I was afraid. My heart was pounding, I could literally feel the thumping sensation when I placed my hand over my heart. Sweat beads sprung up on my nose and slowly trickled down my neck. I’ve never felt so out of place. Standing in a small room, surrounded by clothing racks, bookcases, and rolling suitcases. I could hear the music and crowd on the other side of the door.
Breathe Jana’e. I kept whispering to myself, “just breathe.” Then I remembered for moments like this, I needed to channel my inner diva, but do I have an inner diva? Yes. I call her Dolly J. My grandmother’s middle name was Dolly and she embodied poise, grace and beauty.
‘You’re up”, a call from the other side of the door yelled out. I opened the door and took my first step. I was modeling a swimsuit in my first ever fashion show.
How did I get here? One evening after work, I was driving home and my phone rang. It was an unfamiliar number, which I usually don’t pick up. Those go directly to voicemail. But something compelled me to answer. It was my friend Vanessa Beard, you may know her a Vee or Untamed Lady Vee of the Untamed Ladies. She asked if I wanted to be a part of her upcoming campaign for her online boutique “Body Loves Cake“. “Of course”, I said. Then she dropped the bomb. “It’s a swimsuit line.”
I Studdard, took a beat and remembered what I promised myself earlier that day. Earlier I had been so busy at work that I needed a break, so I turned away from my computer and started to day dream of the person that I knew someday I would become. During my day dream, I started talking with God. Letting Him know that I was thankful for the path that he placed me on but I knew that I wasn’t taking advantage of the blessings and opportunities. I was scared. Scared of failure. So, right then I promised myself that if an opportunity presented itself to help move me out of my comfort zone, then I would say yes.
“Yes, I’ll do it. I’ll walk in your show wearing a swimsuit.” The words felt like they were stuck in my throat and wouldn’t budge but I was able to get them out and there was no turning back.
Over the next couple of weeks, I had so many doubts and reservations about the show. I’ve never walked in a fashion show and my first one out I’m in a swimsuit. What was I thinking? Maybe I should call Vee and tell her I’m unable to attend. My mind was in overdrive, but I kept my word.
Before the show, we had a fitting. Perfect. I can really see the suit and see how it will fit. Thankfully it was a one piece, but…the front had a mesh panel that went from the chest area to just below the belly button with a patent leather material right at my private area and to top it off, it was so colorful. There goes my heart again, about to jump out of my chest.
As I put on the swimsuit and walked out of the dressing room, I was met with a positive reaction from Vee, her sister, mother and the owner of the shop where we had the casting call and fitting. I felt a little better but these were all people I knew. How will people react that I don’t know?
The day had arrived. My stomach was in knots and I keep having visions of falling flat on my face in front of everyone. I arrive at the venue, The Plus Bus and I sit in my car for about 45 minutes since I arrived early, trying to convince myself to Get.Out.Of.The.Car. I made it out the car and over to hair and makeup. One step closer.
It’s almost showtime. I can barely breathe and this small room is feeling like it’s closing in on me. I’m told that I’m the finale of the show. Oh no….You mean I have to wait in this room even longer. Wait…did you say finale?
I take my first step on the walkway and it seems like a blur. I don’t know if I’m moving fast or what. I see faces, people taking pictures, using their phones to capture the moment, smiling at me and giving me thumbs up. All of sudden, Dolly J showed up and showed out. She strutted through the crowd, paused to give everyone the chance to soak it all in and even did a little shimmy.
This time my heart was pounding but it was exciting. My fear of my body not being seen a beautiful had died. Seeing the other models and myself made me realize that no matter your size, it’s all about the confidence you have in yourself. We are all beautiful but when we don’t feel it inside, we hide, we walk with our heads low, hoping no one notices us.
This experience allowed me to find that girl inside of me that conquers fear and experiences life. It has shown me that women need to be celebrated at any size. I’m a size 24 and I’ve been afraid to share my weight or clothing size because deep down I was somewhat ashamed, but when you shed the fear of people seeing the full you and it’s a confidence booster.
Thank you, Vanessa Beard of Body Loves Cake for seeing the beauty in me and choosing me to represent Body Loves Cake in your first swimsuit line. Thank you The Plus Bus for hosting an event that celebrated women of every size.
I’m not sure if there is a future in me modeling but if the opportunity presents itself again…I’m definitely doing it!
Would you model on a runway? In a swim suit?