Curvy girls are embracing what they see when they pass by the mirror.
The second annual Ms. Full-Figured N.C. Pageant is set for Oct. 2 in Durham. The competition is an offshoot of the Ms. Full-Figured USA Pageant, and winners will be invited to compete on a national stage later this year.
Seventeen women who wear sizes 12 to 32 will compete in this year’s statewide pageant.
“This is my year to do it,” said Rosemarie White, 43, of Raleigh. She will compete for the Ms. Exquisite title, created this year for women over 40.
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“The pageant is something out of my comfort zone,” White said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but always felt I wasn’t the right size, the right build.
“I figure now, though, why not take a leap of faith and just do it – and learn something about the world of pageantry and the sisterhood that comes with it.”
Pageant director Purusha Jones credits a steady climate in recent years of acceptance of size diversity on the runway of life that breathes confidence in curvy and plus-size women, despite lingering social stereotypes.
The same movement that has led to National Curves Day – it’s Oct. 12 this year – also advocates for self-love, confidence and health, she said.
“It’s all going in a positive direction,” said Jones, 39, who also is a model coach and event organizer on the front lines of the curvy body-positive movement. “People are accepting who they are, finally – not hiding and stepping to the forefront.”
Jones points to Sports Illustrated’s plus-size swimsuit cover model, additions of plus-size Fashion Week and other plus-size pageants nationwide. And there are more plus-size fashions, from trendy to professional to athletic.
Jones said the acceptance of all body shapes doesn’t take away from the importance of being healthy.
“We do not promote obesity,” she said. “It’s OK to be who you are, but make sure you’re taking care of your body, as well.”
For the past five months, pageant contestants have attended workshops on everything from hair-styling and make-up to networking and mastering the pageant runway. Each also completed at least 25 hours of community service. One contestant completed 47 hours and will receive one of three Rising Stars awards, Jones said.
Most of the community service featured physical activities, from the Susan B. Komen cancer walk to the Color Splash 5K.
“That’s one of my favorite things for them to do, because they’re not only helping other people, they’re helping themselves by being active,” Jones said.
Although Saturdays are Rexine Foster’s busiest days at her Raleigh business, Renee Rexine Salon, she was willing to rise extra early to participate in community service projects for the pageant.
“I really enjoyed volunteering, bonding with the community, and I will continue it after the pageant is over,” said Foster, who won a People’s Choice and Rising Stars award. “The entire experience is an awesome opportunity for us plus-size girls to get together and create a sisterhood and bond and advocate for the plus-sized community.”
Inez Bruce, the pageant’s oldest contestant, decided to enter the competition after prayer and chats with a sister and best friend who told her, “Why not join in? You can teach these young girls what it is to be fly and fabulous!”
The pageant’s first photo shoot energized Bruce’s interest in modeling and she’s since gone on other photo shoots and been featured in Oversize Rated Magazine. She’s also been asked to talk to young girls about body image and being comfortable in their own skin.
“You do not need permission to be who you are,” said Bruce, 59, of Raleigh. “I probably had the lowest self-esteem until I hit 53. But now I’m comfortable and I’m healthy. I’m comfortable with my curves and my bumps and my rolls, and the pageant has helped that immensely.”