I am so excited that I got to speak with Ms Shen Bennett, former curvy model and founder of C’est Magnifique Agency, Boston’s very first fashion and event planning agency exclusively for us curvy girls. Read on to hear how Shen is changing the face of Boston’s curvy fashion industry, literally!
1. Question: Why did you choose to become a plus size model and what did you like best and least about it?
Answer: I did some straight size modeling when I was about 12, which I loved. As my body type started changing, I realized that it wouldn’t be healthy to try and stay in straight sizes, so I embraced plus size modeling. I started off trying to get jobs on my own, and then joined the John Robert Powers Agency and later, the Barbizon Modeling Agency.
What I like best about being a plus size model is that I can express myself and it’s OK to be whatever size you are. What I like least is the discrimination between “petite plus” and “regular plus”. “Petite plus” refers to models that are 5′ 6″, while “regular plus” includes models that are 5′ 8″ or above.
2. Question: Why do you think that most plus size models are non-Caucasian?
Answer: Discrimination comes into play here, too. There are different levels to plus size modeling and the models at the higher levels are mainly Caucasian, while the everyday levels are mainly non-Caucasian.
3. Question: Why did you choose to start C’est Magnifique Agency?
Answer: I was working with two other agencies, a more established one and a start-up one, and the owner of the start-up agency didn’t take my ideas for the business seriously because he said I was “just a model”. After C’est Magnifique Agency started becoming more well-known, though, the same man actually reached out to me and wanted to collaborate on a project! Needless to say, I didn’t, but it still gave me a huge ego boost!
4. Question: What were some of the challenges you faced when launching C’est Magnifique Agency?
Answer: Since Boston is not welcoming to the plus size fashion industry, I really worked hard had to make the shows we produced professional and entertaining, since that was the only way we’d be taken seriously.
One of the biggest challenges I faced was finding designers. I visited the different design schools to try to recruit new and fresh designers and none of them even wanted to consider creating clothes for curvy women! Thankfully, some of them changed their tune after meeting my models and really experiencing the professional atmosphere we create.
5. Question: Who was your biggest supporter?
Answer: My immediate family, my best friend, my models, and designers such as Crystal Frasier and Nilanjo Fashions, who I also still model for. My runway coach, Sophia Adolphe, has also been with me through everything, from the very beginning of C’est Magnifique Agency. She is such an incredibly positive person, which is why she fits in so well with the C’est Magnifique Agency family; negativity does not have a place here!
6. Question: Who is your personal favorite designer and why?
Answer: Even though she doesn’t design for curvy girls, I love Victoria Beckham! Her clothes are posh, uptight, powerful, fashionable, and daring, just like her. She even wears high heels just to the supermarket with her kids and that is so me in a nutshell.
7. Question: Who has been the biggest influence on your own personal style?
Answer: Definitely Jessica Simpson. My signature look is tights, dress, and a blazer; something that can easily go from day to night, which is similar to Jessica’s style.
8. Question: What is your favorite show C’est Magnifique has produced and why?
Answer: The one we did at last year’s Boston Fashion Week was amazing and so much fun! All of the designers and models really stepped up their professionalism.
9. Question: What was it like to be interviewed on Style It Up, the Boston fashion TV show on Boston Neighborhood Network (BNN)?
Answer: I had just launched C’est Magnifique Agency and I was very nervous about speaking on TV, so I was grateful that the interviewer made me feel more at ease. After I started feeling more comfortable, I just enjoyed speaking about C’est Magnifique Agency and bringing awareness to the plus size community and polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is a condition I have and try to raise awareness of since it affects a large portion of the plus size community.
Note: See below for a link to Shen’s interview on Style It Up!
10. Question: What would you say to the critics who claim that encouraging people to accept themselves as they are will lead to an increase in the obesity epidemic?
Answer: I’d say that they are absolutely incorrect. You have to learn to love yourself first before you can fix anything about your body. Self-love is necessary to becoming healthy.
11. Question: What are your plans for C’est Magnifique Agency and yourself for 2014?
Answer: The next show for C’est Magnifique Agency is our Spring/Summer fashion week in July and we’re also participating again in Boston’s Fashion Week in October. We’ll have other shows during the year. Of course, I just can’t release the details yet, so stay tuned!
For myself, I would love to be able to be able to concentrate solely on C’est Magnifique Agency; for now, I work full-time at Prize4Life, a nonprofit which works to find a cure for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In the next few years, I would also love to create my own clothing line! It will be 1950s meets Victoria Beckham; curvy and chic outfits that transition effortlessly from day to night. I’ve already decided to name it E.Lily, after Evangeline Lily, which is the name I want my first daughter to have when I decide to have children.
12. Question: What are your hopes for the curvy fashion industry in 2014?
Answer: Since curvy people aren’t going anywhere, I hope designers finally wake up and realize that it’s best, not to mention profitable, to create fashionable clothes, including undergarments, that look good and are comfortable for the curvy body. I’d also love to banish the term “plus size”, and either replace it with “curvy” or simply eliminate the separation all together. Why is it that “plus size” women can’t be referred to as women like straight sizes are?!
Shen Bennett, CEO/Founder
A premier fashion and event planning agency
P.O. Box 425494
Cambridge, MA 02142