeup class. Like everybody is doing it. One of the girls from Skinsation will probably have a class next week. It’s just that rampant. I wanted to create something that was absolutely different than

any other makeup class or course that people have gone to. Hence, why mine is more of a course than a makeup class. Classes are mostly “look and learn” and solely demonstration based. This [Skinsation] really was training. It was a group of individuals at various levels of makeup artistry who came for a day of intensive training. We had a really great time… building a relationship. Every girl there had a reason why she wanted to take this course and I wanted to know that; and I wanted them to share it with the rest of the class. Everyone’s story is different and everyone’s voice deserves to be heard. They can hear for themselves why everyone is there as well as inspire the other people that came. The other thing was really focusing on techniques and allowing them to try different techniques. Looks can become really boring when you’re doing the same thing day after day for years. In Skinsation, we allowed the artists to really be artists. We pushed them to venture outside of their normal comfort zone. They have their go-to products, but we shake it up. We took them away completely to force them to use other stuff. It’s a lot of fun activities. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s just for professional makeup artists, but it is geared toward professional makeup artists. Going forward, I think we’ll divide it up more to separate the newbies from the more seasoned artists that need to go the next step. It was the first one so I’m excited for some of the changes that are going to come. I was very happy with the result of this one. What’s next for AJ Crimson? You can expect to see me at all of The Makeup Shows except Orlando… I’ll be in New York, Chicago, Dallas… keynoting in Dallas, so that should be really exciting. Oh! And there’s this new thing called “RuPaul’s DragCon” May 16-17 in LA, so we’ll be doing that. RuPaul is dope. He’s actually a good friend of mine. In terms of products, in New York, we’ll be unveiling our crème Highlight+Contour Duo. It will be really great. I know a lot of girls try to use one compact to do their whole face. I recommend that they don’t. This will be specifically for the highlight and contour, you still need to blend in your all-over shade. So don’t be cheap…don’t try to

get it all done with one compact. Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us? I’ll be in London May 10th. Your followers in London can look out on my Instagram (@ajcrimson). I’m really excited about that. The last thing I want to say is… I want to thank everyone that tries the AJ Crimson brand because there are so many options out there that people can choose. I’m glad that people give my brand a chance. To be honest, it’s made for women of color and it’s kind of interesting to hear the conversation of women and see what their choices are…in terms of how they’ll spend their money. I’m saying this really candidly because I want it to be something that people really think about. You see a lot of comments come across the wire on social media because everyone has a voice and an opinion about it. It’s interesting as women of color and people of color, what we perceive to be valuable to us, you know. This is a black-owned company… a fully black-owned company. You don’t have to buy “Black,” but you should absolutely support a blackowned company that has been giving you a quality product that is on par or superior to a lot of things that we perceive to be more luxurious and not looking for it to be so cheap. I see people chatter about the price all the time. It’s a $35 compact that’s going to last you six months. It really breaks down to about $.19/day. So if you can’t afford to give yourself $.19/day for something really great that absolutely matches your skin complexion… we have to think about our choices. It’s [AJ Crimson Beauty] actually less expensive than most luxury lines… it’s affordable luxury. That’s what I’m trying to create, “affordable luxury.” It’s something that when you pull it out, you feel proud of it. You know it’s going to work. For the past few years, we’ve focused on the product. This is the first year where we’ve added the “gloss” to the packaging. Because you can have a pretty package, but if the product inside doesn’t work, what did you spend your money for? The product has always stood on its own. And that’s what’s been really awesome about the journey. I wanted people to really get to know the product inside of the package.

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CCM Intimate Evening with AJ Crimson Photo Credit - Aniket Raj Photography

The first thing I do when I get out of bed is… Send email and answer emails. My morning beauty routine entails… TwinMedix 3-step system. It’s a Vitamin E serum. Also Embryolisse moisturizer or Natura Bisse whichever I’m feeling at the moment. Maybe a little Caudalie spray beauty elixir. Every woman should splurge on this beauty product… Natura Bisse Diamond Cream But she can get away with buying the following at a drugstore… Maybe a lipstick. When I’m stressed I… Lay on my back on the floor. The most amazing place I’ve traveled to is… Capetown, South Africa The one luxury item I’m dying to splurge on is… A Tesla. On a typical Saturday night I… Get lost… I try to not be seen. I check out. I don’t really want to be found. I’m lost to the world. My hope for 2015 is… I’d like to end it better than I started. I always want to end the year on a higher note than I began… business, health, life. It should always feel progressive. I should be able to look back at the year and see the growth.

