Plus-size Partiers Bet on Self-Esteem at Vegas Bash

Growing up, Joann Bellemore's mother saw her daughter's weight problem as a lack of self-control.

Bellemore was put on one diet after another, and as an adolescent she kept a diary of all the foods she ate.

But after graduating from high school, Bellemore finally told her mother she had to love her the way she was.

Now 5-foot-8 and between 240 and 250 pounds, Bellemore, 49, is one of thousands of overweight Americans telling a weight-conscious society she is OK just the way she is.

Bellemore is the founder of the Big Beautiful Women Network, which hosts the Vegas Bash, the "Super Bowl" of plus-sized social gatherings that are springing up all over the country, along with plus-sized fashions, Internet chat rooms and magazines.

"In the outside world, we feel ostracized and when we come here we are with people who know exactly how we feel," said Myriam MacLeod, who attended the bash this weekend.

"We can dress up anyway we want to and we are looked at as sexy," said Raqui Hernandez.

Jennifer Davis is a fashion designer who caters to the voluptuous. She's helping to improve the options for plus-size women.

"I'll do things a little more on the sexy side," Davis said. "I do everything from bathing suits to ball gowns."

The clothing gives plus-sized people the confidence to try things they've never tried before such as making a splash in the pool or going on a cruise. One of the effects of the increased social activity is an increase in romance. The Vegas Bash has led to 48 marriages.

Denise and Stanley Washington got married after meeting at a plus-sized party.

"I gave up on that dream (marriage) a long time ago and then one night he just walked in and that was it," Denise Washington said. "Everything changed."

"I tell the guys if they like big girls, don't be afraid to come to parties," Stanley Washington said. "You never know what might happen."

Bellemore founded the Big Beautiful Women Network in 1996. At the first Vegas Bash, only 26 people showed up; this weekend, there were more than 600.

"In the hotel there are still many women who get the stares and the little snickers, but you brush that off and continue to have a good time," said Theresa Jehl, who attended the bash for the seventh time. "It's a great community to belong to."

To read more about the Big Beautiful Women Network, Click Here.