Forward: You know those women who are so amazing that you want to share that sisterly love with the world? That’s Jana and Rasheedah. As I’ve gotten to know these ladies, I’ve developed an absolute gal pal crush. They are the ultimate example of being strong, confident plus-size women. When I found out they lived in the same area, I asked them to do a joint cover because I want to share their positive energy and enthusiasm for body love with all of you. Here’s their story, as told by our very own Michelle Teheux. Enjoy! — Curvicality CEO Mary Beth Cooper
Jana Johnson and Rasheedah Williams share a lot of things.
These include friendship, modeling careers, a belief in body positivity and the May cover of Curvicality magazine.
“We met at a photo shoot,” says Jana.
“We both had on a black sequin gown. That’s the first time I ever met her. Now? We talk every day. And I don’t really do that with people,” says Rasheedah. That was in December, at a shoot for another magazine.
Then Mary Beth Cooper, the founder of Curvicality, offered Rasheedah and Jana the May cover.
“Oh, my God,” says Rasheedah of that photo shoot. “We laughed the whole time. We have a lot of pictures of us laughing.”
“It was like, it was fun,” Jana agrees. “Even to the preparation of getting to the shoot, making sure our hair and makeup were good. I felt like she was beautiful. It’s hard to feel comfortable when you’re doing more than one person in a shoot, because the light is not just on you.” But she loved the results. “The pictures are so genuine.”
“I’ve never been on another shoot with a second model,” says Rasheedah. “It was different in a good way. I want to take more pictures with Jana. She is a beautiful person.”
“As Rasheedah is, too,” Jana says. “She has a heart of gold.”
As models, Jana and Rasheedah have sometimes witnessed other women tearing each other down instead of building each other up, but that is not their way.
“I see that a lot,” Jana says. “It’s more of an insecurity. It’s been like crabs in a barrel pulling each other down.” But she says she believes in working as a team and that there’s “enough for everyone.”
Rasheedah has made a place for herself as a model and as a model mentor. She helps facilitate other models in setting up shoots and arrangements. With her gift for networking, she helps bring the right people together and helps line up the right models for the right magazines. Others have noticed her gift, so much so that she’s been asked to do a workshop on networking.
“They always say, Rasheedah, you want the best for everyone else, what about you? It’s all about helping. When I started, nobody helped me. I reached out to models and they didn’t help me. They saw me as competition,” she says. So when she had success, she decided she would offer her help to other models.
“She’s contagious. People are seeing how she is,” Jana says. “Now, people are noticing it. Noticing her heart and what she does.”
“I always say to Rasheedah, ‘We are gonna take over the world,’” Jana adds. To that, Rasheedah answers, “Everybody loves Jana. Everybody meets her and gets along.”
The quarantine is keeping Jana, a stylist, from serving her clients. But she is still working to make everyone beautiful by building her own cosmetic line, Bellanaj Cosmetics. (Until her website is up, you can find her on Instagram at Bellanajcosmeticsllc.)
The name of her collection is a melange of her children’s names and her name spelled backward.
“I was working on it before the pandemic,” she says, but she has more time to devote to it now. It’s not that unusual for models to put their name on a line of cosmetics, but Jana actually makes her own lip gloss, eye shadow and soap.
How, exactly, does one learn to make eye shadow?
“YouTube is the best teacher of everything,” Jana says with a laugh.
Jana’s interest in selling makeup “started off with selling eyelashes out of my trunk. And then, as it started going well, I started getting a niche for other things I wanted to do. I wanted to have something that everybody could use that was affordable.” Unlike her homemade eye shadows and lip glosses, she doesn’t make the eyelashes herself, but they are made to her specifications.
Rasheedah is the biggest fan of Jana’s lashes.
“Jana is laughing, but I want to be buried in those lashes,” Rasheedah says.
“She even wants to sleep in them,” Jana laughs.
“I model lashes. I’m not a plain-Jane person,” Rasheedah says. She likes a bold look, and Jana’s lashes deliver that. (To see more of her bold look, check her Instagram, Sheedahboo2u.)
In the Pandemic
When Rasheedah isn’t modeling or networking, she is playing another role, one of vital importance during the pandemic. But she spent so much of the interview focusing on Jana that Jana had to be the one to bring it up Rasheedah’s contributions.
“She’s leaving out the most important thing,” says Jana. “She is a caregiver. When I say she’s phenomenal, I mean it. It’s not just because it’s her art. She puts her heart into it.”
One can only imagine how people feel when they have a glamour girl showing up to care for them.
“When I go to my job, they say, ‘I saw your pictures!’” Rasheedah admits.
Jana also writes. “I’ve written a book and two plays. I’m in the process of writing a movie script as well.”
Her book is called “Embracing the Me in the Mirror,” and it will soon be available on Amazon. It isn’t just about body size. “It’s teaching you that even though things happen in life, it doesn’t’ stop you. If you don’t learn from it, it’s going to keep happening over and over again.”
In the meantime, Rasheedah is also involved with a new book. Her pictures are featured inside “You Are Enough: 30 Days of Positive Affirmations & Journal for Women” by Miss Dee.
About Those Bodies
Both women are in Virginia; Rasheedah grew up in Chesapeake while Jana grew up in Northbrook.
“I am the baby of six,” says Jana. “We all are different shapes and sizes. Like everybody else, I have to love my body where I am. I have embraced it. Like recently, in the last 10 years. Just really looking in the mirror. I’m going to be stuck in this body. I have to learn how to love it. Just day to day, to learn to love the person I’m looking at.” Unlike most plus-size women, she never got on the dieting go-round.
“I was raised by my mama,” Rasheedah says, and was her mother’s only child. “I had to learn to love myself. I learned to talk down to myself. I know a lot of women go through that. My mother helped me with it. She helped me to love myself. I might always be plus-sized. She taught me I’m beautiful. She told me I’m important no matter what size you are.”
Jana has two teenaged boys and Rasheedah doesn’t have children. But if they had daughters, they already know the message they’d give them.
“I want a daughter,” Rasheedah says. “I would tell her the same thing my mom told me. We were all made to be different. We aren’t meant to be the same thing. I would give the same message to my daughter my mom gave to me.”
If Jana had a daughter, “I would tell her to realize everybody isn’t going to look the same. As long as you learn to love yourself, what anybody else says isn’t going to matter.”
Both women are body size activists, but they use their social media platforms in different ways. Jana says she concentrates on spreading positivity in general. “Also to make people laugh. Everything doesn’t have to be so serious. Mainly to encourage people to love themselves for who they are.”
Rasheedah uses her social media platform to encourage others in a variety of ways. “I promote body positivity,” she says, but adds that she also promotes others’ brands, and she encourages other women to know they can do whatever they put their mind to.
If you need a dose of positivity, a bold set of eyelashes or you just feel like looking at two bubbly, happy models, follow Jana and Rasheedah on Instagram.
About the Author: Michelle Mueller Teheux is a journalist and former newspaper editor and columnist. She frequently writes about health, family and lifestyle.