Friday, March 30, 2018

"Woman Under Water" Monica Davis and the birth of Bjuled Couture Plus Size Swimsuits

"Enjoy the journey" those words still ring in my ear even though it's been weeks since I've interviewed Monica Davis founder and designer of Bjuled Couture Plus Size Swimsuits.  Her designs are made exclusively for curvy women and has graced many fashion runways and she's been featured in various magazines (check out this Essence feature).  But Monica's interest in swimwear goes much deeper than a simple love for fashion.

Growing up Monica admits to always being drawn to and having a great love for the water--beaches, pools,--anything dealing with the idea of being able to immerse yourself in a body of water.  She would often have the opportunity to visit the beach for "mini-vacations" with her Daddy.  She says that she's always been a Daddy's girl and cherishes the moments that he could get time away from his job as a butcher to help teach her how to swim.  

Monica fell in love with the water and the freedom it would bring her.  She says the beach was an escape and describes it as a place where heaven meets the earth.  Being in the water is very spiritual to her and a way that she can feel cleansed from life.  She admits that she's had some of her best conversations with God while being in or near the water.

Monica started out working in the medical field but quickly realized that life was not really for her.  When her body changed she could no longer wear the clothes that she used to wear due to multiple surgeries.  She felt depressed because now she had to find swim styles that complimented her new body frame.  She also has experienced some serious health issues dealing with fibroid's. According to UCLA Health,  "Fibroid's are the most frequently seen tumors of the female reproductive system.  They are firm, compact tumors that are made of smooth muscle cells.  

It is estimated that between 20 to 50 percent of women of reproductive age have fibroid's.  In more than 99 percent of fibroid cases, the tumors are benign (non-cancerous).  These tumors are not associated with cancer and do not increase a woman's risk for uterine cancer.  Although it should be noted that obese and African American women are at a higher risk of developing these types of tumors. (for more information click here).

In most cases, fibroid's are very small.  A lot of women don't even realize that they have them.  I found out that I had one when I was pregnant with my son who is two years old now.  But up until that moment I had no idea.  I was advised that I didn't need to do anything because a lot of times these types of tumors shrink on their own. 

However in Monica's case, her fibroid's did not shrink.  They continued to grow.  And although most people can live with fibroid's and not have any issues, some women do experience heavy menstrual periods, lower back pain, pain during intercourse, and anemia.  This may not seem like a lot but when you personally have to deal with this it really does greatly affect your life.

I'll admit that I have issues with this as well and it is bothersome.  I deal with heavy menstrual periods and I've always had low iron.  It does indeed make you feel tired all the time.  I've had to alter my eating habits and take iron supplements (which I hate) as well as take vitamins.  It's extremely crucial that you stay on top of this if you experience it because our iron is very important.  It felt great to be able to talk to someone who can relate to some issues that I experience but not always able to talk about.

Monica has had two surgeries because of her fibroid's.  As these tumors grow they can deplete you of iron and cause you to have an iron deficiency.  Monica has had two iron infusions.  Having an iron deficiency leaves you tired and worn out.  You loose interest in the things that you normally love.  Some people confuse this with depression.  Many times counselors and therapists will ask their clients to visit their physical doctor to have their iron levels check when they complain of being tired and losing interest in things they once loved.  

Because of the issues with fibroid's and iron deficiencies Monica had a very tough decision to make.  She had tried over the years to have children but was not successful.  Unfortunately after trying a few more times and realizing that her health was not improving she made the decision to have a hysterectomy which took care of the fibroid and iron issues.  

The surgeries that Monica has undergone have left physical, mental and emotional scars.  But don't you dare feel sorry for her or count her out.  She is a strong and courageous woman with an awesome testimony.  

Because of the physical scars that surgeries left on her beautiful body Monica felt like she couldn't enjoy the Beach like she normally could and that really got her down.  She couldn't find anything to wear because she had gained weight and had visible scars.  So instead of feeling down about herself she decided that, "if you don't see it--create it" and I love her for that.  I will always remember these words because they are so powerful.

