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A Full-Figured Revolution

LEFT: Actress Gabourey Sidibe, starring in “Empire” and “American Horror Story”, at the premiere of “The Hateful Eight”. 
RIGHT: Ashley Graham, modelling here for Forever 21, is the first full-figured model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit edition. (Photo/Forever 21)

LEFT: Actress Gabourey Sidibe, starring in “Empire” and “American Horror Story”, at the premiere of “The Hateful Eight”. RIGHT: Ashley Graham, modelling here for Forever 21, is the first full-figured model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit edition. (Photo/Forever 21)

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Rochelle Thompson-Walker, founder of Miss Plus Beauty Bahamas.

By JEFFARAH GIBSON

Tribune Features Writer

jgibson@tribunemedia.net

THIS year, plus-size model Ashley Graham became the first full-figured woman to grace the cover of the popular Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit edition. R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan, a curvy diva, turned heads on the red carpet at the 2016 Grammy Awards in a form-hugging Michael Costello gown. And actress Gabourey Sidibe, although she has received much criticism for her weight, has become a fan favourite in her recurring roles on Fox’s hit television show “Empire” and on “American Horror Story”.

The list of plus-size stars breaking barriers is steadily growing. And despite their fuller figures, which are traditionally frowned upon in Hollywood and in the media in general, these women have been experiencing great success in their respective careers.

Even the fashion industry is starting to embrace plus-size women. Full-figured women have been showing up on high fashion runways, in ad campaigns, and more trendy retail boutiques have lines catering to plus-size women and teens, which was not always the case just a few years ago.

But with this body positive movement gaining traction around the world, there has not been much public reaction here in the Bahamas – until now.

The newly launched Miss Plus Beauty Bahamas International seeks to reflect the global message that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

This is not the first of its kind; a pageant geared towards full-figured women was last held in the Bahamas five years ago, but Rochelle Thompson-Walker said she thought it important to bring the format back and decided to host her very own pageant.

Now, a call is going out to all women who believe they have what it takes to wear the crown of Miss Plus Beauty Bahamas.

“I am a former beauty contender and was actually a runner-up in the Miss Commonwealth Bahamas pageant, but that was a few pounds and light years ago,” Mrs Thompson-Waker said.

“But seriously, I appreciated when the full-figured pageant came on the scene because it meant that the pageant market was making the opportunity to compete accessible to all women, no matter their size. Unfortunately, with almost five years of not hearing anything, I was compelled to move forward with a plan so that we can restore the essence of pageantry to its rightful place. Every woman should be afforded the opportunity, should she wish, to showcase her beauty and to make a meaningful contribution to the community, no matter her dress size. This pageant will give these gorgeous women an opportunity to demonstrate that size has no bearing on beauty.”

Mrs Thompson-Walker is a former supporter of the Hal Jackson’s Miss Bahamas Talented Teen pageant, a Toastmaster, a certified human resources training and development professional, an avid pageant coach and trainer, events planner, and a practicing marketing professional.

She also served as a judge for the National Costume Competition for the Miss Universe pageant held here in the Bahamas in 2009.

Mrs Thompson-Walker said the Miss Plus Beauty Bahamas pageant could not come at better time given that global movements that promote body acceptance are gaining in popularity.

“On our Facebook page we post things that are positive. We have a fashion inspiration of the day that encourages people to love the skin they are in. We have even featured stories about Ashley Graham, and posted pictures of singer Jazmine Sullivan at the Grammys, and all of that is to promote positive body images,” she told Tribune Woman.

Mrs Thompson-Walker said what makes Miss Plus Beauty Bahamas unique outside of the fact that it is a pageant for full-figured women is the fact that it promotes a platform for ladies to address matters like social ills, community outreach, and sometimes even matters of the heart.

The pageant is attached to two internationally based organisations, one of which will be coming to the Bahamas for the inaugural pageant this year.

“My passion is pageantry and I am mandated to provide a platform for those who are not ashamed of who they are and wish to offer themselves as ambassadors of the Bahamas. Without sounding preachy, I just really want a proud sector of our country’s best who are ready to stand proudly and say to all and sundry, ‘Hey world, I am more than just my skin. I have a positive contribution to make and I love the skin I’m in’,” she said.

More information about the pageant will be revealed in the lead-up to the finale in June. So far, Miss Plus Beauty Bahamas has released its criteria for contestants, which call for women who wear a dress size 14 and over. It is open to women aged 21 to 40.

The prize package for the winner will include participating at the international pageant/s, full wardrobe for the international competition/s, a cash prize and more.

During the pageants orientation event on April 1, contestants will be fully briefed on everything surrounding the event. Potential contestants have until March 31 to apply for the pageant.

More information on the 2016 Miss Plus Beauty Bahamas International pageant can be found on Facebook (Miss Plus Beauty Bahamas International Pageant), on the pageant website, or send an e-mail to missplusbeautybahamas@gmail.com. Registration is now ongoing.

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