Welcome to Day 3 of Nashville Curves week! Today meet the dynamic motivating diva, Jelly! I’ve known Jelly for a long time and I’m excited to introduce her to Fab Glance. Spend a moment with Jelly and she’ll have you feeling like you can take over the world. Seems like the right attitude for an executive assistant who hustles high-end self-esteem workshops and plus-size pageants on the side! She’s a force and you need to know about her! Read more below:
Name, Age: Jelly Malenga 39
What do you do, why do you do it?
I’m an administrative assistant to an executive director of a charter high school. I do it because I was blessed fill a position I didn’t apply for. I applied for something else and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Organization, logistics and execution are a few of my primary strengths. This position allows me to operate in them, while working with teenagers. I enjoy working with teenagers!
In addition, I am an esteem coach and the founder/director of The Bella Project which is an non-profit organization that utilizes enrichments, creative therapy, and events to help women and girls embrace their self-worth. I am the director of the Ms. Bella Plus-Size Pageant for adults and teens and for the Bella Princess Coronation Program. I do it because female empowerment is my passion. I know what it feels like to be emotionally broken and I desire to be who I needed when I was young. I do it because I believe that everyone can heal and has the right to be wholeheartedly happy.
What made you embrace your curves? When did you say, “I’m ok with me?”
I started gaining weight at a rapid pace in middle school. Family members would say we got our hips in our twenties but mine came at 15. After a series of surgeries and massive growth removals from my uterus, we finally discovered that my weight gain was due to a few hormonal deficiencies.
I was told that I couldn’t lose the weight in my early twenties and decided to learn to embrace my body. I started staring at myself nude in the mirror for what felt like hours on a daily basis. Looking at that big bodied girl in the mirror caused me to start looking for things I could say I liked about her. I started doing my hair and makeup nude, and then I started telling myself what I wanted to hear. “You are beautiful”! It wasn’t long before I liked all that I saw.
I’ve learned to embrace and enjoy my reflection even if it’s just to celebrate my favorite body parts. Funny thing about this question is I stand in the mirror and literally say “I’m ok with me” everyday. I don’t think that will ever stop, I choose me daily!
Have you had to deal with mean or backhanded comments from family, friends, and/or strangers? What did you do?
Yes! One bully in particular comes to mind. I was teased heavily by a boy about being fat in middle school. My mother told me to say, “I could lose the weight but he would always be ugly.” He walked into the classroom, made some derogatory statement about there not being enough air because of me and I said what I was advised to say. He said “oh wow, did your mother tell you to say that”, and everyone laughed. I wanted to crawl under a rock! I remember it like yesterday.
It’s funny, now because that was a really corny comeback lol. True story, I watched a Kodak after school special about bullying and they recommended getting involved with friends and activities that help you feel good about yourself. I joined the debate team, forensics team, choir and made great friends I’m still honored to have twenty plus years later. I was in a happier place and somehow the bully moved on.
When you were asked to do a bathing suit shoot, what was your first reaction?
I was amused! I’d never done a swimsuit shoot before and was looking forward to it.
What’s your favorite part of your body? Why?
I love my eyes and my smile but really, my favorite part of my body is my butt. It’s big, firm, sits up high. I love the way it looks in a pair of jeans or leggings. I think it compliments my shape and it makes dancing a little more entertaining lol.
Tell us about one item in your closet you’ll never let go of?
Truth be told I’m honestly not a fan of clothes. However, I’ll never let go of my blazers. I have several but my favorites are a navy blue one from Lane Bryant and a multi-color one made in Ghana. No matter the occasion, they’re always appropriate and I feel like a boss in them.
What’s your favorite store to shop at and why? (local, online, vintage/thrift, etc)
My favorite clothing stores are Torrid and Target. With Torrid, I can always find something flattering and I think Target kinda speaks for itself. My other favorite store is Dollar General and especially since the Dollar General Market. I can catch my entire life in there for various occasions. Lastly, but certainly not least is Bath and Bodyworks! They have great items for my home and my body to make both feel warm and cozy.
What plus-size store would you like to see in Nashville?
I would like to see Fashion to Figure, Elloqui, and Ashley Stewart.
What would you tell your YOUNGER curvy self?
Don’t feel bad or less than because you aren’t small like your peers. You may not be plus size on purpose, but I promise you that God has a purpose in your being plus size. Stay true to who you are and trust the journey.