Life will always bring challenges, trials and disappointments but it is up to us to be determined to PUSH through and persevere in-spite of!  Monica started sketching designs for bathing suits for herself first.  But then she thought, "hmm, if I'm going through this and feeling this way, so are other women!"  

She received a lot of support and encouragement from family to go further--and that's exactly what she did.  She took her sketches and designs to a seamstress who helped translate her designs to a manufacture in New York.  She was introduced to a designer in Washington, D.C. who became her mentor and adviser.  It took a full year of planning and traveling, praying and hard work for her to get her samples to a manufacture but once she did, doors began to open up.

Bjuled Couture Plus Size Swimsuits was birthed out of a lot of pain--which most dreams are--but it
takes hard work and dedication to turn those dreams into goals and then into tasks that make it a reality.  Bjuled is a sexy and flattering swimsuit line adorned with unique embellishments that features flirty, sexy, and sophisticated styles. 

In September 2015, after personally presenting Bjuled Couture Plus Size Swimsuits in the first ever pop-up street performances by Elucid Magazine in New York City, it was showcased one week later at The Church of Holy Apostles, presented by Elucid Magazine.  Shortly after, Monica received a personal invitation to appear at the Harrisburg Fashion Week and ended the year as a presenting designer at LS 1426 Curves Swim week in Texas.

"It has been a wild ride so far and I look forward to immensely to expanding Bjuled Couture Plus Size Swimsuits and making the brand available to curvy women in top resorts and cruise lines in 2017.  My loyal customers should also know that I am hoping to create a ready-to-wear line that meets their every day wardrobe needs.  Stay tuned!"

JoJo West is the COO of Bjuled Couture Plus Size Swimsuits, as well as a professional plus size model and model coach in Miami, Fl. with more than 15 years of experience in modeling, pageantry, and dance, including ballet, jazz, and modern dance, beginning at age 5.  From the ages of 10-16, she modeled for several local events in the South Florida area before taking a break from the industry, reemerging in 2012 as a plus size model.  Since then, she has worked with several photographers across the East coast and has participated in several runway shows and trade shows incuding:  Baltimore Fashion Week, DC Fashion Week, NYFW Plus, Elucid Magazine NY Fashion Week, Harrisburg Fashion Week and Ashley Stewart "Love Your Curves Tour".

Jojo's goals is not only to represent curvy and plus size women, but also to help women embrace who they are.  As she say's, "The human form is beautiful regarless whether it's a size 2 or a size 16.  Art and beauty are all about perception.  Through Bjuled Couture, we are granted the privilege to create are by combining the designs with the beauty of the women wearing them."

Jojo's entrepreneurial spirit has continued to flourish, inspiring her current project of a 100% organic skin care brand that will help women feel even more beautiful in their bodies. 

Before we ended our conversation I asked Monica what would she tell someone reading this who has a great idea but may be tip-toeing or hesitant to follow their dreams.  This was her response:  If you were diagnosed with Cancer and had only six months to live, what would you do?  Would you be fearful?  Would you care about what other thought or felt?  Or would you live life to the fullest?  

God gives all of us gifts.  I tapped into my gift at the age of 41 and their are others who have began walking in their calling late in life.  There is no age limit on your dreams.  It's a challenge.  The question is: Are you up for the challenge.  Be your authentic self and follow YOUR dreams.  Surround yourself with people that are on another level so that you can see what is possible in life.  Don't listen to the naysayers--JUST DO IT!

Needless to say, I left this conversation with Monica so motivated!  I love meeting and talking to people who have faced their challenges head on and come out successful.  Monica is a very inspiring person with a beautiful collection of swimwear for curvy and plus size women.  She has an amazing team of people working with her and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn more about who she is and why she started this amazing journey in the swimsuit business.  

