Case in point: On Sunday night at the 92nd Academy Awards, I ran across a tweet of one of my faves, Nightly Pop cohost and E! News and E! Live from the Red Carpet correspondent Nina Parker, who shared that she designed her own dress for the 92nd Academy Awards because there weren’t a lot of options for her beautiful plus sized frame.
“I designed and created my own Oscars dress this year due to very limited plus-size options. I’ll create a lane of my own. You CAN have couture AND curves! #Oscars,” she wrote on Sunday night.
Just take a look at all this royal blue fabulousness:
Nina looked like a Goddess!
Instantly, I was ecstatic at how amazing she looked, how empowering it must have been for her create a lane for herself in this way and the positive and overwhelming response she got from fans and colleagues. But then it hit me: For someone like her, who’s juggling her show for the network while covering all of awards season, it doesn’t seem fair that she then has to take on this kind of labor too, unpaid to be exact, in order to look and feel fabulous on the red carpet. Why can’t the fashion industry simply do its job instead of a Black woman having to do hers and theirs?
I recently caught up with Nina to get that question answered along with the details on what led to her having to design her gown, her frustration with the lack of options for plus size women and why we need more curvier women to tell their stories.
Kellee Terrell: What happened that made you take your fashion matters into your own hands?
NINA PARKER: You know, I’ve been doing awards shows for a really long time and consistently worked with a few designers and have had custom made dresses for me, thanks to the work of my stylist Ashley Loewen. But there are times when my stylist has reached out to designers to dress me and we don’t hear back. This year, we were like, “You know what? We know what to do. I know what colors I want and why don’t we just do it ourselves?
KT: So your Oscar gown wasn’t your first design or collaboration?
NP: No, so for the Golden Globes we collaborated with Melissa Mercedes from sketches from Ashley and me, which was a Diana ross inspired two-piece gown. We picked out the fabrics and worked with her on it. But then we decided for the Grammys and for the Oscars we were going to do it on our own, with dressmaker Lynne Carter Atelier,
KT: Did you ever think like, “Damn, I gotta do this too on top of my job?”
NP: Yes, It’s frustrating. Like success wise, I have my own show and multiple platforms and this should be easier and yet it’s the same struggle as before. But it’s life. There are a lot of things we shouldn’t have to do, but we do them anyway. What I’ve learned in this business from graduating from small parts to hosting the show and working the carpet is that no one is really in charge of you, but you. There’s not going to be a part in your career where you can trust people to do everything for you.
You have to manage how you present yourself to the world. With those limited options out there for me, I knew no one was gonna do better than what I could do.
KT: It’s a shame because the industry continues to pat itself on the back for being more inclusive and yet…here we are.
NP: Obviously, there is an improvement and you have brands like Fenty, that don’t make it feel like your different from everyone else. Like OK, there’s plus-sizes [XXL] all the way to size XS and that’s just the way it is, together. But unfortunately, that’s not commonplace for other companies, who have the money and the resources to do the same, but choose not to.
KT: What do you think will force the industry to change?
NP: More stories like mine. More plus size women speaking up and sharing their stories. There are people who don’t want to speak up because of the backlash or the trolls who want to tell you to get over it. But we need more of us to tell our stories. The response I got from folks like Yvette Nicole Brown, even Meghan McCain continues to show that [size inclusivity] isn’t just about race or political background, it’s an issue that unites everyone who’s over a size 10 who really understands what it’s like.
KT: Were you afraid to speak up?
NP: No. I wanted to share the experience on the red carpet at the Oscars but I because I was working late my credential expired, so I couldn’t walk the carpet. So I said let me post this and tell my story on social instead.
Also, when it comes [to my size], people can see me, they know what I look like and I’m proud of who I am. My waist doesn’t define me. That, and I’m not perfect, I wear SPANX and I have pimples and I think that being able to relate to those struggles is what makes us human. I don’t runway from them either, I face them like everyone else.