Midtown Raleigh News

Midtown Muse: Raleigh pageant celebrates curvy women

Purusha Jones, founder and director of the state’s first Ms. Full-Figured N.C. Pageant, is flanked by the winners, Sharnae Pierce, left, Ms. Full-Figured N.C. Plus 2015, and Chelae Cummings, Ms. Full-Figured N.C. 2015.
Purusha Jones, founder and director of the state’s first Ms. Full-Figured N.C. Pageant, is flanked by the winners, Sharnae Pierce, left, Ms. Full-Figured N.C. Plus 2015, and Chelae Cummings, Ms. Full-Figured N.C. 2015. COURTESY OF PURUSHA JONES

More often than not, grassroots movements are like pop-ups, just enough to whet your whistle of curiosity. Then poof!

The curvy movement I told you about in February lends a different perspective. It’s still building momentum with this message: Girls with curves are as healthy and beautiful, as intelligent and sexy, and as driven and focused as the next chick.

Two women have a crown and sash to prove it – plus an invitation to compete on a national stage.

That’s because Purusha Jones, a model coach and event organizer on the front lines of the curvy body-positive movement, kept her promise to direct the state’s first Ms. Full-Figured N.C. Pageant.

It’s an off-shoot of the Ms. Full-Figured USA Pageant, which celebrated 25 years in April.

Thirteen women age 18 and older competed in the local pageant at the Hilton Garden Inn near Crabtree Valley Mall on Sept. 20. The full-figured competition was open to women who wear sizes 12 to 16, and the full-figured plus competition was open to those who wear size 18 and larger.

Chelae Cummings won Ms. Full-Figured N.C. 2015, and Sharnae Pierce won Ms. Full-Figured N.C. Plus.

“I finally got the courage to do it,” said Pierce, 29 and a mother of three young children. “Most curvy and plus-size women are shy about showing what we have and who we are in something so big.

“I figured I’d push myself and just do it. I’ve never done anything bold like that – and made it!”

Nationwide, the stereotypes, both blatant and hidden, that curvy plus-size women say have kept them in the background are being challenged full throttle to introduce new definitions of beauty.

It makes sense, since 67 percent of American women are size 14 and up.

Consider: Vogue recently made history by signing its first plus-size model.

Pop culture celebrates curves. Drake raps, “I like my girls BBW” – big beautiful woman. Meghan Trainor’s hit song “All About that Bass” boasts “all the right junk in all the right places.”

And social media is ablaze with ads of plus-size women in everything from underwear to swimsuits.

This month, National Curves Day, an organization based in Washington, D.C., proclaimed Oct. 14 a day to highlight, empower and uplift body positivity among curvy and plus-size women.

It’s all in tandem with Jones’ aim for the pageant.

“Not enough women actually uplift each other, and others,” Jones said. “It shouldn’t be like that when there’s enough out here, even in pageantry, for everyone to have their moment. It’s just a matter of how you do it.

“The biggest things are understand who you are, know your worth and know it takes a village to empower and inspire people.”

In addition to workshops – from hair styling and make-up to networking and mastering the pageant runway – each contestant in the Ms. Full-Figured N.C. pageant completed 25 hours of community service, Jones said.

Aletha Leftdwrige logged 70 hours of community service and won second runner-up, Ms. Photogenic, Ms. Social Media and, certainly, Ms. Community Service. She also won a Rising Star Award.

“I wanted to do something to not only build confidence in myself but also to build confidence in other women,” said Leftdwrige, 32, who wears a size 22. “It showed my ability to just be who I am, that I don’t have to look like the women in the magazines to be considered beautiful.”

Contestant Tywana Green hopes the pageant helped open other doors to learn more about the industry.

“It’s a confidence-builder,” said Green, 39, who competed for Ms. Full-Figured N.C. Plus.

Pierce believes the loudest message was sent to her children: “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything,” she said.

“There are actually women out there to help build each other up, and that gave me an extra boost,” said Pierce, who will do appearances and continued community service during her reign.

“Then,” she said, “on to Ms. Full-Figured USA!”

ldrwigg@gmail.com

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