Miss Plus Trinidad and Tobago 2012, Miss Plus Caribbean Universe 2012, Billboard ad model for Cher Mere, J&K Signature Styles and Diva Glam Corsets, Underpinnings, Be Body Positive Facilitator, Lost Tribe’s First Plus model and Managing Director of Closet Red Plus Size Boutique – these are just a handful of titles that Sonja Pollonais owns. Growing up in the communities of Maloney and Mt Lambert, Sonja grew to find an interest in modelling. She admits to being hesitant when she was about to delve into the field. It took paramount courage to push her though the doors of a casting modelling show. Little did she know, this was about to be her entrance into the modelling and fashion world in a way she could have only imagined. It is now eight years in the industry for Sonja after she started in her early 20s. In the early days, she would do a lot of fashion shows and model castings. She admits that the rejections at the start of her career were many and the judgement and condescension in the industry were great and often times simply because organisers did now want plus models, period. Sonja remained determined and therefore allowed herself to be driven by her desire to do what she loves. She confesses to have a natural love for fashion and looking great but then she realised not only did she want that for herself but for other plus size women as well. After realising that, many women would question her about where she bought her outfits. She then became determined to close an evident gap in the local fashion world by providing plus size clothing through her company Closet Red – truly established to help other plus size women look and feel fantastic.
Now, her journey is taking me beyond fashion and representing for plus size women. She proudly attests to being able to help women of all sizes, ages, and ethnicity to enjoy life and their body by becoming a licensed ‘Be Body Positive Facilitator’. This simply means that she is trained and equipped with the tools to take people through a journey of self-compassion, intuitive self-care, reclaiming their health and declaring their own authentic beauty. Sonja’s story is so inspiring to us that the WE Mag Team had to take some time to meet up with her to learn more about her journey. This is what she shared with us:
What was the biggest challenge you have had to overcome as a model in the local industry?
When I started in the industry, plus size modelling was blowing up internationally but Trinidad was extremely slow to give plus models recognition. Being seen and considered worthy of a fashion runway was a major obstacle. In my early days, rejections came fast and furious. There were very few fashions shows that would consider us. At that time if a plus size group didn’t create a show there was no show. Possibly the only show that accepted all sizes was San Fernando Fashion Week. Shows didn’t accept us because the designers did not design for plus size bodies – so no clothing to model then no show to walk in. Designers would design for all sizes in their shops but never placed that size of the person on the runway.
Who are you inspired by?
I am inspired by my mother because her love is so genuine. I am inspired by my father because his commitment to his family is worthy of praise. I am inspired by my aunt as her faith in God compels me to expand mine. I am inspired by Oprah, Tyler Perry, Barak and Michelle Obama because they break stereotypes and shatter glass ceilings through hard work. In business, I am inspired by Katherine Bethel, CEO of B’s Ice Cream, Indra Nooyi and Lisa Nicholas.
Tell us something about you that people may not know?
Surprisingly, I can be very reclusive at times. I figure it may be a way of guarding my energy or even recharging my energy. I will not call myself an introvert or say I am shy even though I can be at times.
What are you most grateful for?
How do I condense such a long list? I am grateful for my family. They stand with me and support me in my business. I am grateful for my business and it has made a tremendous impact on the life of my family and I. I am grateful for my clients and those who support me in my many ventures. I am grateful for my wonderful friends who pour their love into my life consistently. I am grateful for my journey. God has truly blessed me and continues to bless me. Being plus size in such a critical world can be a difficult experience at times and I am grateful that I have been able to turn self hate into love and from that love, create businesses and be an inspiration to others and love for my community.
What is something you know for sure that you wish the rest of us knew?
Motivation and determination are muscles you must work out. At times, I still struggle with my body image especially being so public I am constantly exposed to unsolicited comments about how I look. While I may have it together, for the most part, there is no quick fix to accepting and loving yourself. It is a journey full of ups and downs but you have to be committed to yourself. You have to find the right people who can pour into you positively and you have to train yourself to be the most powerful voice and say in your relationship with yourself.
Why do you do what you do?
One of my greatest heart’s desires is to help persons dive deeper in loving themselves and their life. Loving yourself I think is one of the most beautiful gifts you can give to yourself. It will influence the decisions you make, the people you allow in your life and the chances you take or do not take. It changes how you see and interact with the world around you because you have set for yourself a standard. I hope my journey expands my platform that I can positively impact the lives of many worldwide.