For more information on Monica Davis and Bjuled Couture Plus Size Swimwear and JoJo West please visit their websites (highlighted). 

Bjuled Couture Plus Size Swimwear (Website)



Monica Davis and Bjuled Couture Plus Size Swimwear is represented by Emma Medeiros of Medeiros Fashion PR--the first public relations firm in the United States to specialize in the plus size fashion industry.

After my conversation with Monica I dug out this old poem I wrote years ago about an experience I had while at the beach.
My Thoughts--by Candace Smith






























Saturday, March 17, 2018

Phatabulous Magazine proudly spotlights: "Babydoll Beauty Couture"

To read the full article please visit:

I enjoyed interviewing and writing about this beautiful soul so much!  I love her courageous spirit!  And she also has an amazing team of people that are great at what they do and love making people look and feel beautiful!

Special thanks to Emma Medeiros of Medeiros Fashion PR--The first PR firm in the US to specialize in the plus size industry.

Video Clips courtesy of:  Jamie Lopez & The Babydolls please visit their YouTube and subscribe:

Photo Credit: Gerry Garcia

Head MUA:
Jose Granados

Head Stylist:
Letasha Collins

Head Nail Tech
Lee Jackson

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Jamie Lopez & Babydoll Beauty Couture

My grandmother owned a beauty salon.  I can still remember the smells, the conversations, the heat of the dryer on my neck--that part was the worst part btw--and the way I felt when she rolled me around to look at myself in the mirror.  I always felt so beautiful when she was done.  

Years later, as I grew older I worked at different salon as a shampoo girl which allowed me to keep my edges laid and a few dollars in my middle school and high school pockets.  I loved being there and being apart of making women feel and look beautiful.  The way they smiled when they saw their reflections in the mirror was priceless and every woman deserves that--no matter what.

As an adult I've shopped around a little bit for hair and nail salons that was the perfect fit for my personality, hair texture and my pockets.  It's not easy.  The choices are endless and all beauticians and nail techs are not created equally.  I've walked into many places, felt the atmosphere and turned right back around and out the door.  I've also received horrible service by people that don't understand why a woman goes into a beauty salon in the first place.  

So, we've all been there--or at least I have.  I've walked into numerous salons-- hair and nail--and immediately either felt welcomed or like a fish out of water.  It's the reason I choose to either get my nails done by one person or no one at all.  I hate the feeling of walking into an establishment having everyone turn their head towards me, not smile, mumble a quick "be right with you" and then share words with fellow co-workers either in hushed voices or another language followed by snickers and muffled laughter.  I ask myself, why in the world would I ever give you my money to be treated like you don't want to service me?

Beauty Salons and nail salons are a place where a woman go to make herself feel and look beautiful for whatever reason and whatever occasion, its a place for women to let their hair down (literally) and chat it up gossiping and just enjoying each other's company.  Jamie Lopez, the owner of Baby Doll Beauty Couture knows this feeling all to well.  She was inspired to open her salon which promotes body positivity because of an experience no woman should ever have.

So imagine going into a salon to get your hair and nails done only to have the chair break underneath you--in front of everyone!  The horror!  Needless to say, she never wanted to go back again and was actually forced to get her hair done at home.  But, out of this tragedy was birthed triumph and isn't that usually how it goes?  Doesn't it seem like our worst moments present us with opportunities for greatness?  

It was exactly this moment that inspired Jamie to open up her own salon that would cater to women just like her--plus size and fabulousBabydoll Beauty Couture is an all inclusive salon that caters to the full-figured woman.  And to ensure that no other woman would have to endure what she had to, Jamie made sure that all of the seating in the salon is reinforced with custom made throne like chairs that holds up to 800 lbs and waxing benches--also custom made to hold up to 600 lbs.  When we spoke she stated that she did this to "ensure there would be no accidents and so that her clients would feel comfortable."  Jamie's been praised all over the country for creating a safe place for plus size women to go and have the opportunity to look and feel beautiful without being mistreated.

