Jennifer Barreto-Leyva is someone that everyone can look up to. The Venezuelan plus-size model wears many hats: television host, lawyer and journalist — on top of her busy fashion career. Barreto-Leyva also serves as editor-in-chief of Belleza XL magazine and won the Miss Universe Plus 2007 title. As of 2015, Barreto-Leyva was the only Latina competing for the crown of Miss World Plus.
Wear Your Voice: How do you describe your style?
Jennifer Barreto-Leyva: I’m pretty much a bold and elegant style type of person. I love to shine and make heads turns toward me, but I do so with class. My mom was my first fashion icon; because of her, now I know the importance of fashion, type of fabrics, how to invest in good clothes, that kind of thing. It is totally out of season here, but the leather-like style and the embroidered-with-stones style drives me crazy.
WYV: What (or who) initially inspired your career?
JBL: Lack of representation — there are so few icons here. We have plus-size personalities in Latin America, but no one that actually sets a fashion style. They are pretty much ridiculed for being plus size and do nothing about it. So I feel the need to stand up and give a voice to all of us.
WYV: What would you be doing if you had taken a different path?
JBL: I would be a very glamorous yet very bored lawyer, trapped between a desk and courts.
WYV: Who are your three top StyleCrushes?
JBL: Victoria Beckham, Carolina Herrera and Sheikka Mozah.
WYV: Which designers would you be most excited to work with in the future?
JBL: Jean-Paul Gaultier, Alejandro Fajardo and Balmain.
WYV: How can the body-positivity movement reach impressionable audiences at a young age? How can we combat toxic messages that the media sends out?
JBL: It is extremely difficult! There is an estimate, according to studies, that an average person receives 21 hours of toxic information about their body. It’s too much to handle! Parents and adults must be watching what kind of information kids are provided with, and give them proper context and education around it. It’s our responsibility as adults and as a community to show children the right path to walk.
WYV: Who would you like to see more of on the runways or television and film?
JBL: Diversity and positivity. I’m really sick and tired of the soap opera and Disney-like movies. I have news for the show business industry: people with different genders, races, sizes and backgrounds have love stories too, and no, you are not including us just by doing a movie about it every 10 years. The Latina plus size woman has been terribly portrayed in the media and psychologically abused by it. We need to reclaim her!
WYV: How do you wear your voice?
JBL: I wear it out and loud: with integrity, passion, class and a focus on my life mission.