I’ve been a fan of Toccara Jones since the beginning America’s next top modelwhen she was the show’s first “plus-size” contestant. I made no secret of my love for this woman and viewed her as one of the first people I saw on TV who celebrated her beauty and body in an unapologetically real way. For me, Toccara has redefined what a model could look like, despite the seemingly universal standard of beauty of being very thin and often very white. She famously proclaimed in her ANTM Casting that she was (and certainly still is) “tall, black, beautiful and loving,” and that energy, coupled with her undeniable beauty, has stayed with me since the show aired in 2004. It was the portrayal for me!
Fortunately, since Toccara’s reign, other curve models have hit the fashion scene that continue to break down the barriers that have long existed in fashion. Now that size inclusivity is more visible on the catwalk and in retail stores, it makes a lot of sense that Toccara is now the host of The Shade Room’s Big house, a new competitive show in search of the next curve model sensation, airing exclusively on Facebook Watch tonight. Judges like celebrity stylist EJ King, fashion blogger and stylist Kelly Augustine and joy Star and Dance with the stars Alumna Amber Riley as a special guest judge.
I finally got the chance to realize my teenage dream and meet Toccara at Zoom to get tea for her new show, her journey from modeling contest to hosting, and everything in between. Read on for the full conversation!
POPSUGAR: First of all, your Instagram is filled with so many amazing swimsuit photos – you always give us very zen glamor on the beach. What are some of your favorite brands and which silhouette flatters curvy girls the most?
Toccara Jones: Girl yeah First of all, I am a fish. I love the water. The water is my happy place. I like all water activities: I love snorkeling, I love boats, I love swimming, I love swimming. I have really been on my own spiritual journey and have only unlocked myself, my well-being, my health and my mind. The water is very calm and brings you very close to God. If you want to impress or woo me, take me to the water, honey! As for swimsuits, it’s always very difficult for me to find [swimsuits] because I’m a naturally busty woman. Most of the bikinis you see are bespoke, but I’ll be bringing out my own line of swimsuits over the next few weeks – I just picked up samples yesterday! It’s for women with large breasts, so I’ll stick with my niche.
PS: Have you always been interested in holistic self-care or are you leaning into it again?
TJ: Do you know @queenafua and @queenofgreen? Queen Afua is a healer and the Queen of Green [Lauren Von Der Pool] is a vegan cook. We have an ashram, a healing place where people come and heal. I’m actually a licensed massage therapist so I can practice healing touches. You come in and we not only heal ourselves but also others. We are always on a journey, but being aware of and accepting the journey is like being baptized. I think it really hit me maybe five years ago.
PS: How is Toccara Intimates doing right now?
TJ: As an entrepreneur, I do all of these things on my own. I didn’t have a big company behind me and when I started [Toccara Intimates]. How many young black girls do you know who have bra lines? It was one of the hardest things I could possibly have chosen! I should have done lipstick or a waist trainer. I have one bra style but I have 25 sizes in this one style and I need to make sure my D cups fit exactly like my J cups. It’s a very technical thing. I still do intimates – it’s just a little more strenuous and a little more boring.
“The average height of an American woman is 14 years.”
PS: The Ford Mustang continues to shoot ANTM lives rent free in my head because they didn’t have clothes that matched you. I vividly remember watching this and thinking about how wild that was. Thankfully, the industry finally seems to be starting to celebrate different body types and become more inclusive. Are you still facing any of these obstacles today? In your opinion, has it gotten better or worse?
TJ: Personally, I’m still at the limit [of curve sizing]. I’m a 10-12, naturally busty and top heavy than bottom heavy. I’m shapely – I got this hourglass thing going in real life – I just need a little more hips. I like to call it “the sweet spot”. When I do photoshoots and people style me, they sometimes underestimate me because they think I’m a little too small than I actually am or a little too big. It’s a hit or a miss. Then I think we have a lot of options for my oversized girls who are actually 12 and 14 and 16 years old. There are great boutiques and staple food stores selling oversized clothing. We have come a long way. The demand is out there because we are the consumers. The average height of an American woman is 14. She is the one who makes money. These are their dollars spent in this economy so we better take care of them!
PS: How did you make your experience? ANTM influence your approach Big house?
TJ: Even if I hadn’t known, I still would have [influenced me] because that’s where I come from. It was a great pleasure to be part of something like this, and it took a long time. When I was on Top modelEveryone said I should have won and how they need a plus size competition. I am so grateful and blessed that The Shade Room reached me – I would have been so mad if they had picked someone else! It was wonderful because, as a former participant, I understand how the participants feel. It brought back memories of the audition and the competition and just the camaraderie between the girls. My judges were absolutely great – it was so real and we fed on [of] each other. It wasn’t written, and I give my hat to the production company and The Shade Room for allowing us to be our authentic selves. There was no one in our ears. It was 100 percent real and that’s really going to make this show a hit.
PS: Aside from the fact that the show focuses on curve models, what do you think? Big house haven’t done the other model competition shows yet?
TJ: The “next to” is everything. I would say we have eight candidates and they are all women of color between a [size] 12 and [size] 18 with natural bodies. It couldn’t be better! We didn’t see that. I’m not trying to say negative things about women who mess up their bodies, but when we use the word “fat” we are conditioned to think that it means wrong breasts, wrong hips, wrong ass, and a small waistline. When I read the comments [after the show’s announcement]I’ve seen a lot of people [saying] that they hoped these girls weren’t so fat that they had stretch marks, buns, and fat. . . their tits do not hang. We have women you can relate to. If people could see themselves inside me when it was my turn Top modelYou will be able to see yourself in these eight different body shapes, these eight different women, and that’s amazing.
PS: What do you hope the audience will take away from this show?
TJ: First of all, I hope they will be entertained. I hope they fall in love with one of the contestants and get a new little Instagram hottie to follow. Most of all, I hope that you are inspired to follow your dream, be it as a model, working in the entertainment industry, singing, dancing or training. . . just be inspired. Documentaries keep inspiring me. When you see someone’s story and they are struggling to be the best they can be, it should instill some kind of passion in you and encourage you to do your best too.