She’s active in the plus-size community in countless ways, and is a brand ambassador both for Curvicality and for the Jose Pagãn Photo Tour.
“However, long before I became those awesome things, I was an established, published model and makeup artist who was helping other models get paying gigs and national recognition with clothing store brands. I was also the co-owner of the former G-Entertainment Magazine.”
That role allowed her to network with many franchise businesses and entertainers. “Those businesses and entertainers hired my models along with myself to help represent their brands in the most positive and influential way.”She’s also a college instructor, teaching anatomy and physiology and medical terminology classes.
La’Toya was born and raised in a community called Muscoda, part of the city of Bessemer in the Birmingham, Ala. metro area.
“My childhood was a living irony. I grew up in a two-parent home, with four other siblings, in a predominantly Black neighborhood.” However, she attended predominantly white schools, where she experienced racism.
“The school that I attended was not too kind to African-American students and had a history of race riots before I attended. Some of my teachers were instrumental to my education and showed kindness to a little African-American young lady who was born to older parents, and some of my teachers couldn’t care less about me being the only African-American girl in the classroom, who was often left out of playing children’s games due to the color of her skin.”
Those experiences shaped La’Toya’s ability to feel good about herself.
Dreams of ‘Being Skinny’
Like many plus-size girls, La’Toya dreamed of having a different body. “To be honest, I constantly dreamed of being skinny with really long hair. A lot of plus-size women have had that struggle. Society tells us this is what we are supposed to be.”
Her consistent changes in weight created a rocky road to attempts at better self-esteem. “My weight fluctuations created some deep-rooted insecurities in my life that are still taking a daily toll on me. It’s a constant battle for me to feel positive about myself and have positive acceptance about me. But when these insecurities get the best of me, I always force myself to get back up and find the things I love about my body just as it is.”
Her strong Christian faith helps her. “My motto in life is to love God, keep Him first and center in my life, and know that my God will supply all of my needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus’ name, amen!”
Known for her infectious positivity, La’Toya leans on her faith to stay positive on rough days. “I read my Bible, cry out, pray some more, and vent to those close to me about my trials and tribulations,” she says.
Becoming a Professor
We don’t know how many women who are makeup artists, models and plus-size role models also teach at the college level, but we’re confident it’s a small club.
“Honestly, God blessed me with the gift of teaching. It comes naturally to me. I thank Him for that. As far as becoming a teacher, I was planning on becoming a pharmacist. I was pursuing my mother’s dream for my life.”
She initially got a job teaching eighth grade intermediate science, aiming to save enough money to enter pharmacy school at Xavier University in New Orleans.
“However, Hurricane Katrina happened, and I just fell in love with what I was already doing. As far as teaching on a collegiate level, it was a dream that I didn’t think would happen, but it did. God opened the door. An instructor at a local college was pregnant and was put on bed rest during her third trimester.”
She applied for the position. She got the job in the spring of 2012 “and I haven’t looked back,” she says. “I absolutely love teaching college. It’s so rewarding because you’re teaching people who want to be at school, absorbing all of the knowledge that they can, versus teaching those who are forced to be there.”
Finding Body Positivity
La’Toya’s religious faith plays into her feelings about body positivity. “Body positivity means to me what is spoken in God’s word, His Holy Bible: We are fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are thy works. I may not be what’s ideal on the outside to some others, but, as long as I keep pushing and going, I know that someone is watching and I have to be an inspiration to the young plus-size ladies who may not be feeling so great about their bodies today. I push and keep going to inspire you.”
So what is her advice for others who are struggling to find body love? “The advice I would give to women who are struggling to love their bodies is to take it one day at a time. Start off by making a list of the things that you love, and tackle a goal on that list once a week. Go shopping, and buy that outfit that you know will make you feel pretty. Get your hair done, get a mani/pedi, and go get your makeup professionally done. Go to that favorite restaurant, and have a ‘Me Day.’ Once you get bold enough, sit at the bar, eat your food, and strike up a conversation with a total stranger,” she advises.
“The goal is to push past the shyness” with things like a belly-dancing or makeup class. “Once you love you, others will feel the positivity vibrating from you. When you love you, God will elevate you and your self-esteem.”
At the end of the day, her goal is to use her platform as a plus-size model to inspire other women. “I allow God to lead me and guide me on what to post and say. Also, I have gotten comfortable with being myself.”