Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Note From Ms. Aja B.: Back to Basics

"Always be a first-rate version of yourself,
instead of a second-rate version of somebody else"
~Judy Garland

Welcome to the 6th Anniversary of! While I have tried to celebrate each of Belle-Noir's birthdays with some sort of flourish, none seems sweeter than this celebration.

November 2003. A time when print publications targeted to plus size women were folding. A time when you did a search on the web for plus size women or big beautiful women, the first results that were listed were that of adult porn websites. A time when even magazines that were supposed to be for women of Color seemed to neglect the fact that women of Color came in body sizes larger than a size 12. There were few--if any--blogs that were dedicated to showing love to plus size women. Fashion options for plus size women on line were limited to the usual suspects, with little in the way of fashion for those who wanted to be just as fashionable and in style as their thinner counterparts each season.

When Belle-Noir began as an e-zine on a Yahoo! Geocities website on November 1, 2003, it was a website I created in an effort to help my friends--and myself--have a place where we could turn to and find positive stories on plus size women of Color. I wanted Belle-Noir to be a place where up and coming designers could be featured right along with the major retailers, who were starting to get the idea that plus size women don't just want clothing that fits their curves; we want it to be stylish as well. Belle-Noir was going to be a website that featured plus size women who were entrepreneurs, top level executives, models, fashion designers, authors, journalists, work from home moms, stay at home moms--women who were living their best lives in a big and beautiful way. Our mission was to inspire, uplift, motivate, empower at a time when everything thing else on the Net relating to plus size women seemed to do everything but.

Turn the page to six years later. Plus size women are in the news, particularly when it comes to the fashion industry. There are online magazines, like Skorch, Gemini, Venus Diva and Plus Model Magazine, that all bring monthly content to plus size women looking to not only feel good, but look good! There are Full Figured Fashion Week events that are dedicated to making sure that fashions for full figured women are featured with just as much pomp, circumstance and flair as the shows in the tents in Byrant Park popping up in cities across the country. There are hundreds of bloggers who write about their likes, dislikes, when it comes to the plus fashion industry. Even Crain's New York Business is writing about the plus size fashion industry.

So where does Belle-Noir fit in with all of the changing times in the plus industry? As this change in the plus industry was taking place, Belle-Noir admittedly had its share of ups and downs. We switched formats several times. We gained writers. We lost writers. We had successful events, like Phat Poetry, a night of poetry that was for, by, and about plus size women and men. We launched a signature event, Curves & Cocktails, which was a socializing and shopping event created with the curvy woman in mind and at heart. But as the plus blogging scene began to grow, there was a need to keep up and keep current! We switched to a blog format for our newly dubbed Belle-Noir Magazine, but began to get lost in the shuffle.

We fell back on the stories that made us who were were--the Independent Woman column, Ask the Admirer--in an effort to keep up with other sites who were promoting fashion & beauty all the time. In short, Belle-Noir lost its voice.

Belle-Noir didn't start out as an "all fashion, all the time" website. And while we definitely want to bring the latest in plus size fashion to our readers both online and offline (i.e. Curves & Cocktails), there's got to be more. While we crave and covet that dress from the newest plus designer on the scene, who is telling her story? What inspired her to take that bold step and create her own line? What's more, did you know that her web designer and her publicist were also plus size women, making names for themselves in their respective industries?

This sixth anniversary of marks the beginning of our "Back to Basics" initiative. We will definitely continue to follow the latest in plus fashion, but we also will go back to the root of what made Belle-Noir a successful and popular destination for plus size women in the first place. There are still stories to be told, and we intend to bring you a broad spectrum of what the plus community is all about. We will go back to featuring the entrepreneurs, the top level executives, the models, fashion designers, authors, journalists. We want to bring you the women behind the other sites you adore and let you get a glimpse into their lives outside of their blogs, online mags, websites. We're bringing back the Independent Woman of the Month, with the added bonus that at the end of one year, we will host an awards reception for the women you voted inspired you the most. Ask the Admirer is coming back as well. Even our beloved artwork from JNESS will be back (hence the homage to our 1st ever cover back in 2003 gracing our pages this month).

Mostly, we want to be the place where you can once again come to be inspired, uplifted, motivated and empowered as women.

To all of our dedicated fans, I thank you for your support for the past six years. The emails that you send, the comments that you leave are all received with love and gratitude. I hope that you will continue to let us know what you think about our new initiative. There are more ways than ever to get in touch with us. We are fully engrossed in the social media era--find us on Twitter, Facebook & yes even MySpace. Leave a comment on a post when it excites you--or even if it doesn't. Send us feedback via our Contact Us page. To quote former NYC Mayor Ed Koch, tell us "how we're doin'".

Welcome to the new--and not so! Six years down--many more to go!

Peace & Love,
Ms. Aja B.
Editorial Director


Desiree said...

Loving the new look and new attitude. Can't wait to see more.

Glen L Johnson said...


I love the new look and love how you are bringing things full circle to get back to your roots. Its hard to believe that its been 6 years since the birth of BN but hear you are!

Keep up the good work I will be checking in on you more and for certain if you have any WP questions let me know!

JNESS said...

I am very excited about what's happening at Belle-Noir. I am looking forward to the many moves to come...

Back To Basics!!!

Stephanie Danforth said...

I am so happy for you, the new look and the direction you've decided to take. As a woman, we have may layers (inner & outer) and I consider Belle Noir to be a site that celebrates Everything plus size women have to offer. Continue to give us what we need on a daily basis and know that you are definitely appreciated.