Latasha Ngwube, a lifestyle journalist, has a brand new venture called AboutThatCurvyLife.com, a website dedicated to fashion, beauty, lifestyle and empowerment of the African curvy community. Latasha who began her career at ThisDay Style has gone on to have a successful career spanning the last decade. A lover and advocate of fashion, Latasha knows all too well the stigma faced by the plus-size community and through her empowerment platform ‘About That Curvy Life’, she has decided to fight back by galvanizing an industry of her own, right here in Africa.
The project is near and dear to her heart having grown up as a plus size woman and spent the majority of her life in the public eye. She passionately spoke about it, and other related topics like Internet trolls/bullies, the average size of an African woman being 16, plus size men, being healthy although big and many other things.
She shares a personal essay on her story with BN. Read on…
In the Efik tribe in Calabar, young girls were sent to fattening huts in preparation for marriage because a big wife was indicative of prosperity and over abundance. Our ideals of beauty has changed significantly post-colonization as the Western aesthetic influenced our own perceptions of beauty. The authentic African body type was the curvy one. To show the shift in the mentality, we now equate being bigger with laziness and poor health. Neither are true. A whole group of people cannot be characterized by their appearance alone. All it shows is society’s endemic need to put people into boxes in order to digest them more easily. This categorizing has had a detrimental effect on how we view each other and it’s a mindset we need to reverse urgently.
The name About That Curvy Life (ATCL) came to me around the time when it officially started in June 2015. The idea of it is something I have toyed with since 2008 when I worked with This Day. I wanted to write a page dedicated to plus size fashion because it was something that apart from being personal to me, was surprising that we never really ventured towards. I mean, here we were redefining African fashion and we weren’t creating a voice for curvy people on this continent of curvy people?
So once a month my editor would let me do something on what she called ‘fat girl fashion’. And it wasn’t difficult writing those fashion stories as my interest in plus size models, celebrities and style had been primed as early as the age of 18. The Internet was new here and as soon as I could get my hands on a good connection back then I would research on things like plus size models, fashion, industry pioneers, activist. With my new voice, writing on plus size stories made me want more but I had my limitations and I had to nurse my ideas, bide my time and find the right opportunity.
Years down the line, still in the media, having moved on to Vanguard Allure, TV hosting and other ventures, I was approached by Konga to be their spokesmodel for their newly created Plus Size fashion category and it was a success wit the audience. Younger girls, women who were too timid, girls without self-confidence all asking questions like “How do you do it? Where do you shop? How are you so confident?” I answered as best as I could, encourage and give advice but it unlocked something inside me that had been there the whole time and finally knew the right time had come.
Still in ATCL, Oye Akideinde sat and brainstormed with me till we had migraines, weeding out what names we thought would work and what sounded plain silly. Next, I started to ask myself, how do you get this thing going and it hit me, Fashion week! Not NYFW but the one for my cause, the annual Full Figure Fashion Week and so I started my research. Then I discovered that another event had also been newly created by top plus size bloggers Chastity Garner and CeCe Olisa, called The CurvyCon.
American plus size bloggers like Gabi Fresh are living the curvy life and making money off of it inspire a lot of people. It’s been more inclusive in America and maybe in the U.K than Africa, which is a huge irony because we are supposedly the monument of the bigger body. So you have plus size models walking New York Fashion Week last year like Sabrina Karlsson, Ashley Graham and Denise Bidot. Marc Jacobs has used people like Beth Ditto, even Project Runway’s last cycle was won by Ashley Nell Tipton, whose plus size collection clinched the winning ticket, a first ever in the show’s history!
In America, everything is driven by so the ‘captains of industry’ and the big cooperation’s are looking at it like it’s the largely unexploited market. You’ve done so much in straight size fashion with diffusion, luxury, couture and then they realise, we haven’t really explored this (plus size market), there’s money to be made here.
Since I started on this journey, I’ve been fortunate. A lot of existing Nigerian designer’s offer bespoke services. Some of them also go up in size on the rack so I’ve bought an insane amount of things from Tiffany Amber, Lanre Da’Silva, Ejiro Amos Tafiri, Orange Culture, Iamisigo, Sally Bawa, Ituen Basi, The Keeper of the Wardrobe and Zazaii. I actively patronize the fashion industry here. But in saying that, a lot of women don’t know these designers offer plus sizes and that there are designers who are dedicated to the plus-size market like Ma Bello, Tosfa, Couture by Makioba, Cantik Curves and Iro Lagos. I’ve collaborated with some designers and there’re still more projects we have in the works.
I know some brands that are coming up, I’ve been approached times without number. I have a friend that is doing an active wear line targeted at plus-sizes entering the market soon. They are not as many as I would like, but it is a step in the right direction. Internationally, there’s a million and one. They have the Monif C, Torrid, AdditionElle, Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart, Eloquii and much more. They are lucky because they have people who have a vision and are creating mass appeal and they are pumping billions into the industry to be able to make a viable commercial product. South Africa also has a couple of high street stores that create clothes at the mass level. They are lucky too, we’re still waiting for that to happen.
