Writer: Stephany Ridderstap
Hey Y'all, it has been a while since my last blog post and I'm so excited about this one. As a plus size woman who has struggled with my own body image issues, speaking to this interviewee was inspiring and even comforting. In the U.S. it is estimated that 1 in every 50 people has some sort of body image disorder. One way of combating these negative self-images is through representation. For this post, I talked to Nicole de Cuba the Aruba native who started BeautyCurves Models Aruba and later opened a boutique BeautyCurves by Nickii. Both aim to represent the curvy community in the same way as “regular” models are portrayed.
Who is Nicole de Cuba?
Nicole was born in Aruba and graduated from EPI, Hospitality & Tourism Unit. She grew up wanting to be a lawyer and somewhere along the line changed her mind. She wanted to be her own boss but didn’t know what type of business she wanted to start. In 2017, she started Beauty Curves Models. With the idea to develop women into professional models so they could represent the curvy community equally as other models do. To create more exposure for her models she opened a clothing store of the same name as her modeling agency. I asked her who inspires her, and Nicole says, “I look up to my mother, she is a determined woman who never gave up. She inspires me to do and be great. Other than her, I follow figures like Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence who are key people in the curvy community that I love.” And something Nicole shares what she really wants everyone to know about her by saying,
“I genuinely care about the curvy community and want this movement to be more active and accepted. I am very strong-willed, and I don't give up easily. If I set my mind to something, I will make it happen. At the same time, I'm very humble and caring to others.”
Why focus on body positivity?
Well, In Nicole's own words, "Body positivity is so much more than just loving your body. It has to do with the way you think, speak and treat yourself as a human and other people too. It is so important to take care of your body (in and out), and not just yours, but others as well. A lot of women struggle with their bodies, their self-esteem and to me, it's important to take steps towards a more loving and acceptable vision of your own and other." The idea is to have models represent the reality of the everyday woman.
With such a big focus on body positivity I wondered if Nicole had struggled with her own body image issues, she shared the following; I used to be very skinny, and at the age of 21/22 I started to gain weight rapidly. It was mostly due to unhealthy food and the lack of movement/exercise. At first, it was difficult to see myself with the extra weight, but I always managed to have confidence in the person I am and therefore it did not have a negative impact on me." Of course, like everyone else Nicole shares that her weight fluctuates and mostly when she's stressed (I can totally relate!). Same as most plus size women Nicole also struggled with her body image, especially when shopping.
"It bothered me, just looking for the right fit. Maybe liking something so much and then knowing it was not available in my size. It was very frustrating at times. Luckily, mentally I never let it bother me. I was and still am confident about the person I am and what I have to offer to the world, so, therefore, it never had a negative effect on me."
She says it had a lot to do with the people she surrounded herself with. "I used to be around people who would always make jokes about a certain aspect of my body. If you are surrounded by people who always have something negative to say about you or people who like to make 'jokes' about your appearance, then automatically you will believe those things. You must distance yourself from such people and let them wonder afterward what it was they did that pushed you away from them. Focus on qualities that make you feel beautiful inside and out and never be bullied into silence when someone says something negative about you.” This is advice for everyone out there Y'all, surround yourself with people who love and accept you for you and don’t make you feel bad about yourself. You will have a harder time loving and accepting yourself if you’re constantly hearing negative comments about your body.
But once you've accepted yourself it is often heard that you can't be healthy and curvy. Here's what Nicole had to say about that, "Small minded people are the only ones that would say that, and unfortunately it still happens a lot. When people think curvy, they assume that we are overweight, unattractive and unhealthy. But we do exercise, we do have a healthy lifestyle. It's all about treating your body right and feeding it well. And yes, some people are unhealthy, are overweight but those may be factors beyond their control, like insecurities, medical problems or just plain laziness. And that's the reason again why I enforce self-love and body positivity. I want people to understand that not because you're curvy, automatically means you're unhealthy."
I want to add that honestly, in the past few years, many nutritionists are moving away from “diet culture” and moving towards intuitive eating where it’s all about building a better relationship with food and not focusing on weight-loss which can lead to disordered eating. So live your life, focus on what feels good to you and ignore all the negativity that unworthy people spout.
You better work.
The two things Nicole enjoys most about her work are: bringing confidence to women and giving fashion tips and tricks.
“I like bringing the confidence in women. It fuels me to do better and I love seeing people in love with themselves and loving their bodies. Also, I love giving tips and tricks in fashion, what fits your body type and what doesn’t. A satisfied customer to me is everything.”
But just as with every other type of work there are things that she dislikes and it’s mostly how stressful it can be. As Nicole puts it “Working with different opinions and personalities can be very challenging.” What motivates her through the bad days is having some alone time, searching for some empowering quotes and listing to good music. She shares that “If it’s a really bad day, a good cry will always help. I’m not ashamed to say that I cry to let my anger, disappointment or sadness out. It does help, believe me! Cry, brush it off and keep moving forward.” Just like she sometimes needs motivation so do her models and Nicole says that so far, her way of keeping them on their A-game is by talking to them. Sounds simple enough right? Talking to her models, using a lot of motivational quotes, hearing them out and advising them as best as she can is what is keeping her models on top of their game.
Ultimately there are some stereotypes Nicole would like to change in Aruba through her work. "I want people to be more accepted of the curvy community. I know we've come a long way but still, we have so many things to accomplish. Open the minds of so many people that still see being curvy as a negative thing. I want more clothing stores selling curvy clothes. I want to see more business owners using curvy models for their brand or campaign. I know it could be possible. It's hard work but we'll get there someday.”
Let’s talk about goals.
We all set goals that we want to accomplish each year and business even more so. For Beauty Curves, Nicole wants to bring the community and the beauty curves model closer together.
The way that she is working towards this by doing more charity events and helping others who struggle with themselves. She also wants to expand her business further towards Curacao and Bonaire as well. And our girl is mysterious, as for the clothing store side of her business she has the following to say "With the store, I have big plans for 2019. It's always better to move silently, but... Be pending for more!”
On a more personal note, Nicole says the following, "I want to learn to drive a standard car. I haven’t been prioritizing this and it should so this year, the first quarter I want to learn this.” And for all the aspiring entrepreneurs out there Nicole has the following advice for you,
“If you have a goal, go for it. Do whatever it takes to accomplish your goals and dreams. Surround yourself with people who love you and want you to do better. People who help you and motivate you but try to always motivate yourself. Keep pushing, keep grinding because it’s not easy. Believe in yourself and don’t share your goals and ideas with just anyone.”
Let me just end this blog on that inspiring note.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blogpost are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views of Phryme Magazine.