Curvy Girls Clubhouse, founded and owned by curvy girl Ercelene Kinnebrew, is a place for women to feel supported by other women who share similar experiences in life. “Everyone needs a tribe, a sisterhood where they feel they belong!” Free to be authentic, learn to love themselves completely, and create healthy lifestyles that complement their personality. There is so much more to you than your waistline. The clubhouse offers opportunities to create healthy lifestyles that nourish the mind, body, and soul with individual and group coaching, workshops, webinars, fitness challenges, a book club, and a quarterly newsletter.
We love your work and passion for your mission! Tell us a little bit about your childhood… Where are you from? Did you have siblings? We’re you always an innovative person?
My childhood was normal to everyone on the outside looking in. I lived with both of my parents and my older brother in a very nice neighborhood. Academically I excelled and I was involved in extra-curricular activities, kind of your typical kid. The only difference was that I witnessed domestic violence as a child in my home and internalized my feelings about the functional dysfunction of my household. I call it functional dysfunction because I learned to mask the issues at home, so no one ever asked questions or knew about the arguments or restless nights. I only have one blood related sibling, an older brother. As much as I love my big brother I always wanted a sister growing up. Someone to talk to and share things with, you know girly stuff! I am thankful to have several very close friends that I met while in college that have become like sisters to me.
I never really considered myself “innovative” but I have always been creative as far back as I can remember. Some people daydream to escape the day and I daydream about ideas, designs for things, or trying to figure out how to breathe life into my creative imagery, bringing what I see in my mind to reality.
If it makes me smile thinking about it I always imagine the joy I might experience making the thought a reality for myself or someone else. get a great deal of joy creating experiences that also brighten someone else’s day.
Could you tell us about your experiences as a curvy girl, then and now?
Being a curvy girl was not always easy and I did not feel confident about my body. I remember always being the thicker one amongst my friends. I can laugh about it now, but I use to hate that my thighs rubbed together. As the only black girl on my senior year cheer squad; to say that I didn’t look like my fellow cheerleaders was an understatement. Being active helped me to maintain some control over my physical size but mentally and emotionally I didn’t feel like I “fit in”. Although I enjoyed shopping it was not easy to find “on-trend” clothing items that fit my curves properly. If it fit my thighs the waist was too big and if it fit my waist everything else was skin tight! Not to mention the larger sizes were shamefully tucked away in the rear of most stores or on the upper level away from mainstream shopping. So going to the mall with friends meant I would have to separate myself from the group to shop for clothes in my size.
I found it was more pleasurable to shop for shoes instead! I had an “average” shoe size and didn’t feel embarrassed to answer when someone asked, “what is your shoe size?” vs. “what size jeans do you wear?”, it just hit differently. Of course, that was then when I fostered self-doubt and low self-esteem in my late teens into early adulthood. Granted there were periods when I felt great about myself but it was not long-lived. I allowed my “stinkin’ thinking” to sit in the driver’s seat of my life far too long. Once I reconciled what was real and true about the woman I saw in the mirror it was easier to course correct and shift my mindset. There are days that I don’t feel the most beautiful and I focus on my own perceived flaws, I’m human.
However, those days are far and few between. Most days I wake up and smile at the cutie I see in the mirror, say my affirmation for the day, and start day. It is a conscious choice to be happy, to appreciate the joyful moments life has to offer. I have learned to set non-negotiable boundaries to protect my peace of mind and my happiness. The woman I see in the mirror now is fierce, respectfully outspoken and confident in who she is. I realize the only person that can stop me from being my best self is the one looking back at me from the mirror. I am my only competition and being better today than I was yesterday means I am winning!
What is some advice you can share for mothers and fathers of curvy girls/children to create and keep a safe and healthy space for their children?
I would encourage parents to be mindful of the words they use when speaking about full figured people. As a child hearing your parent(s) speak negatively about different body shapes and sizes leaves a lasting impression. I remember hearing my father make statements like “you’re gonna get fat”. In many ways it made me think being larger than others was a bad thing or that I wasn’t as beautiful and worthy of having a happy life or being loved unconditionally. I am sure he didn’t realize how impactful his words were but as a child I internalized my feelings which translated into self-esteem challenges later in life. Words are powerful and should be used carefully when speaking to children. I do understand the current statistics related to childhood obesity is frightening and parents should be concerned with teaching their children about eating proper nutrition, limiting excessive salt and sugar and being active. There are also cultural norms and relationship with food that must be considered. Growing up my family celebrated happy and sad occasions with food. Ultimately, I want parents to accept their children for who they are and speak positive affirmations into their life. Physical appearances will and can change over the years but the words of encouragement and acceptance from a parent are life lasting!
How and When did you know you wanted to serve other women regarding their challenges with being curvy?
I have always wanted to be connected to other women who could understand and appreciate my aggravations as a curvy girl. A tribe of women who were nonjudgmental, supportive, inspiring and encouraging. I honestly can’t say that I couldn’t find groups like that but I knew the type of group I would connect with best so I created the community I wanted. It was while writing my book that I seriously considered creating Curvy Girls Clubhouse.
Were there fears or challenges you had in curating this safe haven, Curvy Girls Clubhouse? Please share.
Oh my gosh yes! Initially, I was hesitant to call out my specific focus and desire to help the fuller figured curvy woman. To be completely transparent I was fearful of judgment and body shaming. Social media can be kind but also cruel. I prayed about my heart’s desire to help curvy girls increase their confidence and acceptance of the woman in the mirror and the rest is history. If I take just one thing I learned throughout my journey of unpacking my own backpack it is the confidence to live authentically!
