Leigh Johnson (Picture by Krystal Hoyte)
Nineteen-year-old Leigh Johnson put on a costume for the first time earlier this year to model for a Grand Kadooment band. Hours later she was in tears.
Why? Because it was something completely new to her. Leigh is “bigger than most other girls” and considered to be plus-sized.
While joining a band for Kadooment was something she wanted to try, Leigh said she was nervous when she actually did it.
“My first modelling situation would have been a band launch for Blue Box Cart this year. They approached me, and I was, like, this is new. That first experience was nerve-racking. After the studio shoot I cried and said I couldn’t do it because it was all so new to me,” she said.
But once Leigh took a few more glances at herself in the mirror, the vivacious young woman was ready for the stage and ready to show off what she was made of.
“That same day I started to get a bit more comfortable. I walked around in the costume and felt it a bit more. When we got to the video shoot I was really ready, I was, like, ‘film me in all my awesomeness’,” she said with a chuckle.
That opportunity opened up more doors for the “new model”.
“From that I was approached by Hearts Carnival in Trinidad and I flew out there in July for their band launch. When I got there I was, like, what am I doing here. The plus-sized movement in Trinidad is not as advanced as us here. So I was literally one of two plus-sized models out of 70 that they had on the stage. When you walk out on a stage in front an audience of about 1 000 and you hear the screams it was crazy. That feeling is hard to explain. I’m just going with it wherever it takes me. It’s definitely something I would look into full-time,” Leigh added.
She said amidst the high, she was expecting some criticism but never got it.
“I was expecting somewhat of a pushback, but I got lot of positive feedback. The older generation would usually say, well, I need to lose weight but I just say ok and move on. I haven’t experienced harsh criticism as yet,” she added.
Though in tune with who she is now and self-assured, Leigh said she once struggled with accepting that she was different in terms of body structure.
“I was definitely always plus- sized. All my friends around me were always smaller than me. There were times when I struggled with self-confidence when I was younger. When you’re young, though, you don’t really notice it; it’s when you start to grow up. Around 11 or so when I started to go through puberty, I became a lot more conscious of things. I would go to swimming and notice that the other girls looked very different to how I looked. So I would say I struggled with self-confidence and confidence on a whole through that whole period,” Leigh explained.
But she said that once she accepted it she started to own who she was and started to focus on just being healthy.
“I don’t remember the day that it hit me or that things changed, but I was, like, ‘this is who I am’ and I wasn’t trying to change it. Everyone around me was here for me and what I stood for so this is me. You really don’t realise the moment you switch and become that confident person. I started to exercise a lot. I’ve always had an interest in physical education and sport. So I had the opportunity to pick that up as a subject at CXC.”
“I was a very active person growing up. I used to swim ride horses and just be very active in sports. When I started to realise that and started looking at what I was eating things changed a bit. The one diet or lifestyle change I tried and enjoyed was something called the Whole 30. I ate potatoes all the time. I lost weight during it and I got to figure out what my body reacted to more. So getting to know my body from a nutritional point of view also helped me with my confidence in knowing who I fully was and what I could handle,” she explained.
Even to this day, she includes exercising as part of her lifestyle.
“I try to maintain a balanced diet. It’s all about balance. If you want to eat a burger, then eat that burger if you know you’re going to the gym and that kind of stuff. I try to go to the gym like five times a week; it’s my way of stress relief and getting active in the morning.
However, she admitted that remaining confident was always a struggle for her.
“It’s a task in some situations where you just need to take that moment and sit down and remember who you are and why you do what you do – that kind of thing. But I try hard daily,” the bubbly Leigh said.
Leigh reminded females like herself to never put limits on themselves.
“There’s no limit to what beauty is or to what people can do. We are built the same way mechanically. Some of us just have a bit more extra love. Pay no attention to negative people. People will always be people,” she stressed. (DB)