Jonquel Norwood is an artist, illustrator, and textile designer living in New York City. Her illustrations are a haven for anyone looking for a reminder that curvier women are extremely relevant in fashion. Norwood’s unapologetic illustrations spotlight curvy women in the fashion industry whom she’s personally felt inspired by, as well as curvy fashion bloggers she appreciates. Her illustrations are nothing short of fierce– we’re talking babely women in bikinis strutting their stuff, a woman shooting the bird at any haters that might cross her path, and bloggers in fire threads.
RunwayRiot reached out to Norwood to talk about what moves her to draw these body positive fashion illustrations and how she learned to love herself through her illustrations of other women.
How long have you been doing these body positive illustrations?
I started doing them this year actually. I moved to New York recently and I actually started doing them by accident because I’ve been a plus-size girl my entire life, and I’ve also been doing art for a very long time, but I had never really drawn plus size women in my art, I always drew what you usually typically see in any type of art which is a straight size girl because they’re the ideal. And that is typical in fashion as well as art. And that was the ideal body type I wanted to have. So, that’s what I always drew, what I always saw and what I always wanted. It wasn’t until moving here that I guess I had a moment when I just felt like I was tired of apologizing for my appearance, and I was tired of being ashamed for being the way that I looked. And I started drawing girls [who were] plus size and through drawing them, I actually ended up starting to love myself as well. So that was part of my growth as far as seeing myself as beautiful because I only draw things that I find beautiful. So, because my artwork changed, that started to make me change myself.
Why do you think moving to New York had such a big impact on your art?
I was all of a sudden surrounded by these amazing plus size women who oozed confidence and that classic New York “I don’t give an eff,” attitude. I was inspired by them. I wanted to be like them, I wanted to draw them and I only draw what I think is beautiful.
I guess the big thing is I realize life is very short, tomorrow is promised to nobody. So, am I going to spend another second which may be my last worrying over the size of my belly? I had put so many things in my life on hold because I didn’t think I was worthy, that only the thin beautiful people could do those things. I refused to take pictures, go to the pool, wear lingerie, and make friends! All because I was ashamed of what I looked like. If there’s one thing New York has taught me is that life is what you make [it], and I can choose how I live. I choose to have a body positive attitude about myself.
What was your original inspiration for your fashion illustrations?
I became friends with a popular plus size fashion designer, and she’s extremely body positive. Her name is Alysse, and she runs this company called Ready to Stare, and she was very encouraging of me to love myself and, you know, enjoy my life. After her encouraging me and meeting a lot of other bloggers here in New York, that’s kind of what turned it around a little bit for me.
How do you feel about the “Drop the Plus” movement in the fashion industry right now?
I know that’s a big hot topic right now. I think that we shouldn’t look at it as being a bad thing to begin with. Because you’re always going to have fashion labels. You’re always going to go to the store and see the misses versus the women. And that term actually offends me more than “plus size.” I don’t understand why that section is referred to [as] the women’s section, the other one’s referred to as misses when we’re all women. I don’t see any problem with saying something’s plus size. I automatically know that if it’s plus size, that means I can fit into it. It doesn’t bother me. I know that some people can’t accept that word, and it took me a long time to be able to accept that I was plus size. It took me a long time to be able to walk into a plus size store. But once I got in there and realized everything fit me, I was fine. So no, it doesn’t bother me. I think that we have more issues that we need to be focussing on other than just a word. I think the feeling behind the word is what you need to be tackling versus the word.
What do you think about the clothing options for curvier women?
I think there is a definite lack of trendy clothing for plus size women. We want the same clothes they have, I don’t understand why that’s such a hard concept to grasp. Indie designers are trying their best, but the gap seems to be very far.
Who are some of your favorite curvy bloggers who have inspired you?
Ready to Stare, A Thick Girl’s Closet,–she’s actually the blogger who gave me my first exposure–Curvy Fashionista, Curvily, [and] Golden Kaleidoscope.
For your illustrations, what attracted you to the women you drew? How do you get inspired by one particular person in order to create something so beautiful?
Well, I would say that the first time that that happened was actually the “Golden Confidence” illustration because that was Essie Golden’s plus size pool party. And I had never been to a pool party in my whole life. And I very rarely wore swimsuits, so I went to this pool party and all of these beautiful plus size women were there in all these different swimsuits, and they were so alive and so happy. They were just so beautiful, and that is what inspired that particular piece.
Have these bloggers seen your illustrations? What do they think?
Yes, at this point all of them have. Now, when I draw people, I tag them so usually they’ll see the artwork that I do. A lot of times a lot of the women I’ve drawn I’ve met. Because it’s not just their look that inspires me. Sometimes it’s their attitude.
If you could define body positivity in one sentence, what would it be?
Body positivity is unapologetically loving your body and appreciating the bodies of others.
What do you hope people gain from your work?
What I like about what I’m doing is that I don’t have to wait for the fashion industry to catch up to body positivity. If I want to draw a plus size girl on a runway in a couture dress, I’m going to do it. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s happening in fashion right now. I can create the world as it should be for us. We should all be considered beautiful, we should all be considered equal. So I don’t have to wait for them to start appreciating us and honoring us and giving us the love that we deserve. I can do that now.