TheCurvyCon co-founder CeCe Olisa on being overlooked by the fashion industry: 'We knew that our community saw us'

"Your starting point is what’s in your hand. Start there," says TheCurvyCon co-founder CeCe Olisa on manifesting your dreams (Photo courtesy of CeCe Olisa)

CeCe Olisa is making waves in the fashion industry. She’s a blogger, entrepreneur, fitness influencer and one of the founding members of TheCurvyCon — a three-day convention that brings together celebrities, body-positive influencers and their fans to celebrate diversity and fashion inclusivity.

The conference takes place during one of New York’s busiest times, New York Fashion Week. However, Olisa’s entrepreneur story isn’t one that manifested overnight or without trial and tribulation. Yet, the creative has always found a way to march to her own beat.

The first example of this is when Olisa was in college, where she decided to major in musical theatre. “I think he just eventually got tired of fighting,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle of her Nigerian father, who originally tried to sway her decision to pursue the arts. Years later, she’d take him to her own speaking engagements so he could truly see what she does. A full-circle moment, indeed.

Those initial moments of advocacy would create more opportunities, the next one trickling into entrepreneurship with a larger impact. When it came time to start TheCurvyCon, she and business partner, Chastity Garner, realized that they needed funds to make the business run. “All those experiences made us super scrappy; when the money wasn’t showing up, Chastity said, ‘Why don’t we do a closet sale to raise money to launch the business?’ And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Olisa explains about the conference’s initial funding days.

She continues, “For me, the power of that is that from the beginning, our community was our first investors. When the fashion community didn’t see what we were doing, we knew that our community saw us. We didn’t have anything but an idea that we put a price tag to.”

Olisa’s honesty is what’s made her an influencer that others find relatable. It’s something that she strives to provide her audience, even when it doesn’t look cool or sexy. She says, “The anxiety of success was very real. The idea of getting a huge blessing and my first instinct being to hide it was weird. Everyone loves to talk about growing up in struggle, but when things go well, I was embarrassed. I didn’t feel like I was worthy.”

However, Olisa felt an obligation to authentically show people her own journey. “I felt like it was irresponsible of me to do a fabulous apartment tour and not show the 10-year struggle that came before it,” she says. “My success is rooted in so many things: therapy sessions, yoga, spiritual practice, in removing toxic relationships — my circle is so small, I’ve got like two friends. But I’m doing all the things you don’t want to do, and that’s why I have what you don’t have. Now that it’s tangible, the success, I want to make sure that there is no misunderstanding on how I have achieved it and that it is rooted in faith and being in relationship with God. I don’t beat people over the head with it, it’s just how I move and how I function.”

Speaking of moves, Olisa — who is a trained dancer — has used fitness to connect with individuals who may have otherwise never known that plus-size fitness is actually realistic. Having worked with brands for years, her recent partnership with Nike offers promise for both the influencer and the brand’s commitment to inclusion.

“I’m rocking with the winning team, I’m a Nike ambassador,” says Olisa. “Fitness is at the core of my self-care, and it’s been great to take this all the way.” Nike was recently named the official athletic sponsor of this year’s TheCurvyCon, and she notes that the three-day expo’s added activities with an iconic brand will show that these conversations are needed everywhere.

Olisa’s dedication to providing a safe space for women — whether in fashion, fitness or the arts — has made her one to watch in the pages of glossy magazines or while scrolling digital publications. And she tells Yahoo Lifestyle that others can also attain their own level of impact and power simply by manifesting their dreams.

“From my personal life, I’ve realized that we all have everything we need to take the next step at our disposal right now,” she says. “I had this blog that I would tinker on as a result of being stressed in my corporate job. That blog manifested a brand that would eventually offer me $300 to advertise. That then, which would help the blog, turn into a YouTube channel... an Instagram... TheCurvyCon... a TEDx Talk. I had it, I just wasn’t looking at it properly. Your starting point is what’s in your hand. Start there.”

Go to TheCurvycon.com to buy tickets for the 2019 convention.

Visit Yahoo Lifestyle on Friday, September 6th and Saturday, September 7th to watch our live-stream of TheCurvyCon 2019, and follow us on Instagram for some fun activations before the event!