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Essie Golden
Source: Marta Skovro / Courtesy of Brand

It was a Tuesday afternoon when Essie Golden and I spoke on Zoom. She was sitting in her Los Angeles apartment dressed in a lime green dress as bright as her personality. Admittedly nervous about the premiere of her Claima Stories episode with Bimma ‘Tha Storytella’ Williams, Essie is feeling “stressed, but good.” The social media influencer and self-proclaimed sneakerhead was surprised at the amount of comfort she felt during the podcast.

“I was so [stressed] about this podcast coming out because the way Bimma works, he just gets so much information out of you.”

Contrary to her nerves, she has received nothing less than love and positive feedback from her friends and family about her willingness to share her story with the world on such a large platform. “I’m so happy I did it. I’m so happy they convinced me to do it,” Golden continued.

Since 2012, Essie Golden has been living her life freely on social media and assumed that all of her followers had a pretty good idea of who she already was. From being the founder of Thick Laces, an online plus-sized sneaker community, to being a fashion and style influencer for brands from Amazon to ShoeDazzle, Golden has been giving her followers glimpses of her seemingly glamorous life, but we all know that social media is just a filter-crazed highlight reel. And for that reason alone is why she decided to share her full story to the world.

“I think it was super important for me, at this particular time, to tell my story and really let people know my journey and what I’ve been through to get where I am,” Golden told HelloBeautiful, “and to let people know you don’t have to come from perfect backgrounds to be a good person or to have a great career. Past mistakes don’t stop you from having a great career and taking chances is something that’s really important to do.”

Following the release of the Claima Stories episode, we spoke with Golden about her personal style evolution, plans to conquer the sneaker industry, and how growing up in the foster care system inspired her to go harder.

HB: How has your childhood journey led you to where you are today as a role model in the fashion and sneaker community?

Essie Golden: In high school, I wanted nothing more than to wear Abercrombie and Hollister. There was nothing more that I wanted than to fit in. Going to a store with your friends at an age where you can’t shop because they don’t have your size, does a number to your self-esteem. I think not feeling seen for the longest time, especially as a kid wanting love, wanting attention, wanting to be seen, wanting to be recognized, wanting to be viewed as a person, and not being able to see that in certain aspects.

Being one of the few plus-sized Black kids in a predominantly white area. Looking at TV and magazines and wanting to feel beautiful, but not seeing that. As soon as I saw Tocarra on America’s Next Top Model, Mia Amber in Road Trip, and Ashley Stewart campaigns, that clicked a switch for me. I wanted to be that person for myself. I wanted to be a model, but it wasn’t completely a vain thing. I wanted to be seen as beautiful [and] to feel what I was seeing on TV for myself. For someone who is the same size as me or close to my size, or seeing me do something and they feel now it’s achievable and it wasn’t before until they saw me means the world.

With Thick Laces and Golden Confidence, I’m now able to sit with brands and have conversations and show them, ‘Hey, you’re kind of lacking in this area. Here’s what we should be doing to improve that.’ I’m grateful that I was able to be a part and still able to be a part of the change in the fashion industry and beyond.”

HB: How did your HBCU experience shape your style and beauty journey?

Golden: “Listen, going to Bethune Cookman [University] really did change my life. The style, the confidence, the swag that Black people have, especially Black women, [and] the way that I really for the first time had sisterhood. It’s the way that we care for each other. It’s the way that we protect one another.

HB: How do sneakers help you feel like your most confident and sexiest self?

Golden: I think the definition of sexy and confidence is changing from what it used to be years ago. Before you had to be super duper done up, makeup done, hair done, the highest of heels, super uncomfortable, all of that. My number one rule when it comes to feeling confident and beautiful is feeling comfortable. There’s literally a sneaker for every single style and every single person. There’s a different color and there’s a different thing.”

I love being competitive with men sometimes, especially when I get sneakers. I’d be like, ‘I got it. You didn’t get it.’ A lot of plus size women have been inboxing me and saying, ‘I didn’t know that I can wear a sneaker, feel pretty, look beautiful, not feel less feminine or not feel less sexy or less confident.’ I love that we’re all defining what that looks like for us. It’s no longer about the male gaze. It’s about us. And if a sneaker’s going to make us feel cool and cute and confident, then that’s what we’re going to do. We define that, not anyone else.

HB: If you could go back in time and give your younger self a piece of style advice, what would you tell her?

Golden: “Stop wearing capris and flip flops. That’s what I would tell myself. Put the gauchos down, put the waist belt down. Oh, early 2000s fashion was awful. ​​It was so much fun though. Sunglasses in the club – so glad that’s over. I will definitely tell myself that nobody cares what you have on. Nobody cares what you look like and even if they do, no one else’s opinion matters more than your own. I think for the longest time, you care so much about how people feel about you. You know what you say, what you do, and obviously, what you wear and how you look. In my younger years, I would hide this, hide that. Don’t wear this, don’t wear that. I wish I would’ve been a little bit kinder to myself because it wasn’t my fault I didn’t have access.

I made it work with what I had, but when I did get access, I still kind of care a little bit too much about how people felt about my thighs or my stomach or whatever. I’m thankful for New York City, a great place that allowed me to be free, that allowed me to find my style, and find myself. I was able to explore a little bit more. When I did that, I realized nobody cared. Nobody cares as much as you think they do. And if they do, so what?

HB: In 2023, what are some major career goals that you’d like to accomplish for yourself and Thick Laces?

Golden: I want my own bra collection. That has always been a struggle for me in my younger years. I think women underestimate the power of a good foundation when it comes to bras. Not even necessarily talking shapewear. When I found the right bra, it changed my life. Everything just kind of fit together. When you’re comfortable, you’re confident, and if you don’t have the right bra, then you’re not always going to be comfortable.

When it comes to Thick Laces and beyond, I want a clothing and sneaker partnership with a brand, and I want to help them expand more women’s sizes. A lot of brands stop at 11 or a 12. The amount of women that follow the page that are a 13, 14, 15, the amount of women that have wide shoes, why isn’t there a wide sneaker? I want to put together a super-inclusive campaign of women from all backgrounds everywhere in a major campaign for sneakers to be truly inclusive. Because brands already have the clothing, but I think they’re not doing it in the way that I could do it.”

HB: What was the significance of sharing your story about your journey through foster care?

Golden: I think about my parents and my grandparents and the people before me who sacrificed so much and had dreams of their own and never got a chance to achieve any of those things. For the longest time, I wanted to be whatever would be considered normal. I would go to friends’ houses and they would have baby pictures and I’m just like, ‘Man, I wish I had that.’

It wasn’t until years later [when] my dad found me and after looking for my birth mother, finding out that she had passed from her drug addiction. She actually ended up dying on Christmas Eve the year before I ended up finding my family on Facebook. It was important to talk about being in foster care because it ended up being something that was super important in my journey to be where I am now. Coming from a family that wasn’t necessarily my blood, they still treated me like family. I wasn’t another. I’m sure the way that everything happened, I know it wasn’t by accident. I know that it wasn’t by chance. I talk about how I went through certain things in certain homes, but the last home that I was in was the perfect home for me. It was a family filled with love, joy, encouragement, protection, and safety.

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