Meet Your 2022 Honorees
ADVOCACY AWARD HONOREE
DENISE CALDWELL is a multi-platform influencer with more than a decade of experience styling Hollywood’s elite and consulting with commercial fashion and beauty brands. Her expertise extends across broadcast, print and digital platforms. Caldwell’s style expert content ranges from empowering women to be their best self, finding unique style solutions to transforming everyday wardrobe essentials and revealing red-carpet trends wearable for every day. Denise’s motto of “Dress With Confidence™”, promotes women to be bold and unapologetic about creating and amplifying their personal appearance with confidence. On-camera she offers tips and tricks on how women can confidently enjoy fashion that is slimming, figure flattering, fabulous and accessible regardless of size or shape. She has been involved in styling over 500 fashion and beauty makeovers. Within the last 3 years, Denise has created various avenues to promote ethical and sustainable fashion along with advocating for young designers and black businesses through media exposure. In 2021, Denise founded “Dress Up for Your Dreams! ™️“which a confidence building camp to help young girls, and those who identify as female, use style as a tool to impact their personal dreams and goals. Additionally, she has been featured in Fortune, Elle, Glamour, Huffington Post, Seventeen, Essence, SELF and regularly appears on Good Morning America, The Dr. OZ Show, DailyMail TV, Today Show, The Marilyn Denis Show in Canada, E! News, FOX and HLN.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT HONOREE
Phyllis Brasch Librach
A former award-winning journalist, Phyllis Brasch Librach traded deadlines for hemlines after she failed to find trendy plus size Prom dress for her curvy teen-age daughter. In the beginning, Librach was just another mother anxious to wipe away her daughter's tears. So, twenty years ago she founded Sydney’s Closet, which has become an international company that sets the bar for fashion-forward Prom, Wedding, Formal and Evening gowns, and Party dresses in sizes 14 to 40 that fit and flatter curvy women and teens. The Company now produces 10,000 dresses annually in 8 different collections. In addition to the Sydney’s Closet Prom and Bridal labels sold on www.sydneyscloset.com and other marketplace websites, Librach also designs two collections - Tease Prom and Michelle Bridal - which are sold exclusively in more than 300 stores in the USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Germany and Australia Tease Prom and Michelle Bridal. Of recent note, she now has an annual design collaboration with Johnathan Kayne, of Project Runway fame, which has vaulted Sydney's into serving plus size pageant and evening customers. The Chicago Tribune once called her the "plus size fairy godmother." Outside work, Librach enjoys yoga, pilates, gardening, reading, genealogy and, most of all, spending time with her three grandchildren.
ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR HONOREE
Pretty BIG Movement CEO and Founder Akira Armstrong is a trail blazing pioneer with a big heart and an even BIGGER vision. The Bronx native hold credits including Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Lizzo, Salt-N-PEPA, SWV, Jennifer Hudson, Jasmine Sullivan, Daddy Yankee, Big Freedia, Lip Sync Battle, Black Girls Rock, and you've probably seen her most recently tearing the stage up the streets in Manhattan for Vogue Ma Lizzo at this years 2019 MTV VMAS. One of Armstrong’s major highlights within her career was kicking some denim's ass in Canadian plus brand Pennington's commercial for ad campaign "I Wont Compromise." Akira established the house of full figured, voluptuous, talented and otherwise overlooked dancers in 2008. She sought out the opportunity to create a path and platform all her own which would cultivate empowerment for women of the unorthodox industry look. With the release of Condé Nas "The Scene: Breaking Stereotypes" the Movement became an international household name, with +10 million views overnight! Disrupting the waves of mainstream media, her company splashed into the hands of Lane Bryant, Rome Italy’s syndicated television show “Amici”, Touring in Seoul Korea, Harry Connick Jr., images splattered on Vouge Taiwan, Huffington Post, People Magazine, Cosmopolitan, The Great BIG Story, and MIC.com. The clan was mote so recently featured as dancers for Janet Jackson and Daddy Yankee hit single “Made For Now,” expanding their market to the LGBT community as well as breaking the stereotypes of being plus-size dancers on Paramount Networks hit show Lip Sync Battle. Besides her industry work, Akira gives back to the community through her work as a teaching artist. Armstrong has also curated an Apprenticeship Intensive dance training program geared to cultivate non-professional full-figured/Plus-sized women and men to prepare for mainstream media platforms. The workshops are opened to all women & men of different shapes and sizes with a no-judgement zone safe space. In early January 2022, Akira’s 15 years of consistent hard work had finally paid off. John Legends production Get Lifted along with MACRO announced the HBO Max Warner Brothers movie debut via social media, Hollywood Reporter and countless other notable articles on the making of Pretty BIG Movement the movie. Set to be directed by Tina Mabry. Currently, Akira is looking to expand her company in different cities and countries globally all while opening up a Pretty BIG teen division to shape and mold young adults for their professional future. Armstrong's hard work, dedication and passion are evident in all of her companies accomplishments and we rest assured knowing there is much more for her to cook up.
