I love interviewing pioneers within the Full Figured Community, so when I had the chance to sit down with one of my good friends, Chenese Lewis, I was very excited! She is the host of the world famous Plus Model Radio which features some of the most influential people in the industry. Chenese has now done a staggering 105 episodes to date with no signs of slowing down. She is also a plus size model, event host and a positive role model on so many levels.
Hi Chenese, so glad you could sit down with us. We are big fans of yours and I know our readers appreciate this. You are very well known within the Plus Size industry especially with your hit show “Plus Model Radio” but could you give our readers a quick background about yourself?
I would love to! I am originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and discovered plus size modeling by a radio ad for an open call in the summer of 2000. The open call was specifically for plus size models to go to a convention, I went to the open call, got selected, went to the convention, then another one, wasted a lot of money and nothing came of it. So I decided to do my research online and that’s when I discovered the plus community. What I discovered was I didn’t have the stats to be a plus model represented by top agencies, had I known that a lot of money could have been saved! I was sadden and discouraged, but I didn’t let it stop me from at least giving it a try.
I kept researching online looking for opportunities to get exposure for myself and stumbled across the Miss Plus America Pageant! I had never seen a pageant for plus size women before and I immediately wanted to participate! I entered and was crowned Miss Plus America 2003; I worked hard doing everything I could to create awareness about me and the pageant. The following year I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment. The more I put myself out there and the more I hustled opportunities came to me unexpectedly, like public speaking, being a spokesperson, event producing, and hosting. Fast forward to 12 years later and though I’m not the plus supermodel that I originally set out to be, God had a different path for me which has been just as satisfying, if not more!
What did you find challenging about your career in beginning and what do you find challenging now?
I think the challenges are the same, but the circumstances are different. The same size discrimination goes on in the plus modeling industry and in Hollywood, a few bigger girls have been able to slide through the cracks but it’s not the norm! For me specifically the circumstance is different because I now bring more to the table than I did at the beginning of my career. I think I have built a great brand which is growing daily which is geared towards, but not limited to this niche market. I have a relationship with the plus community by being personable and engaging with the audience, not only with the podcast but as I travel to host various events. The connection I have made is immeasurable. However the same challenges apply because companies, networks, etc. aren’t willing to step out of the box and push the envelope when it comes to plus sizes.
Who is your favorite guest of all time on Plus Model Radio?
It’s hard to pick just one! What makes a great guest is someone that has something interesting to talk about! I’ve had several great conversations on the show over the years, I love shining a light on those in the plus community that are doing positive things.
What advice can you give full figured models starting out, basically what works and what doesn’t in your opinion?
What does work is being professional, doing your research, and working hard! What doesn’t work is looking for a hand out or a hook-up! Today we have tons of resources on-line with info about how to get started as a plus size model, all you have to do is Google! To me when someone doesn’t even take the time to research and study what they want to do then they don’t really want it!
We have seen the plus size industry as a whole change drastically within the last three years alone. More stores are emerging every day, more bloggers, and more events. What are your thoughts?
I think it’s absolutely fabulous, there is room for everybody! What I don’t like is that everyone is not as business savvy as they should be. I would like to see more originality and fresh ideas with plus projects instead of people recycling the same old concepts over and over. I would also like to see more people working together and collaborating instead of trying to knock each other down.
Please give us your favorite modeling picture of all time that you have done and if you could, tell us a little back story behind it.
That’s a tough one. I like different pictures for different reasons. I can’t choose! However if it’s back story that you’re looking for, last year I had a photo shoot for a PLUS Model Magazine editorial where EVERYTHING went wrong! I wrote a blog about it that you can read here: http://cheneselewisblog.com/archives/144
I think all of our readers would love to know…what’s next for Chenese Lewis?
I actually have lots of BIG and exciting things coming up that I’m dying to tell you about but unfortunately it’s too soon to reveal anything! Join my mailing list though my Website, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter to stay in the loop!
Also, I just learned today that I will be hosting www.curvesrockweekend.com
Thank you so much Chenese and we wish you all the best!!!