NAUGATUCK — Jenise Durant wants America to see her beauty and confidence as a full figured model and beauty pageant winner.
Durant, 26 of Naugatuck, won the title of Miss Northeast Full Figured at the Miss Northeast Pageant & Expo on Dec. 1.
The pageant, held at the Sheraton Hartford Hotel, was not only Durant’s first win, it was her first pageant ever.
“We had 20 seconds to introduce ourselves and say something to judges,” Durant said. “Honestly I didn’t think I was going to win it because a lot of the other girls had coaches and training. I just did the best that I could.”
Durant heard about this show from Larry Grey, a fashion designer and friend of hers.
Durant said her goal was to make an impression that the judges wouldn’t soon forget.
“I was very comfortable in my own skin. I thought, ‘Even if I didn’t win today, at least they would remember me,’” Durant said.
Durant’s passion for modeling comes from her mother.
“When I was younger I got to see my mom do a lot of modeling. That had a big influence on me. I got to see my mom in beautiful gowns,” Durant said.
Durant’s said that her mother did a lot of local fashion shows and bridal shows as well as modeling for Macy’s.
This sparked Durant’s own career in modeling.
Durant explained that her mother would make her dresses and take her to auditions and fashion shows.
When she was 6 years old, Durant auditioned for and won a spot with the Ronald McDonald House charity.
During that time, Durant traveled to different charities and fundraisers to help raise money while representing the Ronald McDonald House. Durant said that she was like a spokesmodel for the charity.
She continued to do fashion shows until she was 14.
However, during high school, Durant put modeling aside as her figure filled out.
“When I was older, in high school, I gained weight, and I didn’t have that tall thin look anymore. I wasn’t as comfortable with myself,” Durant said.
It wasn’t until her senior year at Naugatuck High School that Durant began to regain a positive body image. One of her teachers told her that Marilyn Monroe wore a size 14, which was the size that Durant was wearing at that time.
“I got back into modeling and have been doing it as a plus size model ever since,” Durant said.
Durant recently did a photo shoot for the cover of Positive Influence For the Future, an online magazine. She will be featured on the front cover of the January issue.
Durant also has plans to enter other pageants including the Ms. America Pageant, not to be confused with the Miss America Pageant which is for women over 26, the Miss New England Pageant and the Miss Galaxy Pageant.
“I’m hoping to be in the Ms. America Pageant in June, but you have to be accepted,” Durant said.
As Durant continues her career and travels on the pageant circuit, she hopes to show other women what her teacher showed her as a high senior — that they should be comfortable in their own skin.
“With pageants there’s this idea that you have to be perfect and thin. My goal is to inspire other women like me to feel comfortable in there own skin,” Durant said. “I want them to know they are beautiful and let the beauty on the inside shine out.”
Durant said she would like to see women of all shapes and sizes gracing pageants one day.
“Our goal should be to be healthy and not to look like a certain image that society puts on us,” Durant said.