THE KEESHA MONIQUE CODLING CONFIDENCE AWARD HONOREE
Sheena Bilonn Postell is from Hartford, Connecticut. Where she was born and raised by a community activist Reverend Sandra Postell. She is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated and serves Chi Eta Zeta Chapter in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her goals are to encourage people, one smile at a time and make an experience with every encounter. In 1996 she learned that she was Diagnosed with a unique learning disability call dyslexia. With learning how her brain functions she began to thrive and accomplishing all of her wildest dreams. Today Sheena has three college degrees, a booming career as a medical social worker, professional signed model at Bicoastal Model Management and owner of a social media coverage company called Bilonn’s Vision L.L.C. As well as 1st Runner up of Ms. Kurvacious 2017 and 2018 and 1st Runner Up of Ms. Full Figured At-Large 2021. With remarkable confidence, she is only getting started.
ICON OF THE YEAR HONOREE
Maui Bigelow discovered the power of her digital voice in 2008 — when Facebook and Twitter ran the social media streets and Instagram was not even thought about. Now, a media juggernaut and respected voice in numerous communities, Maui’s mission is pretty simple – to create a path for women to emerge and thrive boldly, deliberately, and unapologetically. Curator of PHAT Girl Fresh, a platform that blends feminism with social, fashion, and beauty culture, the Albany State alum is known for bringing progressive, authentic conversations with southern charm, like only she can. She draws hundreds of thousands of yearly readers through her experiences in healing and personal transformations, social change work, and plus style and beauty. She has loaned her voice to numerous platforms, including MadameNoire, HelloBeautiful, and Fashionista and she has been featured in Associated Press, Buzzfeed, Yahoo, Ebony, and Seventeen Magazine, just to name a few. Maui is creator and producer of Life Styled, an annual tribute event that honors and celebrates notable female trailblazers in fashion, entertainment, activism, and empowerment. Past honorees include Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo Movement, and Project Runway’s model competition winner, Liris Crosse. Maui has also collaborated with many brands including Lane Bryant, Eloquii, L’Oreal, Mailchimp, Mazda, and Carol’s Daughter, amongst many more. A recognized global style authority, mentor, and boss, Maui routinely travels nationally as a motivational speaker and panelist at events, colleges, corporations, institutions, and a wide range of communities.
RETAIL BRAND OF THE YEAR HONOREE
ELOQUII is the ultimate fashion destination for sizes 14-28. The pioneering e-commerce destination debuts new, trend-leading collections multiple times a month and features merchandise categories including apparel, swim, wide width footwear and accessories. Their in-house design teams are obsessed with fit and use proprietary data as well as customer feedback to ensure every single style is perfectly sized. ELOQUII offers customers access to unique content through its Style & Substance platform and has created an online community through its #XOQ hashtag, which allows customers to tag themselves via Instagram. In 2020, ELOQUII launched ELOQUII Unlimited, a clothing rental service giving customers access to a rotating dream closet, and debuted ELOQUII Elements, a new brand of perfectly priced everyday fashion sold exclusively at ELOQUII.com, Walmart.com and select Walmart stores. Launching in 2022, Bridal by ELOQUII is the ultimate wedding wardrobe with styles for the bride’s every wedding event. ELOQUII believes in the ability to create positive change through the transformative power of fashion. To join the community, please go to www.eloquii.com and @eloquii.
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