Today we’d like to introduce you to Chenese Lewis.
So, before we jump into specific questions about what you do, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I got bit by the modeling bug in the Summer of 2000. Though a radio commercial, I discovered there was such a thing as a plus-size model when a casting call seeking them came to my hometown. I attended the casting call and got selected to participate in a convention where you had the opportunity to get discovered by big city agents. A novice to the industry, I attended multiple conventions that did nothing to launch my career and wasted a lot of time and money. Frustrated, I decided to research the industry on the internet to find opportunities for myself. I stumbled across a newly formed pageant called the Miss Plus America Pageant. I had no prior experience in pageantry but was looking for ways to gain exposure. I competed in the pageant and made history by being crowned Miss Plus America 2003, the first to hold the title. Promoting my platform of “Positive Body Image”, a monthly pageant obligation became the catalyst for my brand.
I decided to take a leap of faith and relocate to Los Angeles in 2004 to pursue my dream full time as a plus-size model and actress. I went on to work with various national brands in different capacities, modeling for Torrid and being a spokesperson for Ashley Stewart. I also appeared as an industry expert on Dr. Phil and graced the cover of VICE Magazine UK’s 10th-anniversary issue, a mainstream publication distributed worldwide, amongst many other accomplishments. Prior to the social media boom, I was making waves as an advocate though being a visibly plus-size person breaking ground as a plus-size model that didn’t fit industry standards, as well as producing body-positive events and campaigns that garnered national and international media attention.
Has it been a smooth road?
I have had obstacles on the road to success with life’s unexpected turns. In 2014, I had to abruptly leave Los Angeles, put my career on hold, and move back home to Baton Rouge because my dad was ill and at the time needed 24-hour care. As an only child, I had no other choice. After returning home six months later, I fell ill and ended up on life support due to Sepsis/Septic Shock and almost died, but by the grace of God, I made a full recovery. Fast forward to August 2016, prolonged rainfall resulted in record-breaking flooding that submerged the city of Baton Rouge and surrounding areas. Virtually all my possessions and my families were destroyed. I spent two years displaced with a lack of material things but still managed to thrive amongst tragedy.
Overcoming these types of major life-changing crises makes trivial things like not booking a job, not being included in a project, or not being support by certain people seem minimal now.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Chenese Lewis Productions story. Tell us more about it.
As I continued to establish my brand Chenese Lewis Productions, LLC was founded in 2007. The media company has produced a television pilot, numerous events, and body-positive products. The company also handles my bookings as a national personality, host, and speaker.
I am an in-demand host for major fashion and beauty events across the country. I’ve hosted large-scale fashion events during New York Fashion Week, Los Angeles Fashion Week, and abroad in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I am the official host of the New Orleans Natural Hair Expo, which takes place during the Essence Music Festival weekend, as well as the TCFStyle Expo in Atlanta, and new events are always being added to my schedule.
My podcast, The Chenese Lewis Show was launched in 2008. The podcast has served as an oral history of the plus-size community, with extensive interviews documenting the rise to fame of many of the plus industries top stars including Ashley Graham, Tess Holiday, Ashley Nell Tipton, and many more. Ebony.com stated, “The Chenese Lewis Show is an important voice in plus size fashion, providing a platform and outlet for those who are making moves within the community.” The Chenese Lewis Show has unmatched quality content for its niche market, making it a stand out platform for not only plus size women, but for all.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The average size of an American woman is now between 16 to 18. The industry will continue to expand as brands realize that people like to see representations of themselves in all forms of media, including advertisements, magazines, television, movies, etc. All brands being diverse and inclusive should be the norm.
- Website: www.CheneseLewis.com
- Email: bookings@CheneseLewis.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cheneselewis/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cheneselewis/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/CheneseLewis
- Other: www.CheneseLewisShow.com
Photography by: Alexander Le’Jo, Makeup by: Ebony Malika, Hair by: Monique Aaron