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AJ Crimson & Aniket Raj Photo Credit - Timothy McVain Photography


By Timothy McVain (Photographer & Artist)

On the second floor of the St. Regis hotel in Houston, Texas in a small room with about twenty people, celebrity makeup artist AJ Crimson organized his array of makeup tools, his back turned towards us for just a moment as we settled in our seats and became accustomed to the soft lighting and warmly colored walls. There was a murmur of voices as new friendships were formed and then a silence when AJ turned around and smiled upon the crowd. It was Saturday, April 18th and I would soon find out that makeup artistry is a craft much like painting or drawing. I walked into the event knowing very little about makeup, but I left with a new appreciation for this art. As AJ Crimson began to explain the journey that led him to create his own makeup line many of us oohed and ahhed in admiration. His natural talent, hard work, and drive has taken him around the world making up the faces of the most well-known names in music for example; Fergie, Estelle, and Hillary Duff to just name a few. He described how he views the skin as dots or pixels and this aids his mastery with shading and blending. It was breathtaking watching him transform the already beautiful Tamara Dennyse using simple steps and only a few products. He took great care to add detail, layer different colors and effects, and accentuate the lines and curves of her face. At moments there was complete silence in the room as he outlined her lips or put glitter on her eyelids. Everyone’s rapt attention was on him as he worked and moved like an artist, his canvas was a human face. I’ve been to art events where artists are painting live and performing, and was surprised to realize that putting on makeup is a complex undertaking and just as awe-inspiring as watching a famed painter add shading or scenery to his masterpiece. One of the most interesting strains of conversation led by AJ Crimson was a discussion on recent social media makeup celebrities. Whether it be on YouTube or Instagram, there are many popular makeup artists who are self-taught or have received their training by other self-taught makeup artists who have no official training. It was intriguing and informative to hear AJ explain the importance of diverse training, experiencing different makeup styles and methods, and receiving professional training and practice. Traits like humility and a willingness to learn, curiosity and courage to ask questions are important in being successful in any career and AJ showed that this is also true for those pursuing a life as a makeup artist. Once AJ was finished with Tamara, he invited every woman in attendance to sit on a stool under bright professional makeup lighting as he did their makeup, finding the right shade for their specific skin tone, and spending quality time talking with them. This was a truly unique one-on-one experience and a very special time for every woman. After this, the women were invited to order some of his products and I was glad to see that by demonstrating the quality and ease of his makeup as well as his eloquent presentation, there was a line formed to place orders. If you’d like to check out his products please visit his site or follow him on social media, particularly Instagram @ajcrimson. As with other events I’ve attended, the best part is always meeting new people! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to photograph and write about Curvy Connect Magazine’s intimate evening with international, celebrity, make-up artist AJ Crimson and I’d like to give a special thanks to Jennifer Amoako, Editor-In-Chief and Tamara Dennyse for the invite! Email me at to set up a photo shoot. Check out my photography and art on my behind the scenes art blog and follow me on social media at Instagram @timothymcvainlives,, and Timothy McVain and AJ Crimson Photo Credit - Aniket Raj Photography

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From the

Male POV

How do you find a one piece or two piece swimsuit that makes you feel as beautiful as you are? By Daniel Wilson


pring is on everyone’s mind and with spring comes warm temperatures, sunny days and beaches. Ah, beaches. Sometimes we love ‘em sometimes we hate ‘em. Most often, the reason full figured gals may stay away from beaches is swimwear, swimsuits and the self-perception of how they appear in these garments.

Those at the forefront of the full figured fashion industry will tell you - curves aren’t going anywhere. And the girls who have those curves also have as much money, self-respect and desire to look good as the straight size girls. Manufacturers are finally stepping up to the plate and designing clothes, including swimwear, that are suitable for everyone of all sizes.

I want to say right now, there is no reason not to be on the beach this summer. So how do you find a one piece or two piece swimsuit that makes you feel as beautiful as you are? That has always been the dilemma and the happy news is that there are more options than ever before.

Responsible in a large part for this mini revolution is a handful of brave plus size models, bloggers and curvy-hipped fashionistas the world over who have stepped up and said, “We want fashions for us too.” Robin Lawley is set to become the first plus size model to grace the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. And of course, Tess Holliday is fearless, winning the hearts and minds of the world as she shows off her beautiful size 22 self in everything from evening gowns to itsy bitsy teeny weeny polka dot bikinis. Curves have always been with us and now more than ever they can be shown off proudly.

