Most people would love to be on TV, maybe a few less once you told them they have to wear heels, walk and not trip, and maybe even fewer after you told them they would also be wearing a bikini.
You see, one day I was in a meeting at work when I randomly checked my email. I must have read one message, in particular, at least three times after jumping out of my seat screaming. In August, a senior producer for the Steve Harvey Show asked me to model in a fashion segment on the show. The only catch was that I would be modeling a two-piece bikini. Although I am a size 14 and don’t look like Kate Upton, I didn’t hesitate for a second before agreeing to it. This was everything my America’s Next Top Model-watching 12-year-old self had ever wanted. For the segment I was modeling on, Steve Harvey was interviewing Jenny Trout, a blogger and author who is infamously known for her “I Wore a Bikini and Nothing Happened” post published on the Huffington Post. He wanted to surprise Jenny by gathering 15 confident, plus-size women and dressing them in swimsuits to honor Jenny’s brave endeavors.
Fast forward to September 3: I’m standing behind a curtain on a stage that will soon rise, revealing my five-foot curvy body in a plus-size bikini to Steve Harvey and a live studio audience on national TV. I didn’t do it alone, though—15 other plus-size women stood by my side, our bodies displaying the unconventional side of beauty. We all held hands, and as the curtain rose, we struck a pose and then walked out on stage to an audience that would not stop clapping or cheering. Yep, that’s me in the pink checkered bikini in the middle! I spent 10 hours with these other women between hair, makeup, and rehearsals, and if that day taught me anything, it was that confidence was key. It doesn’t matter what shape or size you are. You can lead however you want as long as you’re happy and confident.
“You all are so fine,” Steve Harvey shouted as we walked onto the stage. Despite the societal beauty ideals that consumed me, at that second, I realized that I never thought I wasn’t fine, and that is how every woman should feel.
Why would I wear a bikini on national TV?
Like most young girls paging through the latest fashion magazines, I longed to be one of the models who graced the cover of the fashion bibles and the advertisements inside. However, the only model-like quality I possessed was being fierce with my eyes, which has benefited me more at the club than anywhere else—thanks, Tyra. As I grew up and got into my body, I realized I would never be in the magazines or on America’s Next Top Model for two reasons. One: I’m five feet tall. Two: These hips don’t lie, and neither do these thighs. My body was far from the model ideal and what I saw in the magazines. I could not yet comprehend that the women in those magazines were airbrushed, photoshopped, and did not represent the average woman at all. However, that never tainted my resilient attitude and spirit. Against all odds, no matter what the fashion industry or retail stores told me about my curvaceous figure with their impractically sized clothing, I embraced every fashion trend and strutted wherever I went. Women of all ages can suffer from having negative self-esteem, which can be directly related to the unrealistic beauty standards of today’s society. Somehow, I was fortunate to never let these standards affect my confidence despite how much I looked up to the models. However, I realize it is not easy for anyone to ignore the pressures to be idealistically beautiful and thin.