BET.com’s THE GLAM GAP is a weekly video series spotlighting Black entrepreneurs and influencers in the beauty, fashion and lifestyle space.
Chances are you’ll never catch plus-size influencer Marie Denee looking anything but fabulous. The fashion expert prides herself on always dressing to impress, and that was clear when BET chatted with The Curvy Fashionista founder and editor-in-chief from her expansive walk-in closet earlier this month. She spilled all the details about her journey through the not-always-inclusive industry, and gave us a first-hand look into what it takes to build a media empire.
“I've always been into fashion,” Denee says. “I think I probably was around 10 and I remember sketching and drawing fashion, drawing clothes, drawing women. My mom was always dressed up, always fancy, and I kind of translated that into my sketches.”
Fast forward decades later, and in 2008 she launched The Curvy Fashionista, inspired by a gap she saw in the plus-size industry. “At that time I had been working in retail,” she shares. “I had just finished up my post-graduate education in marketing. I was able to dedicate it to plus-size fashion, and I wanted a space, a resource, as I was trying to do research. However, I couldn't find a central location.”
So she started her own, a platform that now boasts over 100K followers on Instagram, and a loyal following that she credits social media for catapulting into the spotlight, and aiding in lending a larger voice to plus women who have often felt shut out by the fashion industry.
“It’s really given the plus size woman a voice to push back and to challenge the norm, and to directly attack those stereotypes,” she says. “Social media has actually been a God-send in terms of creating community fostering and nurturing.”
And now, with 12 years of The Curvy Fashionista under her belt, championing curvy women, and serving as a constant source of fashion inspo, Denee knows a thing or two about the brands that are doing it the right ways, and she does her best to highlight them whenever she has the chance.
“There have been so many plus size brands and retailers that are thriving in the plus space,” she says. “Some of the brands that have really been making waves are: Ashley Stewart, Lane Bryant, Eloquii who is now opening doors, City Chic, who is based in Australia. There’s also Avenue who has really started to build this empire in the plus space. Those are like some of the key anchors, but what's more important in the plus space are the indie designers. Designers, like Jibri, Alma, and Henning.”
RELATED | Watch More 'Glam Gap' Episodes
These days, with more time than ever to think, Denee is looking forward to the future, creating exciting goals for the ever-growing platform.
“In the next five years, I see The Curvy Fashionista as a household name,” she emphasizes. “I want it to be a destination or folks beyond just the community, because the community can be a little insular. I want it to be for the everyday woman who may not know that Forever 21 carries plus sizes, who may not know that she can go to an Eloquii location and shop in-store. I see The Curvy Fashionista being a multimedia platform. I want us to be in an office, we have full-payroll, a full-team, a complete media empire for plus folks.”
And Denee has a powerful message for anyone struggling to find confidence in an age controlled by the opinions of others through social media and other outlets.
“You are enough,” she says. “That has been an underlying message for me, especially dealing with abandonment and with all these different things that have happened in the past that I’ve had to fight for the longest time. I found myself seeking approvals and wondering, ‘Am I good enough?’ Realizing that I had told myself so many lies, I had to learn to replace that lie with the truth. And for me, that truth and that constant is that you are enough. When you start to believe that. your confidence and your purpose, changes. You start to show up for yourself in ways where I have given myself the word audacity audacious.”