So, let me just stop right here and address a few things because I know that there are some people out there who have heard this story and many like it that would just say, "well why won't she just lose the weight?"  I've been hearing this question and many other statements like it for the life of this publication.  Hell, I've been hearing things like this my entire life and if it were that simple it would be done.  But its not and what many people don't realize is that you cannot become the person you may want to be and then start to love yourself and treat yourself like you're special--you have to do that right from where you're at.  

If you're 100 pounds to 700 pounds you still have to love you enough to care about you.  This is something that many people who don't really struggle with their weight seem to understand.  And some people don't see their weight as an issue--they actually like who they are--even if everyone doesn't understand it.   But I do.  I get it.  

Jamie understands this as well, being the only plus size person in her family she grew up very confident and positive.  She was even crowned prom queen in high school.  She says that she always wanted to be an inspiration to her younger sister letting her know by actions and not just words that you "can do anything" and that you have to keep going in life to accomplish your dreams and goals.  She really only wants to make her family proud of her and try to motivate the people around her to dream big!
The discrimination because of her weight has followed her--her entire life.  She's always been interested in make-up and went to school for it.  She's also worked at MAC and admits to needing a stool to work the required hours but they did not want to accommodate her.  She tried standing on her own but started having issues in her legs and pretty soon they just stopped putting her on the schedule.  But these obstacles only pushed her towards her destiny of owning her own salon.

Babydoll Beauty Couture started in California and with the support of family and friends did very well but Jamie had dreams of moving to Las Vegas and opening a salon there.  She moved there all on her own and fought many obstacles including losing friends and having people give up on her while the project was underway--but Jamie persevered and Babydoll Beauty Couture opened and has been a success ever since.  Now, she is able to create an atmosphere of acceptance for everyone.

Her team of hair and make-up stylists share her sentiments.  Jose Granados is the head MUA for Babydoll Beauty Couture and he feels that the salon really "embodies the all terms all-inclusive" and that it really does cater to everyone regardless of race and size.  He admitted to me that he's worked in other establishments that did discriminate against people because of their race and because of language barriers.  He reached out to Jamie via Instagram and she jump started his hiring process.  He's been with the company for about five months and says that he has "high hopes for the salon" and that "no one leaves disappointed" and every customer he's worked with has been "appreciative" of the positive atmosphere. 

Letasha Collins is the head stylist for Babydoll Beauty Couture and she took a big leap moving from Florida to Las Vegas to join the team.  She stated that the salons in Florida were "too competitive" and after she saw a video about Jamie's story and salon she was inspired to reach out.  As a plus size woman she could relate to a lot of the struggles that many of us face.  She enjoys making the women feel and look good no matter what it takes.  She shared a story with me about working with a woman that wanted her hair color silver and how it took over six hours to accomplish the look. She was very happy that she was able to help her achieve her desired look.  Collins has been in the hair business for close to 17 years and she admits that she's seen a lot in those years, but she really enjoys the atmosphere at Babydoll Beauty Couture.

Head Nail Technician Lee Jackson has an amazing story all on her own.  She's a a T-cell Lymphoma cancer survivor that switched her career from cosmetology to nails because the chemotherapy weakened her bones and now she suffers from osteoarthritis, and collapsed hips.  She's unable to stand or sit for long periods of time but that hasn't stopped her from doing what she loves which is making people feel and look beautiful.  Lee's worked with Jamie since the Las Vegas shop opened strongly believes that people should not be bashed for their size.  She admits that Babydoll Beauty Couture is a great place to work and the perfect place for a plus size woman to come and feel beautiful.  

Jamie has big plans going forward, March 31st marks the 1st anniversary of her Las Vegas shop and she's planning a re-grand opening which I'm sure will be fabulous.  She's also hosting a BBW Vegas night club every month and there's a TLC show in the works!  

