‘Miss Plus Top Model’ Pageant Celebrating More Than Just Physical Beauty.

Miss Plus Top Model

The 9th Annual Miss Plus Top Model Awards Show took place in Studio City, California on September 22nd.   The competition was presented by Hagerman and Associates Entertainment with the goal of endowing emerging plus size women with the voice and the vehicle to share their talents publicly and the courage and confidence to present themselves to the world.

The show began with a greeting by host Chenese Lewis, a delightful beauty with a strong presence, who took the stage decked in a stunning floor-length silver sequined gown.  Chenese, who kicked off the show by impressing upon all present that “everyone is a winner”, is a body image expert and host of the PLUS Model Radio podcast.  She was the first woman crowned Miss Plus America in 2003 when she was given the “Lifetime Award” because of her dedication to being such a positive role model.  She is now a sought-after keynote speaker, expert commentator, and a positive body image and self-esteem advocate.

Top_Model_1 Miss Plus Top Model Contestants

A truly spirited event, there was no dousing the palpable excitement felt amid crowd and contestants alike.  “Year of the Goddess” was the theme for the 2014 competition, which started off with what Lewis referred to as “’America’s Next Top Model’ meets ‘Project Runway’… with a twist”.  In an element uncommon to the usual modeling competition, the first portion of the show gave the contestants an opportunity to express themselves creatively.

Each of the 20 women in the running for the title designed and modeled their own Goddess-themed ensemble.  It was quickly evident that there was no shortage of talent among them, as the runway lit up with an array of gorgeous women in flowing white toga-chic pieces.  The one-of-a-kind creations were accessorized with all things gilded, from sparkly gold sequined bras to elegant gold chain headwraps to ultra-long feather earrings.  Full of personality, the flair and diversity that went into the designs were fitting representations of the contestants themselves.

Miss PLus Top Model toga Miss Plus top Model toga

Following the goddess garbs, prior winners of Miss Plus Top Model were presented, including 2013 winner, Bri Cole.  The next runway appearance by the Miss Plus Top Model hopefuls featured “Goddesses of the World” pieces from the lively and charismatic designer, Tamechi.  Once again, the models took to the runway, flaunting their curves in vibrant prints, blush sparkles, faux fur and fringe.  The crowd went wild, not just for the dazzling couture, but for the sheer enthusiasm of the contestants themselves.  The vibe was one of pure fun and excitement, and an empowered air of playful confidence radiated from each and every one of the women.

The moments following included more enthusiastic sweeps of the runway and three strong and sassy songs performed by Giselle Grayson.  Another highlight of the ceremony was the presentation of the Confidence Awards.  As Chenese said, “It takes confidence just to enter the competition”.  For some of the models, this was their stage debut.

For others, like contestant Breanna Sanchez, it took time to work up the confidence to put their body in the spotlight, to adorn it with sparkles, to show skin, and to have all eyes on them.  Breanna is a waitress from San Gabriel, California with a goal of giving back to the community by becoming a guidance counselor for high school students.  “Growing up, I had trouble with my size and never felt comfortable in my own skin,” Breanna disclosed.  “Years of insecurities kept my from trying new things and chasing dreams.”  Now that she is older, Breanna knows confidence is what makes a person beautiful, not their size, and she is a living example of that truth.

Three “Best in Show” awards were presented next. Kara Ragland, a southern beauty with killer dimples, won “Most Photogenic”.  A performer for much of her life, Kara recently wrapped filming in India on her first starring role in a Bollywood-Hollywood crossover film titled Dreamz.  She taught preschool and drama classes for children of all ages for many years, and one day hopes to run a drama program for underprivileged children in addition to furthering her own acting and singing career.  “Like almost every woman, I have always struggled with my weight in one way or another,” Kara shared.

“I have recently learned while many of us believe that the struggle is controlling our weight to be the perfect size, the actual struggle is learning to love yourself and your body no matter what size you are.  I have finally reached a place in my life where I am very comfortable in my own skin, and I think I am sexy and beautiful even when I am carrying extra weight.”  Kara wants to help as many women as she can to reach the same “nirvana of self-acceptance”, as she commented, “It is possible!”

Before the winners were announced host Chenese invited the crowd to chime in and all present affirmed in unison that “everyone’s a winner”.  As Chenese stated, “Everyone has displayed pride and confidence by being a part of this”.  The talent and beauty of the contestants was so pronounced that it took the judges extra time to come to a decision, and finally the winner of the crown and title was ready to be announced.

Miss Plus Top Model Winner

First runner up and the “Miss Plus Top Model Runway” title went to Brittni Goodson.  When she first tried to break into modeling, Brittni was told she needed to lose weight in order to succeed.  But she didn’t give up, and with research and determination, Britti found a place in the world of plus size modeling.  Through that experience, she learned to love and embrace her body.  Now she knows that any dream is possible, no matter what others might consider to be an insurmountable obstacle.  Having returned to school to pursue a degree in Communications, Brittini is determined to achieve her life’s dreams, both personally and professionally.

The crown and title of Miss Plus Top Model 2014 went to Joanne Rallo, a San Pedro native. Joanne holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Public Relations and has a background in marketing.  Her hobbies include belly dancing, and, true to her heritage, she is a die-hard fan of Italian soccer.  Joanne plans to use her title and the opportunities that come with it to inspire women to embrace their curves.  “Even though we are all different shapes,” she says, “– whether it’s an apple, a pear, or an hourglass – what we all have in common are our curves, and our curves are beautiful.  It’s just like the saying goes, ‘women are like country roads – the best ones [have] curves.’”

As the show came to a close, all of the contestants gathered for one last appearance, each one of them exuding grace and strength.  They owned that room. The energy at the ceremony was infectious, as was the air of self-confidence and empowerment given off by the models that seemed to grow with each pass on the runway.  These are women who strive not just to be models, but to also be role models.

Contestant and mother Shannon McDowell, expressed her own goal with conviction.  “I want to help to show young ladies how to embrace their curves with poise and class and be the best that they can be; to let them know that no one can stop them,” she said.  “I’m here to let the world know that we’re not just pretty for our size, we are pretty, period.”  It was a sincere honor to be present at a celebration of such an array of beauty, talent, and strength.

[Photos courtesy of: Felicia Lasala]


Kitty Bubs Kennedy

Kitty Bubs Kennedy is a writer and artist based in Los Angeles. She began writing for local publications while in high school in Minnesota. While earning degrees in both film and communications from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, she focused on a writing concentration while contributing articles and logo design to newsletters and weekly papers and curating multiple film series. Since moving to Los Angeles in 1999, she has been working as a writer which she balances by interspersing calligraphy and design projects. Most recently she has been ghostwriting for authors in the self-help and wellness genres. Kitty is a music and film enthusiast and an animal advocate.

You can follow her on Instagram under ‘KittyBubs‘ on Facebook or see more of her work on her website www.kittybubs.com.


  1. Awesome story and well written, thanks for a great story!.

  2. Pingback: Bald Beauty Pageant Queen Wins Crown While Redefining Beauty

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