To fill you in, Russo is an author and freelance writer who specializes in the plus-size industry. He started his journey in college at Teen Vogue. That amazing experience opened his eyes to his passion for style and self-expression.
Russo advocates for body positivity, body diversity and a wider perspective of one’s life view. He’ll tell you it’s OK not to agree, but please open your eyes to the experiences of those around you. Why? Looking at life through a narrow lens is limiting. (Thank you for that reminder, Gianluca.)
He’s also all about finding new and creative ways to express yourself, which I love! And best of all, Russo is a humble, down-to-earth and all-around nice guy. Russo hails from New York, but these days he’’s living life to the fullest in sunny Phoenix, Ariz.
Emma Medeiros (founder of Medeiros Fashion PR) caught up with Gianluca to find out all about his upcoming book The Power of Plus: Inside Fashion’s Size-Inclusivity Revolution. Quite frankly, this is THE BOOK we’ll all be reading in 2022.
Here’s what he had to say.
— Mary Beth Cooper, Curvicality Founder and Editor in Chief
Do you ever feel powerless? Like you have no voice?
Unfortunately, even though plus-size people make up a whopping 70 percent of the population, our power to be heard has always been limited. However, fashion and culture journalist Gianluca Russo is proving how powerful our voices are when joined together with his digital platform-turned-book The Power of Plus. Read on to learn how to harness your own unique power!
Curvicality Magazine: When did you first realize the power of the written word?
When I was a freshman in college, Teen Vogue transitioned from fashion and beauty to more of a lifestyle magazine and started to represent more diverse types of people. I saw how speaking boldly, proudly and confidently for the first time made such an impact on them and I felt like my own voice was finally starting to be heard.
Curvicality Magazine: Why did you decide to write your upcoming book, The Power of Plus, and what do you most want readers to take away from it?
There were so many untold stories from the plus-size community and so many fighting for change and they needed celebration! I wanted to honor them and how they’ve changed not only the plus-size industry, but the world to show how far we’ve come in the last 30 years.
I hope readers feel empowered to accomplish anything, no matter their size or where they’re from. The people in the book desperately want to change the world and are a roadmap for the next generation.
Curvicality Magazine: Will this book stand on its own or will you incorporate any details from your size-inclusive digital community The Power of Plus?
The book is an expansion of all the little conversations we’ve had through The Power of Plus digital platform; we’re building on what we’ve started online and turning it into a more long-form platform.
Curvicality Magazine: Your press release about the book stated that you will “explore the trailblazing women who, over the past three decades, have single-handedly built the booming plus-size fashion market, creating a tight knit community along the way.” Who are some of those women and will you also be including men? What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from them?
Oh, how I would love to include everyone! Since that’s impossible, I’ve tried to include people I feel represent the community, not just themselves: Hunter McGrady, Tess Holliday, Liris Crosse, influencers, and designers, and others who have had a specific impact on the industry and who can tell universal stories in order to make everyone feel represented.
Yes, I’ve included a chapter on men. The Big & Tall industry lags years behind the women’s plus- size industry so it needs all the exposure we can give it!
The biggest takeaway I want our readers to have is that sometimes the things you have to do are very scary, but if you’re too scared to take that leap, you’re only hurting yourself. Elaine Welteroth, a former Teen Vogue editor-in-chief, said it perfectly, “When you feel a call to action, it’s harder to stay than go.”
Curvicality Magazine: Will anyone interview YOU for a chapter?
No, but I will appear in a special introduction and you’ll see little bits of me intertwined throughout the book since it’s being told from my point of view. When the book launches, though, I hope many people will want to interview me!
Curvicality Magazine: How do you plan to market The Power of Plus? Are you self-published or will the book be created through a publisher?
I chose to go through the publisher Chicago Review Press and the book will launch in late summer 2022. We’ll be promoting it through the digital community, a multi-city tour, etc. The goal is to get the book into the hands of everyone who needs to hear the message, particularly young women and teens because they’re the most vulnerable to self-doubt and low self-esteem. I want to show them that they too have a voice, that there is a space in this world for them and that they are worthy of love. Body positivity and inclusivity have become overused buzzwords and I want to bring back their true meanings.
