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EmpowerHER: How a Women’s Meet Up Helped my Self-Esteem


When I discovered the plus size and body positive community, it was exactly what I needed. I had never seen bodies like mine and it helped me to accept and love myself exactly as I was. For a while I was really into the scene and was happy with the progress I had made with my personal self-love journey. I become the most confident version of myself and I’m so thankful for the person I became. But as my career shifted into becoming a freelance makeup artist, I went from working with mostly women in the plus industry to working with all types of models, including straight size. As I chased after different jobs and advancements in my career, I found that most of the work I was getting was from clients who used exclusively straight size models, and it wasn’t until I fully saturating myself into this world that I realized how much I needed the support of women around me to feel good about myself, how much I needed to continue to see bodies that look like mine.


Now to be clear I’ve never been in a situation where a client has made me feel uncomfortable or inadequate because of the way I look. I just realized that prior to getting all of this work from straight size models, that working with plus models and being involved in the plus industry was a vital part of my self esteem. Because self esteem and love is like a muscle, it’s something you have to continue to work on to keep it strong, and that muscle of mine was shrinking. While I know there are so many groups and events to keep this momentum going, especially here in LA, I’ve found with my work and school schedule it was getting harder and harder to keep up with my community. I can catch one here and there, but work is what occupies most of my time, and most of the time I work with beautiful and thin women. Recently I decided I really needed to take matters into my hands and seek out support. Maybe not directly from the plus community, but from women in general, and I found that support in the EmpowerHER seminar presented by The Glow Effect.


I heard about the event via Chauncea Carothers, founder of the Fount Group, and I liked that a successful plus size woman was one of the keynote speakers for the event. So I finished up a makeup job I had in Santa Monica and drove fighting traffic to the Glow Event in Downtown LA. A little upset that I was arriving late, I tried somehow to talk myself out of going. “It’s going to be a waste of time.” “How embarrassing that you’re showing up late, you shouldn’t even go at all.” Even though I was around the corner, but having a real hard time finding parking, I continued with the doubt. For some reason I’ve noticed when I’m making a decision to do something that I know is going to better myself, I always make an attempt to talk myself out of it. But I fought through this nonsense thinking and made my way to the lobby of the building where a woman who operated the elevator greeted me. “Don’t worry about being late, lot’s of women were stuck in traffic and they’re just getting started. They haven’t started serving the food and wine yet so you’re totally fine.”


After I got settled in, the women MCing the event, Saren Stiegel, got into the theme of the evening, which was asking for what we want. So naturally, the first question was, “What’s something you want to accomplish for yourself or in your career but you’re too afraid to ask?” From there our table of women talked amongst ourselves and shared our asking fears. As each women went around with their asks, yet also explained what they had already accomplished in their lives, it was amazing to me that we all could lack confidence in any sort of way with all these accomplishments. We were in a room full of successful women who should have no issues with asking for raises, or promotions or opportunities, we just had to learn how to have confidence in our abilities. The woman who stood out to me most in my group was named Toni Purry. Toni worked in PR for 20+ years and let our group know that the question that she was struggling with was how to ask for backing on her book idea. She told us when she was in PR, “I could ask for the moon for my clients, but when it comes to myself I have such a hard time.” She created a book titled “The Hype Book.” Which is interactive and allows the reader to reflect on what they’ve accomplished in their life as well as map out a plan for future success, so how ironic to have a difficult time promoting something that is designed to boost one’s self esteem and productivity.


Above: I LOVE this photo of me listening to Toni tell us about her book and her experience


After going over her hard copy of the book that she had on hand, everyone at the table was amazed. It brought us all together in conversation and in a sense kind of made us realize how ridiculous it is that was have the tendency to doubt ourselves. And for me personally, it was oddly comforting to know that women at all different levels of success struggle with self-acceptance. This brought me to a place of reflection on my own “ask.” Which was, in my professional makeup and hair career, I would love to be represented by an agency, but I just felt like my work wasn’t good enough.


Since this meet up I’ve really gained a clear vision as to what it is I want in my career and what steps I need to take to achieve it. And while I don’t want to completely romanticize an experience like this and say that one meet up made me fully confident in myself and my abilities, it did reinforce the need for maintaining a sense of community so that there is room for dialogue when you’re feeling lost, inadequate or misunderstood. Verbalizing these concerns can shed some light on how ridiculous they may be and give some strength to fight through those moments, so for that I am grateful. In the words of Toni Purry, “The presence of humility should not mean the absence of personal accolade.”


If you’re interested in checking out Toni’s book, here’s the link to her kickstarter page. And if you would like to take a look at my personal portfolio and blog, you can do so here.

Note: All photos taken by Marlena Elise McClain – for The Glow Effect Blog.


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