I still allow my thoughts to take the wheel so to speak every now and then but only for a moment. Once I set my mind on doing something that I believe is needed or could be helpful for myself or others I am pretty driven to bring the idea to fruition, some might say stubborn (smile). I will get it done or learn in the process it’s a win-win either way. As a curvy girl, I felt deeply compelled to celebrate other women who look like me and I am so glad I followed my heart.
Please tell us more about it! — What can women expect to experience through this space and how can the ladies get connected?
Women can expect to experience community! A space to be inspired, encouraged, and supported through everyday challenges as a woman and the unique challenges experienced by curvy girls. It may be hard for some people to understand the challenges faced by curvaceous women. An example that may resonate is being on an airplane and seeing the eye rolls or hearing the sighs of disappointment when the passenger walking down the aisle recognizes they are seated next to you. Have you ever taken a 4-hour flight holding your arms close to your body the entire time? I have. It is very uncomfortable but that is an experience I can find some humor in with another curvy girl or sharing funny stories about wearing body shapers and waist trainers along with having a safe place to share openly about personal or professional challenges.
I like to think of the Curvy Girls Clubhouse as a space where you can connect beyond the superficial filtered lifestyles seen on social media. I am currently creating several self-paced training courses that focus on confidence building. Women can get connected to Curvy Girls Clubhouse by visiting www.curvygirlsclubhouse.com and a The curvy girls guide to daily affirmations.
What has the feedback been like from the women who have connected with Curvy Girls Clubhouse?
The Curvy Girls Clubhouse community continues to grow and many of the women I have connected with through social media have voiced appreciation for me sharing my story. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said “I experienced something similar” or “…it’s nice to know I am not the only one”. Several women have embarked on their own personal journey to unpack their backpacks after purchasing my book, Unpacking Your Backpack, and the Curvy Girls Clubhouse provides a nonjudgmental “safe space” to share, be inspired and encouraged to discover what makes each individual curvy girl happy.
When I decided to launch Curvy Girls Clubhouse my goal was to positively impact curvy girls that looked like me. Transforming from the woman I use to be into the woman I am now is proof that we all control our happiness based on how well we love and appreciate the person in the mirror. Helping curvy girls get to a place of walking in confidence, self-love and acceptance unapologetically makes me giddy with excitement and happiness. The beauty of a confident curvy girl who appreciates her uniqueness far exceeds what the eye can see.
It’s a mindset! I was asked once if a woman had to be full-figured to be part of the Curvy Girls Clubhouse and the answer is no; I recognize there are women of all sizes who need the support of this sisterhood. I welcome any woman who wants to celebrate and encourage others or needs to feel celebrated.
What’s next or upcoming for you that we can look forward to?
I am currently working on a couple of writing projects, another book and a Curvy Girls Guide to daily affirmations. I’m also really excited about exploring the idea of hosting a Curvy Girls Clubhouse live event and launching the new Podcast! My quest continues to create inspiring content for the Curvy Girl Clubhouse community to include training courses and activities coming to the community later this year. I invite Curvy Girls everywhere to join the community by visiting www.curvygirlsclubhouse.com for more details.
What are some things you’d love to see change within society, pertaining to being a curvy woman of color?
A shift in mindset toward the definition of beauty would solve many of the prejudice curvy women of color experience in my opinion. I want to see society actively demonstrate a welcoming approach to defining beauty from a whole-person perspective. Meaning that beauty is more than lipstick and lashes. A beautiful woman is “More Than A Dress Size” it includes being mentally and emotionally attractive, grounded, and happy. Being a woman in society has it’s own set of struggles and being a woman of color can often amplify the struggle. I want to see a shift in the workplace, in advertising, entertainment, and fashion. I would love to see more fashion designers embrace body positivity and create fashionable affordable clothing for curvy girls. I smile everytime I see a Dove commercial that flaunts the perfectly imperfect female body. Yes, I have rolls, I have stretch marks and cellulite; that doesn’t dictate my beauty inside or out. Curvy girls should have the same opportunities as our slimmer counterparts.
Are there any mantras or principals that you like to live by or keep in mind to help you stay grounded?
Absolutely! I am a huge fan and practitioner of daily affirmations. A couple that really hit home for me are, “I am, I can, I will”, “I am worthy”, “It’s ok to be different”, “I love the woman I see looking at me”, “It’s a new day, with new opportunities”, “it’s ok to try again” and one of my recent favs that inspires me is “I have the power to change it”. I think I like that one so much because “it” can be literally anything and if it concerns or impacts me I have the power to change it or at least change the way I allow it to impact me!
Lastly, I acknowledge everyone has a past, a story and just like my past influenced the way I showed up or interacted with people I try to exercise grace and understanding that not everyone has addressed the anchors and negative influence of their past. There are a lot of emotionally scorned people in this world doing the best they can to hold it together day by day
What would you tell the woman who feels that she is less than, because she is full-figured/curvy?
I would say girlfriend I get it and you are not alone. I was once there too and you are more than a dress size! Compare yourself to no one! The only competition you have is with yourself. It is time the world had a chance to experience the amazing woman you are! Curvy Girls Clubhouse has been looking for you. I would invite her to join a community created by a woman who “gets you” and other women who want to inspire and encourage you to see how beautiful you are. I would also encourage her to challenge the negative feelings that she has internalized making her feel as though she is less than because of her curves and voluptuousness. Lastly, I would say to her you are one decision away from shifting your opinion of yourself…it’s ok to choose YOU!