Big is beautiful -- at least that's the motto of TLC's new reality series "Big Sexy."
The show features five plus-size friends -- Tiffany, Nikki, Heather, Leslie and Audrey -- living in NYC and working in fashion as stylists, makeup artists and models. Unlike other fashion-focussed reality shows, "Big Sexy" shows the fashion industry in a different light -- one that generally doesn't have much room for ladies who dress above a size zero.
"Big Sexy describes who we are," Nikki Gomez, a plus-size model, told The Huffington Post. "We're not little women, we're definitely bigger women, but we're sexy and confident in our own skins. I think there's nothing sexier than confidence, and I feel like we all have that."
In the final segment of the series, the women travel to Miami for a photo shoot for Heather's new swimsuit line, "Heather Feather: bikinis and bras for busty broads." Nikki agrees to model for the shoot, although wavers when faced with her first on-camera bikini experience.
In an exclusive interview with the cast, the girls opened up about what it's really like for plus-sized aspiring fashionistas living in New York City and even dish out some helpful fashion tips for curvy girls everywhere.
How did you girls end up in New York City? I feel like everyone in New York has their own personal journey that brought them to the city.
Audrey: I was an athlete my whole life, and I always thought that sports would take me to where I wanted to go. When I was in college, that's when I discovered art and fashion design. I just thought, I should be in New York. That's where I needed to be. I'm really competitive, and I like to be the best at what I am. And I thought, if I want to be the best, then I need to compete against the best and the best were in New York.
Leslie: I can't quite explain it -- I just knew. I was working finance in Chicago, and I just felt like that wasn't right. So I moved to San Francisco, and it still didn't feel right. I ended up getting laid off, and it was the biggest blessing in my life. So I decided to take a chance and move to New York and do what I actually want to do, which was fashion. I just followed my instincts.
What do you want people to take away from the show -- what message?
Tiffany: I want this to be an 'every-woman' type of show. If women are going to watch it, I want every woman -- a skinny woman, a medium-sized woman, a plus-sized woman -- to watch it. It's really about acceptance, no matter what body type you have. It's not just about big girls. It's about all body types.
Leslie: Yes, exactly. It's okay to be skinny, and it's okay to be fat. It's okay to be tall or short. Just be you. We really want to stop the constant battle that women have with their bodies.
Audrey: I really feel like it's important for children to have role models. I've never seen a fashion ad that I could relate to, and I hope there are girls who watch the show that feel like they can relate to us. I really want this to help young people because they are the future, and I want the fashion world to be more accepting in the future. There wasn't anyone on television that looked like me. Queen Latifah was always my idol growing up because she was the closest to my body-type. I could imagine myself in the clothes she wore -- except I have a whole lot more ass than Queen Latifah [laughs].
Heather: I have a little sister and her friend once said to me, you're in the fashion industry? You don't look like a model. It really shocked me. I was like, you can be whatever size you want to be and work in the fashion industry.
What about dating? Now dating in New York City is hard enough, but do you have trouble finding guys?
Tiffany: For any woman, any size or shape, it's really hard to date in the city. But I have dated a lot of guys where I was their first plus-sized girl. It was always the same thing -- I like you, but I don't want to admit to it. I'm not ready to commit. It was the same story. I felt like the other woman. They were ashamed to be with a big girl. I was stupid to think that was okay, but I've learned my lesson. I've had a hard time meeting quality guys. What I've learned over the years is that it doesn't matter whether you're skinny or plus-sized, it's all about confidence. Men like confident women. And if they have a problem with my size, then they're just pathetic. Just remember, once you go big, you never go twig.
Nikki: I was in a relationship with this guy, and we were together all of the time. We hung out every day, and I even met his family, but when he introduced me, it was always, this is Nikki, she's amazing -- not this is Nikki, the girl I'm dating. He just wanted to see what being with a big girl was like. He didn't want to be with me.
Audrey: I don't really date much, but I know that the guys that have always been interested in me have fetishes. I'm tall -- 6'3'' -- and I'm really curvy, so I attract a lot of guys who have these weird fetishes. I don't want a guy to like me just for that. I want someone to tell me that I'm beautiful, inside and out.
Tiffany: If I just had a dollar for every time I've been told that I have a beautiful face for a big girl...
Now you girls are all in the fashion industry, so can you give us some fashion tips for curvier figures?
Heather: A lot of my inspiration for plus-sized dressing came from styling plus-sized models and seeing all of the beautiful editorials. That's when I realized that we had options out there, but they were hard to find. So it's challenging to find pieces that won't make you look like a tent. That's not saying wear something too tight, but you should try to appreciate your curves.
Leslie: For me, as a stylist, I tell women to start with their personalities. Wear what you like. Break away from those ridiculous, old-school rules that tell you what you can and can't wear. Liberate yourself from those rules. If there's a trend out there, and you like it, make it work. It's all about confidence. If you wear it with confidence, you're set. Confidence is key.
Audrey: I hate white leggings. They don't look good on anyone -- skinny or plus-sized. Just stay away from them.
Nikki: She's got issues [laughs].
Leslie: They're not for everyone, but if you like them, go for it! Make it work.
The premiere of the final part of the three-part "Big Sexy" series airs tonight, Tuesday, Sept. 13 on TLC.