There’s something about the friendships on an ensemble TV series like Girlfriends and Sex and the City that is highly appealing and can even be aspirational. But when even your favorites don’t have characters that you can relate to, what do you do? If you’re Shakesha Williams, you create your own.
The new web series, aptly titled Curvy Girls Rock, follows five plus-size women as they explore careers, sex, love, and relationships. The goal of the series, says Williams, is to show that women of all sizes are sexy, desirable, and strong. “I love ensemble TV series…I just always feel that being plus-size is the butt of the joke,” she says. “Women of every size have sex and are beautiful and desirable. We have life partners, lovers, and face the same things that all women do. I want to see those stories played out on screen.”
In addition to casting actors that are actually plus-size, Williams is answering other calls for diversity in entertainment by writing ethnically diverse characters (and casting them appropriately), and heading up a production that is led primarily by women. Williams, who recently won Best Screenplay Short at the Widescreen Film and Music Video Festival for her short film My Story, sheds light on the show, the importance of body positivity, and how she’s overcome challenges she’s faced as a filmmaker.
Q: Tell us a bit about Curvy Girls Rock.
A: Curvy Girls Rock follows the lives of five plus-size women as they explore their careers, sex, love, and relationships. The women — Jazzy, Adrienne, Zuri, Reagan, and Ivy — are all from different walks of life but are connected in some way. The series is amazing. We have a great cast and season one is filled with characters that everyone can relate to. We want to show that women of all sizes are sexy, desirable, and strong. Not that they can be, but that they are.
Q: Why this show? Why is it important?
A: The success of Curvy Girls Rock will show Hollywood that it’s time to cast size diversity in leading roles more often. It will also make it clear to the industry that plus-size women are the majority, not the minority, and are sexy, desirable, proud, ambitious, and intriguing.
Q. Who is your favorite character and why?
A: I don't know if I have a favorite character. As the writer, I feel connected to each character in many ways. I'm a fashionista like Jazzy, a business owner like Adrienne and Zuri, a mother like Reagan, and a passionate artist like Ivy. That's why I love each of them. They are beautifully flawed like all women. I think each character is relatable in a way. The character diversity is why I absolutely love the series!
Q. Besides My Story and CGR, you have a number of other credits to your name. How did you get into filmmaking?
A: I knew when I was a child I would become a filmmaker. I started writing scripts after I was cast in Annie in fourth grade. I loved everything about the stage and the screen. In 2010, I attended AIU Atlanta and was a Digital Film and Post Production major. I began making shorts in 2012. I love how a good film or television show makes you feel. I love that good content can make you think. It can drive a full day of conversation at work or it can impact a life. I knew I wanted to be part of that. I knew I wanted to move people. That's how I feel about filmmaking!
Q: What challenges have you faced as a woman, and a woman of color, in the industry and how are you overcoming them?
A: My road has been unique. I've never been one to wait for an opportunity. When I realized I was ready to begin making films, I started Harlem Fusion Studios. With HFS, I have the ability to create the content/movies/shows that I want to see. As a writer, my worldview is shaped by my culture, upbringing, and experiences. It's not easy being an executive producer, but I'm getting an invaluable education in filmmaking. I can say that with everything there are challenges and roadblocks. But I don't tend to let too many things get in my way. I'm pretty much a fireball. I'm not always confident but I will never stop trying or give up in the face of adversity.
Q: How can people find more information about the Curvy Girls Rock series?
A: There’s a number of ways. First, through the Curvy Girls Rock website (http://www.cgrseries.com). We’re also all over social media. We have a pretty active Facebook page (Curvy Girls Rock: The Series) and also share behind-the-scenes content on Twitter (@cgrseries) and Instagram (@curvygirlsrockseries).