It’s not tougher for plus-size women to get mar­ried – Temi Aboderin-alao

The Punch - - SATURDAY BEATS -

mobola SADIQ speaks to the founder of Plus­size Fash­ion Week Africa, Temi Aboderin-alao, about the style that suits plus-size peo­ple and other is­sues

This is the third edi­tion of PFWA. What’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ent this year? This year, we are do­ing it out­door and we are very ex­cited about it. It is still go­ing to be the same qual­ity show, with the same vi­brancy of mod­els. Apart from the fact that you’ll be fea­tur­ing plus-size mod­els, in what other ways is PFWA dif­fer­ent from other fash­ion weeks? It is a fash­ion week ded­i­cated to plus-size de­sign­ers, mod­els and celebri­ties. And that is what makes it dif­fer­ent. The con­ven­tional fash­ion weeks, that we all know of, do not re­ally wel­come plus­size de­sign­ers or mod­els. As a fash­ion de­signer, I know from ex­pe­ri­ence the strug­gle of plus-size mod­els to get on var­i­ous types of plat­forms. Ev­ery time I go for those shows, I would have to pick my own mod­els and that is how I started my mod­el­ling agency. I had to train and de­velop mod­els my­self be­cause I have train­ing in mod­el­ling. How­ever, some other de­sign­ers do not have that time and the kind of train­ing to do that. That is where the Plus­size Fash­ion Week Africa comes in– to cre­ate a plat­form for plus-size de­sign­ers to have more vis­i­bil­ity. It is a plat­form for them to shine.

What do you aim to achieve with the fash­ion show?

We have al­ways aimed to pro­mote the African woman and di­ver­sity. This year, we would have the first edi­tion of a mas­ter­class called, ‘Glow Up and Flaw­less’, with the theme, ‘Build­ing Men­tal Strength’. It is about do­ing what one has to do and fac­ing the chal­lenges of life, which is the prac­ti­cal part of it. Ba­si­cally, we are cre­at­ing a sup­port com­mu­nity for women who feel abused, ne­glected and down. We want to help build their men­tal strength and give them the op­por­tu­nity to help oth­ers who are like them.

What are your thoughts on body sham­ing?

I think it is very wrong and that is why I do what I do. PFWA is not just a fash­ion show, even though it’s an av­enue for build­ing women’s con­fi­dence with fash­ion. The mas­ter­class is lit­er­ally to talk to women about prac­ti­cal steps of deal­ing with is­sues such as body sham­ing. It is a cul­ture that needs to stop. You shouldn’t just meet peo­ple and tell them things like, “Oh, you are get­ting fat”. That is not an ap­pro­pri­ate thing to do. Ev­ery hu­man be­ing is a lot more than just their weight, so that shouldn’t be the fo­cus for any­one. For now, it is still an un­avoid­able part of life but things are ac­tu­ally chang­ing and things are not as bad as they were when I was grow­ing up. Part of that could also be be­cause I have been on a jour­ney and I know how to deal with the noise as I am fo­cused on what I am do­ing to my­self. I know that the most im­por­tant thing is to be healthy. Au­to­mat­i­cally as­sum­ing that a plus-size per­son is un­healthy is wrong be­cause there are slim peo­ple who are sick. Peo­ple have dif­fer­ent types of dis­eases that they claim is only for plus­size in­di­vid­u­als. I al­ways tell peo­ple that the first thing that builds one’s con­fi­dence is to make sure one is not big­ger than one should be. One should ex­er­cise and eat the right way for one’s body type and not fill one­self with junk foods. The only time there is a prob­lem is if some­one be­comes un­healthy and that’s what we deal with in our agency. We give ad­vice to all our mod­els and put them on pro­grammes (to help them). They have to be the best ver­sion of them­selves.

What in­spired you to start PFWA?

First and fore­most, I am a fash­ion de­signer. I started out sell­ing clothes and evolved into fash­ion de­sign­ing. Later on, I started the Plus Size Fash­ion Week Africa. I also started a mod­el­ling agency be­cause I had al­ways wanted to do that since I was young but I wasn’t bold enough, though I had a lot of train­ing. How­ever, it was just a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion be­cause when I started in 2011, there wasn’t much hap­pen­ing in that area and peo­ple were sur­prised. We had to deal with neg­a­tive com­ments but that didn’t stop us from mov­ing for­ward with the vi­sion. But fast for­ward to 2016, fash­ion is now a lot more. It is not com­pletely sat­u­rated but it is get­ting sat­u­rated. Now, there are a lot more plus-size de­sign­ers. A lot of plus-size women are very self-aware and many of them who ini­tially didn’t want to iden­tify as plus size now love and are proud of their bod­ies.

You’re mar­ried but some peo­ple be­lieve that it’s tough for plus­size ladies to get hitched. What was your ex­pe­ri­ence in that re­gard?

I don’t think so. I think it’s tough for any woman to get mar­ried and it’s tough to find the right per­son. It takes the grace of God for one to get the per­son meant for one. I feel there is a per­cep­tion that it is eas­ier for slim women to get mar­ried but then, they are some­times pres­sured to stay that way all their lives and it even­tu­ally wears thin on them. One should be with some­one who loves one for who one is and not just for one’s looks. Though one’s looks can help but it shouldn’t be the main rea­son a per­son would be with one. There is a lot of va­ri­ety out there and many plus-size ladies do get mar­ried; whether we want to be­lieve it or not.

How does be­ing plus-sized im­pact on your fash­ion style?

The only fac­tor that makes my style a bit con­ser­va­tive is be­cause I’m a born again Chris­tian. I think once an out­fit fits one’s body shape, one can look as el­e­gant and sexy as one wants, as long as one doesn’t look trashy. The unique thing about my brand, JT Kou­ture, is that we take into con­sid­er­a­tion in­di­vid­ual body types. I can put a crop top on al­most any body shape; I just have to style it prop­erly.

Does PFWA ex­tend be­yond the shores of Nige­ria?

That is the fu­ture plan. Ma­jor­ity of our de­sign­ers are in­ter­na­tional and the rea­son for this is be­cause we are try­ing to sell Nige­ria and Africa to the world. Some de­sign­ers at­tend PFWA from Europe and USA be­cause they want to ex­pe­ri­ence the show, cul­ture and en­vi­ron­ment. We are look­ing to take the event out of the shores of Nige­ria and into other African coun­tries in fu­ture.

How has the re­cep­tion been?

Things are get­ting bet­ter ev­ery year. It is nor­mal to face chal­lenges; one just has to en­cour­age one­self to keep mov­ing.

In light of cy­ber body sham­ing, do you sup­port the hate speech bill which is cur­rently be­ing con­sid­ered by the Na­tional As­sem­bly?

There is free­dom of speech and there is hate speech. I think the way they are try­ing to chan­nel it is wrong. It doesn’t look like it is go­ing to pro­tect the in­no­cent. It seems they (the pro­po­nents of the bill) would try to si­lence peo­ple. The real way to ac­tu­ally deal with this kind of thing is to teach peo­ple (good) man­ners. Peo­ple should know that there are cer­tain ways to speak or re­spond to oth­ers. The rule– ‘If you don’t have any­thing nice to say, keep it to your­self’ is such an im­por­tant one. These are things that peo­ple need to learn and not some­thing that should be turned into a law that can eas­ily be ex­ploited in the fu­ture.

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