In "The Level Up," changemakers in the fitness and wellness industries tell us how they're making an impact in their communities, from pushing for inclusivity to promoting body acceptance and so much more. Here, Trina Nicole talks breaking new ground as a plus size model.
Trina Nicole is by her own admission a natural-born "party starter", she's is no stranger to commanding a room. "I'm Caribbean, I grew up around music and dance — it's just normal for me," she laughs over Zoom. In the last few years, the vibrant plus size model and performer has come to the attention of the industry, one of her highlights being a stand-out dance alongside Lizzo at Glastonbury 2019. It was a whirlwind experience that all started with an Instagram DM, Trina Nicole tells us. "It just goes to show that if you go against the grain, put yourself out there, and believe in yourself, people will notice," she smiles.
Trina Nicole is committed to helping other plus size women enjoy the same level of confidence and self-belief. And one of the ways she aims to do this is via her dance classes, The Curve Catwalk. Under the slogan "We Don't Twerk, We Jiggle" they are the UK's first plus size dance classes, created as a safe space compared to some traditional dance studios, where Trina Nicole says she would have to "completely shrink" herself.
Through mirror work, catwalk sessions, and choreography, The Curve Catwalk has become a fun and carefree experience for anyone who, quite frankly, wants to shake their ass without judgement. "Where else do get to look in the mirror and flaunt your stuff?" Trina Nicole laughs. The Curve Catwalk goes beyond dancing, too, it's really an extension of her wider mission for size inclusivity.
Here, Trina Nicole explains how she's using dance as a vehicle for plus size representation, radical self-love, and body-positive acceptance.
Where did the demand for The Curve Catwalk come from?
It was 2018, I wanted to do more of what I enjoy. I thought, "why have I stopped dancing?". So, I started seeking out dance classes around London.
I would stick out like a sore thumb. I consider myself a confident person, but I'd go to these classes and completely shrink myself. I wanted to be at the back of the class, and I didn't want anyone to look at me. But, that's not who I am. I was the biggest girl there, and it was really intense, and I wanted to have fun. People would be like, "you can really dance for a big girl".
It made me feel really awkward, no one looked like me, and I would feel less confident than when I walked in. But, I kept pushing, I know I can dance, so I got some of my friends together, hired a space for two hours. The rest is history.
Did you always intend for The Curve Catwalk to be for plus size women?
I never really thought of it as a plus size dance class — it was only when people started telling me they've never been to a dance class where an instructor was plus size, and had so much confidence. People started telling their friends to come who were bigger. That's how it became a class for plus size women.
It's just a testament to when people say "representation matters", it really does. It was me teaching in this body, freeing myself, and being an example to other women, and I guess other people took inspiration from that.
I was thinking there must be other places like this for plus size women, but there wasn't.
How do the women in class respond?
It's been amazing — quite overwhelming! The Curve Catwalk has boosted their confidence, because it's given them the confidence to just be free, but also be in a room with other like-minded women on a similar journey. That's something very powerful. It's a safe space, no one's judging, you can wear that crop-top...
And that's just inside classes. People have told me how it's helped with intimacy with their partners. It's so much bigger and more powerful than just dancing. I use dance as a vehicle to boost confidence and self-esteem. And that's something you can implement in other facets of your life. That's the real power of The Curve Catwalk.
Why is so important to represent plus size women in the dance space?
When you think about it, it's a shame I felt the need to create a dance class for plus size women, but from my experiences, when it's portrayed as a class for everyone, it's not. So, as much I'm 100% here for the inclusivity, someone is always going to feel left out.
I've been unapologetic with saying this is for plus size women because I am a plus size woman. I am going to stand firm in that. The Curve Catwalk is size-inclusive, nobody is going to turn anyone away, nobody is at the door with a measuring tape!
Do you feel representation is improving in mainstream fitness?
Steps have been taken, whether it be Nike's plus size mannequin or the recent Cosmopolitan cover. Things are being done, but hopefully not in a tokenistic way. Ultimately, its attitudes that need to change, there's still huge backlash when plus size women are included. However, baby steps are being taken and visibility is being seen more than before. For me, I choose not to complain about it, but do something about it. So, with The Curve Catwalk I'm making a contribution.
What was it like to dance with Lizzo at Glastonbury?
It was such a moment. Lizzo's such an icon — and she's obviously so unapologetic in her journey. To be alongside someone like that was a dream come true. It solidified my journey – big girls can do this too. And yet, even now, I still use the term "plus size dancer", why can't I just be a dancer?
What does health and wellness mean to you?
Wellness and health is so much more than how much you weigh on a scale. It's your mind and spirit — there's so much more than just your appearance. When I think about my body I'm not just thinking about my body-mass index. Especially with how the world is today. I think it's naive for someone to just think about size when it comes to health. It's borderline ridiculous in my opinion. Dancing is my joy, it's part of my self-care.
What's next for The Curve Catwalk?
I want The Curve Catwalk to be a starting point for people's self-love journey. I want to grow the platform to share stories, resources, and grow the community. It's not just me, I have other plus size dance instructors who I hunted for — just to have that representation across the board. So guess what, there's a tribe of us now.