Alesha Bowman’s thrift store, UnLESHed+ gives plus-size women a safe place to shop, away from judgement. But she knew it was one of the few places plus size women felt comfortable being themselves so she began organizing events to give plus-size women opportunities to build confidence and self-love.
She organized a plus-size pool party in 2019, and many women told her it was the first time they felt comfortable wearing a swimsuit in public. Encouraged by their response, she partnered with her friend Tajuana Blackmon, a plus-size lifestyle influencer and YouTube personality. They began planning a weekend of events to empower plus-size women that they hoped would launch in 2020.
But as the pandemic raged on, the two pivoted to take their 2020 Kansas City Plus-Size Weekend (KCPW) online. The virtual weekend featured dance classes, styling workshops and a plus-size dating forum.
“After that, we knew we’ve got to come even harder for next year,” Bowman said. “The pandemic shifted us, but it also allowed us to refocus and really listen to our audience more, so it gave us a lot more time to prepare for this year.”
This year, KCPW will be live from June 24 to June 27 and include a field day, fashion show, pool day and vendors.
Blackmon said when she was younger, she wouldn’t normally participate in field days or pool days, but since KCPW’s events aim to celebrate larger bodies, she feels more confident and excited because she knows others won’t be looking at her body in a negative light.
“For example, I just started wearing two-piece swimsuits three years ago and I just feel really empowered and I want other women to ignite that confidence within them too,” Blackmon said.
Already, guests from across the Midwest are signed up to take part in the weekend’s activities. Bowman said the goal is to make KCPW the biggest plus-size event in the Midwest.
“We just want people to walk away feeling like wherever they are on their journey of self-love as a plus-size person, that they feel comfortable celebrating that,” Blackmon said, “and that they feel comfortable celebrating that that weekend.”
KCPW Weekend Activities:
Thurs., June 24: Full-figured Field Day – Swope Park Bandstand, 6 to 9 p.m. This free event will feature tug of war, a Double Dutch contest, Twister, water balloon fight, and obstacle courses.
Fri., June 25: Frames & Figures Fashion Show – Delta Athenaeum 900 E. Linwood Blvd., 7 to 9 p.m.
Sat., June 26: PLUS*Pool*Ooza Twilight Swim – Sylvester Powell Jr. Community Center, 9 p.m. to midnight. SOLD OUT.
Sun., June 27: THE BIG BANG! Vendor Explosion – UnLESHed+ 4245 Troost Avenue, noon to 4 p.m. A vendor event with a body positivity or self-care focus. More than 20 vendors will be featured including Creative Outlet, 79Roze and Broken Mirrors.
Jazzlyn Johnson is a Report for America corps member based at The Community Voice covering Kansas City’s African-American community.