Her story inspires me so much to just live my life regardless of what others think or how they feel.  It really is nothing and no one that can hold us back from achieving our dreams and goals but ourselves.  It's our own fears and insecurities that keep us down.  If we believe in ourselves and have faith in who we are then there's really no limitations to what we can achieve in life and Jamie Lopez is living proof of that!

*Special thanks to Emma Medeiros of Medeiros Fashion PR--the first PR firm in the US to specialize in the plus size industry.

*All photos are credited to Gerry Garcia

Contacts for Jamie Lopez and Babydoll Beauty Couture:

YouTube: The Babydolls Jamie Lopez 
Facebook: @babydollbeautycouture 

Instagram: @babydollbeautycouture

Saturday, February 24, 2018

From Bullied to Beauty--Tina Green Story

"Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, 'I'm possible'!" -- Audrey Hepburn

I had the pleasure of interviewing plus model Tina Green the other day and I'm just always amazed at what she's gone through to reach her goals in life. Sometimes it's easy to look at pictures, status updates, the glitz and the glam and think that someone has always had it easy.  But success sometimes takes patience and shows up unexpectedly.

Tina began modeling when she was 19 years old.  She started to receive compliments and people often remarked about her height saying that she should try modeling.  Tina's always been tall, but hasn't always received praise for her height. Standing at 6'0, a great height for a runway model, but Tina was bullied in school because of it.   Tina had personal struggles growing up, being bullied because of her height, not being popular, and was considered "different" and "strange."

As she grew older she gained confidence by joining talent agencies and learning how to walk, pose and gaining social graces.  Tina found happiness in fashion and make up, and loved reading fashion magazines and practicing with make up in her spare time.  While in college, Tina enrolled in modeling and make up classes.

One of her first jobs was modeling for an independent brand that produced African attire.  Her payments came in free clothes!  Tina got really discouraged because agencies in the Philly area were telling her that she would never be editorial, high fashion because she was too tall and plus size.  Even thought Tina was discouraged she didn't give up, but she took a little pause to get married, have children and go to graduate school.

Even though Tina has an excellent paying job in the medical field she still has a desire to be a
professional runway plus model.  She said that being a medical writer was never her dream or goal she really just always wanted to be in fashion.  She's recently been going to more open calls and practicing on her craft.

She's participated in a showcase at the PA Talent and Model Expo in King of Prussia where she displayed her acting talents in front of regional and international casting directors.  She's also been in two independent films (Reigning on You and Badland) and one TV show (The Americans).

Her goal is to be hired for plus size catalog, lingerie, swimsuit, and glamour work, and TV and commercial jobs,  Tine finds inspiration to continue working hard in listening to positive affirmations from Louise Hay and journaling.

Recently Tina got the opportunity to play as an extra for an FX show called The Americans.  She's submitted for an extra role for the movie Creed 2 set to be filmed in Philadelphia Pennsylvania.  She's working with runway coach Sheilah Edmonds, and will attend Jeannie Ferguson's Runway class in March 2018.  She'll be auditioning to be a model for a skin care line to be aired on QVC and she's submitted to the Face of Kurvacious competition.

Tina has taken her modeling career to the next level by signing up for Medeiros Fashion PR, the very first public relations firm in the US to specialize in the plus size fashion industry.  Medeiros Fashion PR is founded by president Emma Medeiros who stated in Marie Claire UK magazine that, "I was absolutely astounded when I realized that, although there are tons of fashion PR firms in the US, not one of them specifically catered to the mammoth plus size fashion industry,  We simply can't have that!  Now that the world is finally realizing the power of the plus size purse, I am determined to give plus size designers, models, photographers, etc, the voice that they deserve."

Tina Green (For Booking):
Social media:
Instagram - @tinagreen2018
Twitter - @tinagreen2018

Facebook - Tina Green Plus Size Model