MORE THAN HER BODY.
It's something that most, if not all, women can relate to.
When Tanesha Awasthi started her eponymous blog (formerly Girl with Curves) in 2011, she paved the way for plus-sized fashion bloggers. But this year, she's rebranding, stepping out from behind the body label as just herself-- a woman with brains, gusto, a champion for the body positive and female empowerment movements, mom (to 2-year-old son and English bulldog), digital influencer, and so much more. Her body may have carved out a place for her in the blogging world, but it's her other more compelling attributes that have staying power.
Below, find out more about Tanesha, how she feels about Barbie's three new body iterations, and why it was time to say goodbye to Girl with Curves.
When you started your blog what was the motivation? Was there a moment where you thought— OK, I’m underrepresented, I’m going to be that girl.
I started the blog as a creative outlet and never imagined in a million years it would turn into a business. When my husband suggested I should start one, I had no idea people were sharing their personal style online, and even thought it was kind of ridiculous! But after posting a few pictures, I got an overwhelming response from women of all ages explaining how inspired they were seeing someone they could relate to. From that moment on, I knew I had something special to offer and I ran with it. I enjoy knowing I'm helping women feel better about themselves on some level. The work is rewarding because it's changing lives and creating change.
Mattel announced three new Barbie body types in January— Tall, Petite, and Curvy. How did that make you feel?
I think it's great that such an iconic doll is becoming more inclusive of body types, especially when Barbie is the first doll most of us pick up, play with and emulate as adolescents. Showing different body types, races and hair colors is definitely a step in the right direction to helping girls love themselves as they are vs. wanting to look like one form of beauty we see in a traditional Barbie doll.
That said, I also think it's important for us to learn to value more than our appearance, by valuing who we are, what we do and what we stand for vs. what we look like.
You left a job in tech— an industry that is known for being sexist and male-dominated, for a job in fashion— an industry that is likewise known for not being inclusive. Is a thick skin part of your work-DNA at this point?
I was always the youngest person at any corporate job I ever had, and I'm the type of person that gives everything I do 110%, regardless of if it's my passion or not- I aim to excel and do my best, regardless, and I encountered some pretty harsh criticism being young and not having much experience, as well as being a "bigger girl" throughout my life. But I think the thick skin really came from realizing I was in fact plus size according to the fashion industry, which isn't something I really acknowledged about myself when I first entered the world of blogging.
How do you navigate the “haters?” The hard moments?
Shockingly, I don't get many negative comments, but when I do I practice the kill 'em with kindness ideology and I educate. I think most internet trolls are hiding behind their own issues and projecting them onto others. Sometimes people just need a good, intellectual response to set them straight and 9 out of 10 times it works and I get a respectful response in return.
Was there a point you ever felt like giving up? How did you stay motivated?
It was definitely hard staying motivated to blog while pregnant, unknowing if my audience liked or disliked me sharing such a personal part of my life. But as time went on, I realized my blog is about me, and alI I can do is be myself and share what I'm going through in life at any given time. The brand had to grow with me, or not at all.
What do you think is the most important part of your messaging?
My mission is to show women they can look and feel amazing, regardless of size. I also enjoy breaking the size barrier between straight and plus size fashion, working with brands on both sides of the playing field, being able to wear both ranges at times.
Do you ever feel pressure to be a consistent role model for other plus-sized women? And females in general?
Not at all, I'm honored and flattered to be a role model. I love sharing the knowledge I have of fashion and beauty and my journey to self-acceptance. I think my message resonates well with women of all sizes because we all want to change things about ourselves and we all struggle with self-esteem and confidence at some point. My goal is to impact the lives of all women, regardless of size, race or age. There's a lot of work to be done!
You’ve always put yourself front and center, but you have rebranded as Tanesha Awasthi. Why is now the right time?
My brand has grown to cover so much more than plus size fashion and when the blog recently turned 5, it was weighing on me quite heavily that the name didn't make sense anymore, so I made the decision to change it to my own name vs. being known as a phrase that only describes my body.
How are you evolving as a business woman?
I've learned a lot about business in the past 5 years since starting the blog. I worked in tech since I was in high school, but I started a jewelry business in college and a social network for adolescent girls after graduating, which never panned out because I didn't follow through. I've always been an idea person but never truly put my all into any of my own ideas because it was a lot of work- it wasn't as easy as getting a paycheck from someone else.
The blog started as a hobby and organically grew into a business, so I didn't consciously decide to try to make it into a business, which I think is the reason I stuck with it. It's also a venture my husband is involved in as my business partner, and he keeps me sane and reassured on the days I want to take a break and disappear from the world of social media.
When it was just me fighting to stay afloat with deadlines and consistent content, it was much harder to create clear goals and grow the business. Now that he's involved, we're building a team and creating real goals I can actually be excited about!
Arianna Schioldager is Create & Cultivate's editorial director. You can find her on IG @ariannawrotethis and more about her at www.ariannawrotethis.com