Plus-size fashion designer Kenyatta Jones has started a movement thanks to her new show on ‘We tv’ called House of Curves. This new show follows the day to day operations at Bella René, the first high fashion and couture full-figured designer brand, based in Atlanta. Kenyatta Jones, along with her team which consists of her two best friends from college, an assistant with an attitude and her mother Rene’ as her main investor will do anything to expand their brand. For the past three weeks ‘House of Curves’ has given you a glimpse into the life of a plus-size designer and the ups-and-downs of running a company that has to fight to compete with straight size fashion designers. However, Kenyatta is ambitious and she’s focused on accomplishing her ultimate goal, which is to see her designs on the runway at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City.
While Kenyatta Jones is pressing toward her goal, she is also determined to use her show as a platform to destroy the stereotypes of plus-size women. “Every plus-size person is not lazy.” says Kenyatta. Every plus size person is not sitting on their couch eating a gigantic bag of chips and popcorn, drinking a 2-liter soda and watching TV all day. I’m a mogul and I have a very busy life and I do it all in six-inch heels. I’m not lazy by far and I want the world to see that.”
Recently, I had an opportunity to get up close and person with Kenyatta to discuss her new show, stereotypes of plus-size women and what she wished she knew before starting Bella René .
Your mother Rene is your main investor & business partner. Do you feel that working together in business will eventually affect your personal relationship or do you think you can have both?
My mother and I have been working together for a very long time and we do have that line that’s kind of blurry. Some days you can see the line and sometimes the line is totally transparent. But I think that since we’re working together on a common goal in something that we believe in, we’re always able to get back to business and even though we kind of go back and forth between personal and professional, she’s still my mom at the end of the day. Business wise I think we’re ok, but personally I just would never want her to get so made at something I did on a personal level that it affected the business. And on the show, that’s kind of what’s happening. So truly, I think that we would have to make some decisions, to try to keep that from happening.
Although your ultimate goal is to make it to Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, you recently attended Full-Figured Fashion Week, how important is this event for plus-size women?
Women definitely come to Full-Figured Fashion Week to get their piece of fashion and it’s in the setting of New York City just like Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. This event gives us an opportunity to see designers who are designing specifically for us and have our voice in fashion and I think it’s just a great platform. It’s a start, but it’s definitely not the end all, to be all. I would like to see plus size-designers included in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. I think there should not be a difference…we’re totally separated! I think it’s time that we all get together and everybody show in one platform. To show there’s equality within the sizes.
Actress/comedian Monique recently lost 80 pounds and many people in entertainment are doing the same. Do you feel that you would lose customers and tarnish your reputation if you got down to a size 8?
I definitely think that I would! Although I think that it’s a personal decision for people to make, I think I would definitely lose a lot of customers… but I don’t want to lose weight! I’ve been fat since I was five, my weight goes up and down down…I’m never going to be skinny and I don’t want to be. So I think I’m kind of safe in that sense but it happens. You have Jennifer Hudson and Monique, you have people who are pressured to lose weight to be in Hollywood, but that’s something they don’t have to worry about with me, because that’s not a desire of mine.
Recently on your show you had a little boy named Bishop look at a few photos and he frowned at the picture of a plus-size woman and said he liked skinny women. What can we do as adults, media and a society to help break these stereotypes early in children?
I think we all have to make a continuous effort to speak to our children. Bishop just happens to be a kid that’s now 7 years old, still skinny and a very healthy child. However when I go to pick him up from school, there are about 50 kids in the school that are all overweight. So the kids see it already at 6 & 7 years old. You see kids that are struggling with their weight, their clothes are too small and they’re not able to run & play like the other kids. So their classmates are looking at this and thinking that’s not the thing you want to be, you don’t want to be the fat kid and always in school they see the fat kid getting picked last at recess. So I think that we have to speak to our children and let them know that these kids are just like you, they are just are a little bigger than you. But I think Bishop was kind of looking at it and saying, that’s my preference in a girl, I think skinny girls look better. His mother did sit him down and had a talk with him, because you never know what kind of woman you’ll find in a package. He’s a seven year old boy and he already has this stigma that being skinny is better. So I think as a society and especially media, we have to start putting bigger kids in commercials, cause you never see the little fat kid on the commercial; all you see is happy skinny kids dancing and playing around and their life is amazing. These are the kind of things that we’re showing in the media so that’s what they think is better and that’s something that has to change.
What have you learned and experienced in business,that you wish you would have known when you first started your company?
I wish I would have known the barriers that a plus-size designer would have in the fashion industry. I think more doors closed in my face than opened for me. It’s getting a little better now, because 70% of people are size 14 and higher, especially women. So I wish I really would have known that it was going to be this hard, because I would have done things a lot differently. I would have a approached it in a different way. I would have tried to speak out a lot sooner and become an advocate of allowing women to accept their bodies. Cause honestly if the fashion industry does not change, we’ll continue to be separated and that’s been a very difficult thing as a business woman to deal with. You have a lot of stores out there, and your business could make a tremendous amount of money, if they would just let you in. But, as a business woman sometimes you have to build your business and then they will come. That’s what’s happening now, they have no choice but to pay attention to Bella René, because we are everywhere.
What message do you want your viewers to walk away with, after watching House of Curves?
I want them to see that I am a business woman who is trying to do something for a society of women that have been forgotten. I want them to see that they are just like me, I’m just like them…and if I can do it, they can do it. I want to empower these women to go out there and do exactly what I’ve done and show the world that they’re beautiful no matter what size that they are. I want to not only show plus-size women that they should have confidence, but straight size women too. Because women as a whole have a very, very bad body image already. So I really want them to learn to be confident in their own skin and just be happy with who they are no matter if they want to lose weight, gain weight…whatever. To be confident and happy with what they see in the mirror is the message I want them to receive.
Watch Kenyatta Jones and her team on House of Curves every Thursday on ‘We tv’ at 10pm ET/PT. Visit WEtv.com for sneak peeks, must-see freakout moments and a first look at Kenyatta’s Bella René showroom. Like them on Facebook and follow @WEtv on Twitter (hashtag: #HouseofCurves).
Photos via We tv & Bella René