Why don’t we have plus size designers in Africa yet? Why don’t we have the plus-size street stores in Africa, what are they waiting for? We have the spending power yet people are ordering these clothes online but why are they not here in brick and mortar on African soil. Why are we trying to have our own runway shows when we should be included in these larger shows? We would celebrate and educate more people show them how to live that perfect life within the bodies that they were given and if they decide to change their bodies that’s fine too
All I see on the internet is just trolls in the comments section calling people fat, unhealthy, ugly and shapeless and it’s so funny because you have mothers, aunts, sisters, in most families on this continent that are gorgeous and yet plus size. Do you troll your sister, your aunt or your mum? Why are we not more accepting? It’s shocking to me how unaccepting we are of who we are as people. And people go under the guise of ‘Oh! We are only speaking out of concern for your health.’ Lies! Who you epp?! When did you care so much about someone’s health? Where have you been asked to donate to save a fat persons soul?” To the naysayers calling plus size people unhealthy and lazy, send me an email let’s talk about it. My email is here [email protected] You want to talk, then talk but give me something constructive. Don’t bash or troll people. If you feel we are promoting an unhealthy lifestyle, no problem. I’ll give you more reasons why we are not.
There’s a lovely quote a friend of mine, Zandile said, “The media can’t change how you see things but it can change the way you think about things.” I can’t go into every Nigerians mind and change how they see a curvy person, but I can change the way they approach the topic. I can let them know not every large person is unhealthy or lazy, not every large person would never amount to anything. Even in my life it’s my goal to be fit, I’ve never wanted to be skinny. I love curves but I work out, take walks, do sit ups, planks, I’m eating healthier so I can live longer but just because I appear to be heavier than you are doesn’t mean I’m going to die before you. You could walk outside right now, you’ve never eaten rice in the last seven years because you are afraid of 2kg of fat and then get killed by a bus. We are promoting a healthy lifestyle; we’re accepting first, we are empowering, and then when you feel good about yourself, everything will fall into place. That’s our belief.
We (ATCL) have a lot of amazing campaigns, collaborations, events and mixers lined up. We had a campaign shoot for Pop Up Plus, which is a quarterly live style market for plus size women and in that shoot we wore pieces from Ejiro Amos Tafiri. Recently, I saw another shoot of the same Ejiro Amos Tafiri outfit by Grey Velvet Boutique and all the models seemed to be somewhere between size 4 and size 6. We did that shoot before them but they completely mimicked our style but we’re gracious about it. I would like to believe we inspired that shoot. So who says you can’t draw inspiration from ‘Fatshion’. I see cute things on my friends and I’m like ooh! I love that I’m going to do something or style something just like that. If you love fashion, you love fashion. A great dresser is a great dresser. I don’t see why ‘straight sized’ people can’t come to the website and enjoy all that we have to offer. You are welcome, it’s for everyone so please visit.
We are not limiting this to Nigeria, this conversation is Pan African, it’s for an entire continent. So expect to see ATCL mixers in Ghana, Kenya, S.A coming soon. Expect campus drives because we are in touch with people who are doing pageants and other things. We are going to be everywhere; we’re going to make people think differently about this subject. We’ve been recognized by so many international bloggers about what we are doing so I’m sure we are on the right track. There’s no doubt about it, this is here to stay and grow. The ATCL movement is about empowerment in general for males and females. I know some women who love men with a chub and good-looking men who are on the chubby side. They dress well, they are clean, they are active and they are successful. No one gives them grief, why are they giving the women grief? But a male friend recently said to me, “It’s the women who give other plus size women grief.” Right now sexy is defined by washboard abs and not everyone is going to have washboard abs, deal with it. So yes we are more than just fashion. We are about lifestyle, healthy choices, career, love, relationships and success in every sphere of your life.
ATCL Editors & Writers
We are looking for people we can hire as contributors, writers, we want to hear your stories and we want people from all spheres of lifestyle spectrum. Fashion, food, travel, relationships, beauty, hair, we want you to come. We don’t want you to say there was no opportunity, or this is for a certain plus size girl or for popular girls. No, it’s not about that, it’s for everyone. Just come on board, go to the website, read, tell us what you like, tell us your feedback, we want to hear from everyone. We are here to stay so we are serious about what we do. There’s some part of the site that’s really dear to me which is a chat forum where people can come in and discuss various topics multiples times a day. It’s a safe space you can share and connect with people on any kind of topic. We are looking forward to people learning, hearing from other people, knowing that they are not alone.
In such a time of difficulty for the country, ATCL is encouraging body positivity and a healthy attitude to both body and mind. Rarely do we go out of our way to build up and support but ATCL wants to promote an atmosphere of love, acceptance and above all tolerance. It’s no small feat but if there’s anybody who can make it happen, it’s the audacious Latasha Lagos.