Monalisa Stephen is a Brand Ambassador of Naijafacemodel, body positive advocate, fashion designer, actress, stylist and social media influencer. She was the only person selected in Nigeria by the BBC Nairobi for the programme #Thesheword.
How do you feel to be the only panelist from Nigeria?
I feel so happy and special. BBC is a very big platform, so reaching out to me among many women in Nigeria is a privilege and I’m honoured.
Where you comfortable discussing about plus size women?
Yes, I was. I’m a body positive advocate, discussing the pros and cons of plus size women is what I do on daily basis.
As an advocate of body positivity, what are the challenges you face in your daily interactions?
The discrimination is everywhere. First is body shaming. People have the impression that fat people have bad eating habits. They just become your doctor and tell you how you’ll end up, but most of their opinions are unfounded. Then we have the clothing problem, some plus size women find it difficult getting clothes they want in their sizes, and when they do, the clothes are expensive. Fortunately, a good number of designers are now coming out showcasing clothes for fuller figured women.
Another issue is relationship. Some people think that it is very difficult for fat women to get suitors, but can I burst their bubbles? A lot of plus size women are getting married and having good relationships.
Do you think the Creative industry in Nigeria is receptive to fuller figured models?
Not until recent. We’ve started series of campaigns and I’m glad that plus size models are getting the spotlight. We’re fighting for more recognition and I hope that the Creative industry will appreciate talents and hard work, and not the body of the model.
Please share your BBC Nairobi experience
Lol. It was beautiful and life changing. It was an experience that I’ll never forget. It was an all-expense paid trip by the BBC and I was given a VIP treatment. Also, I got to talk about what I’m passionate about. I also bonded with beautiful women from other parts of Africa. Beautiful memories, I’ll say.
Apart from Nairobi, how many places did you visit in Kenya? What can you say about the people?
I was only in Nairobi. I visited the town, a mall and market. Oh, the people were warm and so beautiful. Though, I’m black as they are, I wondered how they knew I wasn’t from their country.
With your BBC presentation in Nairobi, we hope that you’ll be a role model to plus size models anywhere in the world. How do you feel?
I’ve been a body positive advocate for some years and I’ve inspired a lot of girls. I want to say that the BBC reached out to me due to my contributions to the plus sized community. I feel proud and will continue to preach against body shaming. I’ll always make women know that beauty is beyond size.
Have you at any time felt strange or uncomfortable about your body while in a group of people? Have you ever wished that you were different?
I didn’t get over body shaming in a day. There were times when I was so ashamed of my body that I won’t walk a street if boys were around. There were also days I was not comfortable in the class, because someone would pick on me and people would laugh, I felt moody and angry for days anytime I was body shamed with online trolls, but that was in the past. I’m confident and proud of my body.
After Kenya, what next?
I’m back in Nigeria. I hope more brands can reach out to plus size women. I’m also carrying on with my advocacy on body positivity.