This seems to be very important to all of the people I interviewed; when I asked them why they want The Power of Plus to be published, they responded almost unanimously that they want the next generation not to have to suffer as they did. The final chapter is about the future of fashion and how to have this conversation with younger people.
Curvicality Magazine: Will it be sold in bookstores or solely digital? In this era when more and more of the world is moving into the digital sphere, do you think that readers still value physical books? Why or why not?
It will be in bookstores as well as in both digital and audio formats. I made sure to create a physical copy because, over the pandemic year, people have realized how glued we have been to screens and how good it feels to lose ourselves in a printed book and escape all the notifications we’re interrupted with when trying to enjoy an e-book. It’s even been hard for me to not have a physical copy during the editing process. I think physical books are on the rise so it will be released first in hardcover and then in paperback.
Curvicality Magazine: How is writing a book different from when you write articles as a journalist? What types of research have you had to do for the book versus an article?
For this kind of book (nonfiction and heavily researched), it’s similar to articles and just takes longer. I usually write my articles quickly and they are published online quickly. My method for the book is to complete one chapter at a time and not move on to the next until it’s finished. I choose which people I want to talk to for the topic of that chapter and I only start writing once all the interviews are done.
How much research I do depends on who the person is. If I already know them, I don’t need to do a ton of research and can refer back to previous articles I’ve already written about them. I try to keep the tone very conversational because I want readers to feel like they’re sitting in front of them having a chat.
Curvicality Magazine: Do you wait until you feel inspired to write or do you make yourself write even when you don’’t want to?
For the first 10 months of the book process, I only wrote when I was inspired. Of course, when I have specific deadlines for articles, I have to write whether I want to or not. I always need to write the introduction of the chapter first to get into the right mindset. After that, I’m ready to go.
Curvicality Magazine: Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I absolutely do; that’s why I wrote almost nothing for the first 10 months! This is such a big project that it was frightening. The world was different when I started writing it and I felt the book wasn’t as important as what was going on with COVID. I had to reconnect with the passion and the reason behind the book, and the energy from the Power of Plus community especially helped with writer’s block. Those moments reminded me why I was doing this! I put it aside until I felt ready for it because I didn’t want to write anything bad that I’d have to rewrite, wasting even more time.
Curvicality Magazine: What other authors are you friends with and how do they help you become a better writer?
I don’t have many author friends but my agent really helps me overcome mental breakdowns and connect with other clients who can explain the process. Shammara Lawrence, the co-founder of The Power of Plus digital community, has been one of my biggest supporters and it helps that she’s not an author but comes with a magazine background like me so she can understand where I’m coming from.
Curvicality Magazine: What are some mistakes you’’ve made and how can other writers avoid them?
The biggest mistake is letting the fear and pressure get to me and prevent me from writing; this topic is so emotional that I feel a huge responsibility to make sure everyone feels included and that the book is relevant to them.
For other writers, my advice would be to find people who get it and can talk sense to you. And remind yourself that what you’re doing is important and it doesn’t need to be perfect to make an impact.
Curvicality Magazine: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I’ve only been writing for a short time, about five years, and I used to be so concerned that my voice didn’t matter and thought I had to fit into certain boxes designated by different publications.
Then I finally realized that every voice does matter and has the potential to make an enormous impact, even if you’re at the beginning of your career. You don’t have to wait to be a certain age to have value. You are already worthy to be represented.
Curvicality Magazine: What is your definition of “literary success?”
For me, a huge amount of sales or multiple awards isn’t the goal; I’ll consider the book a success if I actually have an impact on the people it’s written for and change the lives of everyday people who most need to hear this message.
Curvicality Magazine: Do you think you’ll write another book after The Power of Plus? Why or why not?
Yes, I’m already planning a second book and possibly more than that because I have so many ideas. There are so many stories to be told!
Curvicality Magazine: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Don’t forget to check out The Power of Plus digital community! We are already expanding to do more than just panels, such as networking events, resources, etc., to directly help our audience. We just celebrated our one- year anniversary; the first year was about growth and now we’re about impact.