“When I got here, I was kind of shocked that there wasn’t a plus size scene at all,” Kurvy Kuties Founder Kimbie Akins said of her journey back to Little Rock in 2009. Kurvy Kuties, a full figure modeling and entertainment company, will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Little Rock’s Full Figure Fashion Weekend, to take place 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at the Statehouse Convention Center Sunday, June 23.

Kurvy Kuties started in Atlanta during the early 2000s, where it thrived for 16 years.  The group began modeling for plus size fashion designer Deimx and, according to Akins — a Little Rock native and one of the four founders of Kurvy Kuties — “It took off before we were prepared.” The group started booking paid gigs all over Atlanta, modeling the latest trends and designs in plus size fashion — and producing full-blown performances. “It wasn’t just about modeling, it was some of everything,” Akins said of the group’s niche. “We would dance. We even had poets and artists in our shows.”

Akins’s experience 10 years ago auditioning for a Little Rock Fashion Week performance motivated her to rekindle Kurvy Kuties’ mission outside of Atlanta. “They didn’t pick one plus size person to be there,” Akins said. “And they didn’t pick me despite my years of experience. So I said, ‘If they won’t let me in, I’ll create my own space.’ ”

Starting up, Akins said, was a struggle. “There were several little devils telling me that I wouldn’t be able to do it. Including people who weren’t from here. People would say, ‘You’re in Arkansas. What do they know about [fashion] out there?’ ” General resistance toward plus-size representation was a roadblock, certainly, but securing sponsorship, participation, funding and plus-size designers to contribute pieces proved challenging, too. Nevertheless, Kurvy Kuties has outgrown itself each year. The group’s first event was at the Centre at University Park on 12th Street, then it moved to the Holiday Inn Presidential downtown, then to UA Little Rock, and now it will take place at the Statehouse Convention Center.

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Kurvy Kuties has also made some significant strides toward gender inclusion. Akins remembers a time when, in a casual conversation among friends and family, her brother responded to a Kurvy Kuties show. “I want to get up there and do it.” It was meant as a joke, but Akins saw an opportunity to meet a need. She brought the idea to her team, a “group of capable individuals with like-minded goals,” she said, and “Men of Brawn” was born — an elite group of “big and tall” male models under the umbrella of the Kurvy Kuties organization. According to its website, Men of Brawn aims “to showcase men’s big & tall fashions that are readily available for us with style and sophistication.” Similarly to Kurvy Kuties, the group also strives to “foster confidence and increase self-value in … men who may experience insecurities by giving them fashion options that they may have not been aware of.”

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Akins said it was important to “find a way to support them, to have someone be concerned with how the big guys are looking and how they are represented. That they’re represented at all.” Since their launch, the Men of Brawn have been welcomed and embraced by the community. “They get requested a lot,” Akins said. “They’re positive and confident, so why wouldn’t people be asking for them?”

The expansion and inclusion of the brand have also served the organization well in its service projects with the Boys & Girls Club as well as other local volunteering opportunities. “Having the men join us enhances our relationships with the community,” Akins told us, “and it’s great for younger children.”

Between volunteering, bookings and appearances, Atkins says the group likes to “go to as many things locally as we can. We like to support other people as well. It’s not just about us.”

Kurvy Kuties’ Little Rock’s Full Figure Fashion Weekend takes place at the Statehouse Convention Center, 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Sunday, June 23. VIP tickets include admission to a Patio Day Party at The Rail Yard 2 p.m. Saturday, June 22 and a VIP Day Soiree at Big Whiskey’s, 3 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, June 23, featuring “Project Runway” Season 16 finalist Kenya Freeman. Follow @kurvykuties and @mobmodels on social media for announcements and updates.

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