Inner Beauty, Personal Style, Power Figures

Curvy Magazine’s KeKe Simot on Fashion and Women’s Empowerment

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It’s true that like attracts like: Our mission at bare necessities is to lift women up, and lately we’ve been noticing that we’re coming across a whole lot of inspiring ladies.

That’s why we’re so excited to launch Power Figures, a new column dedicated to meeting awesome women in different fields who share one thing in common: Every day, they’re out there tirelessly hustling to make things happen. Whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it on their terms. They’re reimagining the status quo, leaning in, starting meaningful conversations even when it’s hard or unpleasant or easier not to, and they’re uplifting us all as they go. We hope their wise words help carry you through your day. (Have a suggestion for us? Email blog@barenecessities.com to nominate someone.)

We’re kicking things off with the incredible….

KeKe Simot, Editor in Chief, CurvyMagazine.com

Q: Tell us about yourself and how you started writing.
A: I’m from Michigan but just moved to New York City. I am in an interracial marriage, and we have two amazing kids. Professionally, I’m a geek, but if you want to give it a fancy title, I say Multimedia Content Producer. I started as a Web designer and switched to development—more of the coding/scripting side.

When I was around 15, two girls from an AOL teen chat room sent me a message asking if I’d redesign the website for their ‘zine. My response was, ‘What in the world is a ‘zine?’ Basically, they were online magazines before there were blogging platforms. Eventually, I started my own blog to write about the things on my mind. Fast-forward a decade: Now I have Curvy Magazine, where I cover fashion, beauty and entertainment news.

Q: What’s your main mission?
A: Since retiring as a Web developer, I’ve dedicated my life to serving women. I use Curvy Magazine as voice for women, and I volunteer my time and skill set to women’s organizations across the country.

Q: What motivates you?
A: My mother, who has passed, and my husband. They’ve both made me feel as if I can do anything. My mother was the driving force behind my ambitions all my life. I couldn’t have asked for a louder cheerleader.

Networking with other successful women also gives me great encouragement. I love seeing my mentors at action. It gives me that boost to go on when I want to stop.

I don’t like easy tasks; I like challenges. I’m highly motivated by things that seem impossible. If you tell me “you can’t,” it’s a guarantee I’m going to accomplish it. While negative reinforcement breaks most people down, it helps build me up.

Q: What about the fashion industry is changing?
A: I remember the media ridiculing Jennifer Lopez for her big bottom. It was upsetting because JLo was absolutely beautiful and under a size 6, she just had killer curves. Now, the media glorifies curvy bodies like Kim Kardashian and Christina Hendricks, and more straight-size retailers are adding plus-size sections to stores. Straight-size designers are launching plus-size lines. Some say it’s a trend; I say it’s about dollars and common sense. The fashion industry has no choice but to go curvy—otherwise, they’re ignoring more than half of their base. I call it the power of the plus-size dollar.

Q: Where are the biggest opportunities for improvement?
A: One, we need more stylishly designed clothing overall. Two, getting fashion-forward clothing beyond a size 14 is our biggest challenge. In real life, women don’t stop at a size 14. Quite a few luxury designers go to up to a 12 or 14; now they need to extend to at least a 24.

Q: What are you most passionate about?
A: Women’s empowerment. The day I got married changed my life. It blew me away to go through all the roles women have to play at home, and then have energy left to fight for achieving their dreams. It’s exhausting yet rewarding. Women are the backbone of our nation. Men might run the world, but women created that world with their love, support and encouragement and by playing the dozens of roles men need women to play at home so they can succeed. My life is dedicated to providing support, resources and encouragement to women so they can live their dreams while balancing work and home.

Q: What’s a typical day like?
A: Around 6 AM I check email, update my sites and prep for meetings. By 7ish, my household is up, so that begins the breakfast-making and coffee-pouring to get my family off to school and work. By 9 AM, I’m heading to the office or working at home. I’m always rushing back later to be back for the school bus. I spend the rest of the day on calls with staff and clients until my husband comes home. Then family time begins. I’m usually sneaking back on the computer around 1 AM to do more work while it’s quiet. I typically get 5-6 hours of sleep. On weekends, I’m shooting or traveling.

Q: How do you find balance?
A: I’m a workaholic, so the hardest lesson for me was learning how to prioritize what’s important and understanding that the world won’t end if I don’t instantly answer an email. I set aside time for my family no matter what, and I have to give myself time, too. Self-care is so important! Alarms on my phone tell me to take a break. I take an hour a day for myself to read, write, pray and meditate or watch TV—the DVR is my friend!

Q: What would you tell someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
A: Believe in yourself and trust your instincts. Diddy once said, “You have to be crazy to be successful. You can’t believe in the reality presented in front of you.” In other words, no matter what people say, whatever your shortcomings, you have to believe that your dreams are your reality and what you see now is temporary. That’s why I love Ashley Graham, because she breaks all the rules. You can’t allow your circumstances to define you. Believe without a doubt you’re going to become the person you see in your dreams.

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THE WORLD ACCORDING TO KEKE

Wardrobe staples: Cute shoes, a jacket and a spotlight-stealing clutch.
Signature style: I always have on something red. I figured out it’s one of my “it” colors. You know, that shade that brings out your best. It’s a power color.
Style icon: Maxine Powell. She created the style for the Beyoncés way before there was a Beyoncé. She gave black women glamour and sophistication. Many don’t know her name, but you know her work.
Best fashion advice: Never leave home without your body foundations on; if you’re having a bloated day, ruched clothing is your friend. Buy things that flatter your body, not because they’re trendy. Get fitted for a bra once a year because wearing a proper bra completely changes how clothes fit. Find your “it” color, the one you always look fierce in. That will always be more slimming on you than basic black.
Personal mantra: In the words of Michelle Obama, “Watch me.”
Proudest achievement: It’s a tie between serving as state director for Women for Obama and marketing director for my local United Nations Association chapter. Both made me a better leader.
Fear you’re overcoming: I hate public speaking. I love to talk, just not in front of huge crowds! I’m hosting a lot of events this year, so I’m going to have to get over it fast.
Long-term goal: I dream of becoming a feature film and television producer with my own studio.
Latest hobby: Being a foodie. My husband and I go to a new restaurant every other week. Trying something novel is a fun experience.
Biggest mistake: Not standing in my own greatness. You have to shine your brightest to signal to others it’s okay to turn on their own light.
The perfect day: 75 degrees, sushi, sunshine.
In a word: Indestructible.

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Brooke Glassberg
Brooke is the editor of this here blog. In a previous life, she was an editor at Good Housekeeping and O, The Oprah Magazine. Brooke has written for Glamour, Travel+Leisure, New York Magazine and more. She’s into concerts, calligraphy, travel and her exceptionally adorable daughter and husband.
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2 Comments

  • Reply Marguerite Green April 14, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Thank you Keke for your insight. I have a young women’s group here in my high school and I’m so glad that this generation has someone like you and Ashley Graham to show the beautiful side of being a real woman. I’m almost 60 years old and I look to ladies like yourself because in my time we were told that if you weren’t a size 6 your worth was diminished, or you’d really be pretty if you just lost some weight.

    When I think about the time I wasted trying to live up to someone else’s standards it infuriates me. This is the message I try to exude everywhere I go especially on my campus. I’m a gloriously proud size 18 and yes I wish my stomach was tighter but I know my beauty is not defined by my dress size.

    • Reply Bare it All April 20, 2016 at 10:03 am

      Thank you, Marguerite, for taking the time to share your experience. We couldn’t agree with you more. Keep up the good work inspiring your students!

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