This week’s StyleCrush is the incredible PHAT Girl Fresh herself, Maui Bigelow. Born and raised in — and still representing — Georgia, Bigelow is an outspoken force in the plus-sized fashion world. Her look incorporates modern elements with nods to Boho and Ankara fashions, as well as color, femininity and a modern take on Goth. Call it what you will, the look is amazing and always uniquely Maui. Keep reading to learn more about this fashion powerhouse and your newest #StyleCrush.
Wear Your Voice: How long have you been blogging? What inspired it?
Maui Bigelow: I have been writing since I was about 10 years old. Reading and writing has always been my escape and a way to express my feelings. I begin blogging in 2010 while battling breast cancer, and in 2013 I launched PHAT Girl Fresh because I begin to understand my purpose in a greater manner and I saw a need for my voice.
WYV: How do you describe your personal style?
MB: I tell people all the time that my personal style is very [unpredictable]: sometimes I am very colorful and feminine, other times I am dark, and then there are times when i serve up sexy in a major way. Honestly, you never know what you will get from me. Hell, I never know. Ha!
WYV: Who are the people close to you that have shaped your style?
MB: My biggest style influencers are my Big Mama and my cousin Beverly, both of them are full-figured women with amazing style. They always were very well put-together and they were never insecure about their curves, and if they were, it never showed. I remember being a little girl watching them get dressed and admiring the way they presented themselves. Another person is a close friend of mine, Carlita, another full-figured woman who is not afraid to go there in terms of style and fashion. She made me understand that I was not restricted because of my size — I just had to find a way to make whatever I wore mine.
WYV: What message do you try to send your audience through blogging? How do you think the media can convey that message to a broader audience?
MB: My message to my audience is that, “THERE IS NO ONE WAY TO BE A WOMAN!” What this means is that you can be different and still be a great woman in the space that is yours, and you still have knowledge to contribute that other women need to experience. I think that it is important to emphasize that women come in many forms and, despite our differences, we are still women and we still embody greatness. There is no job harder than being a woman; from being sexualized by men to having society attack our beauty based on standards that are a load of crap, womanhood is not easy.
Related: StyleCrush: Saucye West
I would love nothing more than for media to share more diversity as a form of beauty, strength and intelligence. There are a lot of women who feel excluded and who don’t feel that they fit in because they are too big, too small, too tall, in a wheelchair, lesbian, the wrong race, have a less than perfect past and many other things. That should not be any woman’s truth in the times we are living in.
WYV: Who are your top three celebrity StyleCrushes?
MB: Kofi Siriboe (Queen Sugar), Solange (girl crush) and Michael Ealy.
WYV: Which stores and designers do you love right now?
MB: In regards to brands, right now I am loving all of the fashion that Eloquii is bringing to the table. They really pulled me in when they extended their sizes. I also love how bold they are being with colors and prints, because not all plus size women are afraid to go there. I have always been a fan of Ashley Stewart and Lane Bryant and I love that they are growing with us (plus size women). Both brands are a lot more fun and funky than they were years ago. I love JC Penney and I am so glad that they have grown — for years they were my go-to for work and church clothes (slacks, blouses and blazers) but now they have Boutique+ and it is filled with trendy clothing.
Like I said, my style is super [unpredictable] and I shop everywhere, including thrift stores, but I live for a unique piece. Many times I work with indie designers to create looks that are not in my size or that need to be created to accommodate my curves. Some of my favorite indie designers are Jibri, The Wendy S. Collection, Diva By Tameka and G’wan By Charon.
WYV: Which big name designers would you like to see move into the plus-size market?
MB: Honestly, I can’t name one. I want people to want to design for plus size women, not come into our space because they think we need them or there is money to be made. I think that is the issue with some brands and designers [is that] they get into working the plus-size industry for the wrong reasons, and it ends bad for the brand and the consumers. We need designers that know how to cater to women with curves; we don’t need designers who have never worked with, or had a desire to work with, plus-size women polluting our space with poorly made clothing.
WYV: How do you wear your voice?
MB: I wear my voice by wearing whatever the hell I want. I don’t follow any of society’s fashion dos and don’ts for plus-size women. I dress according to how I feel, and if others don’t like it… Cool, I didn’t get dressed for them anyway!