Curve Fest Miami Pairs Body Positivity With Entrepreneurial Grit

Curve Fest founder Empress Hepburn.
Curve Fest founder Empress Hepburn. Photo by Dwain Wilkinson
In a city saturated with “snatched”-waist socialites and elitist nightclub bouncers, diverse body types don't usually grace the covers of glossy event flyers. Earlier this year, Miami's myopic views toward women made national headlines when the plus-size model Naomie Chaput alleged she was turned away from entering Story Nightclub in South Beach because of her curvy figure.

As the viral incident struck a nerve with fat-shaming opponents all over the internet, Empress Hepburn got an idea. The Liberty City native decided to challenge the exclusive brand of Miami's party scene through an inclusive fusion of culture and curves. “I like the Coachella vibes and Carnival, so I thought, What if you put those together?” says Hepburn, owner of the women's lifestyle brand the Curve Factory. Inspired by her Bahamian heritage and dance background, she envisioned a Carnival-themed fete where attendees of all body types and cultures could strut their stuff and rebel against the backdrop’s status quo.

Set to become a reality Sunday, September 1, Curve Fest Miami will take place at the Compound Miami in Wynwood. The event has been moved indoors in light of the looming Hurricane Dorian. Leading up to the main event, Curve Fest will host Friday and Saturday happenings consisting of activities such as a “Trap Curve” dance class taught by Baltimore dance instructor Jade the Serpent. Hepburn says Miamians can expect curvy women from all over the world to descend upon the Magic City for the body-positive celebration.

Originally coined "Curvychella" (until a phone call from Coachella axed its trademarked "chella"), Curve Fest Miami encourages guests to dress as they would for any other festival. Partygoers will flaunt their bodies in signature embellished Carnival costumes, including revealing handmade feather and beaded bikinis. Injected with the aura of Caribbean pride, the empowering festival is intended to send a message to the city at large: “Yes, we may be plus-size," Hepburn says, "but that doesn’t mean we can’t pack a club. Our dollars matter. It may be a little extra, but that’s who I am. It’s OK to be cocky and flaunt your beauty."

Though the event is meant to spark confidence in fuller-figured revelers, Hepburn also wants to impart entrepreneurial and personal acumen upon guests. During a four-year period as a displaced mother of six kids, Hepburn spent the majority of her time sculpting a business blueprint with a nonprofit facet. Through her organization Bigg Mommas House, she plans to use partial proceeds to provide resources to local mothers facing imminent homelessness.

With hopes of birthing a nationwide movement, Hepburn first wants to build a diverse community through the launch of the event Netwerq Your Curves Off! at Mr. Kream Wynwood. Hosted by the Washington, D.C. social media networking maven Aqila “MiMi” Benjamin, the itinerary includes icebreaker meet-and-greets and a session for crafting on-the-spot elevator pitches.

“[Attendees] need to understand your sister sitting right next to you is someone who’s like-minded. Networking is more than posting on the 'Gram. It’s showing up and connecting in a positive light,” says Benjamin, who’s worked as a social media correspondent for Amber Rose’s SlutWalk in Los Angeles.

Benjamin will also work Curve Fest as a host and aims to inspire attendees to leave with a new sense of self despite society's traditional beauty standards. “It’s ludicrous in 2019 — we’re still going through this. We are not going anywhere... We are coming together in a positive way to change people’s views of our bodies,” she says.

While comedians, models, DJs, and an array of vendors from New York, Los Angeles, and other cities present their own curvy-girl flair, inspirational speakers will cement Curve Fest Miami's mission. A storm may be brewing along the coast of South Florida, but in a vibrant, unwavering slice of Miami, a sinking stereotype will be met with a flood of unapologetic representation.

Curve Fest Miami. 1 p.m. Sunday, September 1, at Compound Miami, 2020 NW Miami Ct., Suite 203, Miami. Tickets prices range from free to $700 via
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A Deerfield Beach native, Shanae Hardy is a South Florida-based culture and copy writer. When she’s not pressed over deadlines or Beyoncé, you can find her fixated on a book.