The curvy movement is compelling - and has compelled - major clothing manufacturers to produce great looking fashions for this market. You don’t have to wear that one piece black swimsuit unless you want to - they are still out there and looking better than ever. But options have certainly increased and evolved.    Models: Mackenzie Barnes and Leslee Barnes Photog: Kori Spencer of Irok images Makeup: Asha Boulanger of Rosy Cheeks

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{FEATURE} The Perfect Swimsuit

The Perfect Picture

The Perfect Attitude

When you do get the notion to go swimsuit shopping, know of course that there are things you can do and principles you can follow to help you find the perfect piece. Do your research or get a fashion savvy friend to help you out.

I know so many models who have longed for that beautiful, sunny day at the beach to try and get pics for their portfolios - and come away very disappointed. The beach setting is gorgeous - and also one of the hardest to photograph successfully. If you are working with a photographer to come up with great beach shots, make sure he knows what he’s doing, or it will be a waste of everyone’s time.

It all comes back to confidence. The best reason to grab your straw hat and funky sunglasses and head out to the seaside this year is because you want to. You don’t want to be left out and you don’t want to be discriminated against. Don’t discriminate against yourself! Stop being your own worst enemy and become your own best friend.

For example, many one piece suits contain underwire and other shaping devices to help you push up and plump out the areas that you want to and help hide the others. Some one-pieces feature ruching on the tummy to help hide that area or ruffles on the backside to give a flirty feel and break up a full profile line. Color blocking can be used to great advantage to give the impression of more of a waist when it might not be there. Belts, ties and ribbons can be used to give an hourglass shape. A lower cut in the back and/or a higher cut at the leg give illusions of extra length. Skinny straps or fuller straps at the top can both be used to advantage depending on individual body shape.  Florals are in, pastels are in, and “white with anything, black with anything” color combos are in. Retro is definitely in! Navy blue nauticals, fringes and anything that gives a nod to 60’s beach movies is in. And not only are these styles in, they are also being cut and designed with curves in mind!  Be brave and go shopping - and don’t forget the two piece! The ‘fatkini’ made headlines a year or so ago and other bathing suit manufacturers have jumped on that bandwagon. You can buy a bikini that will look good on you and give you the confidence to strut your stuff on the sand. You can be outgoing, you can dare to bare - and look fabulous doing it.

First off for the photographer, the only thing that cameras like less than water is sand. So that’s an issue. Brilliant sun is great for tanning but it makes for lousy pictures. You must either find shade, block the sun manually or risk getting those harsh black shadows. If you find a photographer daring enough to shoot in full sun, he will likely shoot the model facing away from the sun with her blocking it and himself shooting directly into it. Also, an ideal beach for tanning or picnicking or volleyball is flat white sand with calm blue waters and cloudless skies. In other words, there is little of interest in the background! This can be good, depending on the shots you want, but it can also be rather boring. Props are a good idea if planning a beach shoot. Make sure you or someone that’s going has access to beach balls, beach blankets, beach chairs, floaty toys, hula hoops, colorful coolers, drink glasses,  umbrellas - items that can be used as props in photos. And don’t forget the sunscreen! It’s easy to get caught up in a fun photo shoot and forget how long you’ve been exposed to direct sunlight. A nasty burn is not the type of souvenir you want to bring home with you.

One of the ways we discriminate against ourselves is by trying to be someone we are not. Find a way to develop your own beach style (or style in general) but remain true to yourself at the same time. I remember a warehouse supervisor I worked with when I was just starting out in the workforce. Guy was tough but fair and always looked like a man in charge. He always wore industrial style work shirts with sleeves rolled up to one turn just below the elbow. Always. I noticed that and adopted it for myself. Chances are very good that when and if we meet, you will find me wearing my shirt that same way. But there is a difference between taking inspiration from someone and trying to be someone else entirely.

Curvy swimsuit goddess Marilyn Monroe said,

“...wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are...”

How true is this? If she had wanted to be someone else, the world would have never known the magic of this fragile flower. When you think of all the barriers she broke, the battles she fought on behalf of others and the iconic images she created that will live in our minds for eternity, it makes a day at the beach seem like - well, a day at the beach. So look forward to the sun, the warm breezes and the nice weather and enjoy every second. Get out there this summer, slap on the sunscreen, set up your favorite beach chair, order one of those drinks with the umbrellas on top, wiggle your toes into the sand and have a blast. You deserve it!  - 30 - 

Marilyn Monroe. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Curvy Connect Mag :: May 2015 Swimsuit Edition :: 67


Focus. Implement. Results. | 832.819.4CCM (4226)

68 Curvy Connect Mag :: May 2015 Swimsuit Edition ::

CCM May 2015 Swimsuit Edition  

Leslee & Mackenzie Barnes

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