When the plus sizes of Beyoncé’s Ivy Park clothing line quickly sold out before Grammy Award-winning recording artist Tasha Cobbs-Leonard had a chance to purchase anything, she quipped that she would launch an athletic wear line of her own. “I said it jokingly but people who know me know that if I say something, I’m not joking,” Cobbs-Leonard told us. “So, after I said it, I could not shake it.”
“I’ve been a plus-sized girl all my life and I’m a healthy plus-size girl. I have no health issues but I’m not a baby anymore. I’m getting older.”
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While the gospel songstress emphasizes the importance of being healthy, she also acknowledges the social barriers to it. “I’ve felt it. I’ve felt the shame of worrying about how many people were going to be staring at me while I’m at the gym or being self-conscious because I don’t have cute outfits like the petite girls. So I’d stay home and get on the elliptical by myself. That’s the truth about the world we live in but, with Curve, it’s about stressing that we can do what God wants us to do-–which is live a whole life and look cute doing it.”
Curve Athletics was launched just days before Nike made headlines for introducing plus-size mannequins in its London flagship store. While many saw the change as a sign of progress within the body positivity movement, others saw it as celebrating obesity and unhealthy lifestyles. It’s conversations like these — and the people behind them — that inspired Cobbs-Leonard to create her line.
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“There could have been a way to make the argument about obesity without being cruel and unkind because the truth is obesity is unhealthy. It is a disease. And, for some of us, the disease is rooted in some addictions. And, sometimes, the addictions can show up and we’re not strong enough to fight it,” she explained.
Seeing Curve as a tool to help those trying to overcome their battle with obesity, Cobbs-Leonard spent years researching and talking with manufacturers to create the perfect product. “I studied what I didn’t like about other lines. I didn’t like that my pants rolled down while I was working out. I didn’t like some of the other fabrics. So I took years to really study the market and how I wanted the pieces to fit us and move with us. I was very intentional because I wanted it to be a garment that women would be proud to wear.”
The daughter of a bishop and a bonafide church girl, Cobbs-Leonard has always navigated her health journey through the lens of faith. “I’ve learned that God wants us to live our best life. He says that in scripture all of the time. And, with that thought in mind, we can make room for body positivity but we also have to be honest that God wants us to be healthy and whole, as well,” she said. “Even as we’re emphasizing the fact that we’re beautiful and that we’re fearfully and wonderfully made, it also matters that we’re healthy.”
To take control of her own health, Cobbs-Leonard made the decision to have weight loss surgery. “At the time, the weight was becoming a hindrance,” Cobbs-Leonard shared. “I’d done the HCG diet and every other letter diet out there and it only worked temporarily. But, when I started walking through the mall and found myself fighting to catch my breath, I decided I need assistance.”
While broader society sees weight loss surgery as the easy way out and many weight loss surgery patients are secretive about their procedures because of the shame, Cobbs-Leonard remains vocal about what was a spiritual decision for her. “The freedom for me is that I’m been very open about it,” the Jesup, Georgia native shared. “I needed something to help me and I don’t believe that’s against God’s will because He has given us an assistant for life, which is the Holy Spirit. And if God believed I needed an assistant to help me in my spiritual life, I don’t think He’s against me having one for my natural life. God is not upset with me for doing something that’s going to assist me in being more healthy. And when I was settled with that, it didn’t matter what anyone else said.”
As she continues the journey of good health, Cobbs-Leonard has learned to have more grace for herself. “I live a public life and we’ve seen my weight fluctuate. At first, I’d think I was a terrible example and not using his platform like I need to. But the truth is this is a struggle. And, though sometimes I may fall, for the most part, I have my foot on top of its head. The other day, I wanted a cookie so bad. Guess what I did? I went and got a cookie! I’m not going to be so tough on myself that I refuse to enjoy life. The enemy will lead us to believe that in order to beat obesity we have to be so hard on ourselves that we don’t have any grace for us. He’ll say ‘if I can’t get her to overeat, I’ll make her depressed about the things she can’t eat.’ I’ve been able to be successful with this because, if I mess up today, I remember that tomorrow is a new day with fresh grace and fresh mercies and I’m going to try it again.”
Cobbs-Leonard acknowledges that, while many church women weren’t raised to have these healthy relationships with their bodies, there has been a noticeable change–one where many consider her at the forefront. “I grew up in a Pentecostal holiness church and there were very few things that we could do. But I remember always being a revolutionary person that wanted to say we don’t have to be stuffy or stale. We can put color in our clothing. We don’t have to be disrespectful or overly sexual, but we can be beautiful, too. When you read scripture, it seems like God delighted in making us. So why can’t we enjoy what we look like? I’m so excited that there is a shift happening in the kingdom world where we can be positive about our bodies and the way we look.”
Working on new music and recently learning to play the guitar, Tasha Cobbs-Leonard said that she is “called to bring awareness to the presence of God in everything that I do.” Through Curve Athletics, she hopes that women can develop healthier relationships with God as they work at becoming healthier themselves. “Once you begin to see yourself as God sees you, that’s when you can honestly accept yourself,” she said. “When you digest the scriptures and understand what God thinks of you, then you will always do what you need to do in order to be what you need to be.”
This story was originally posted on madamenoire.com.
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