Nzinga Imani is a name you may want to get familiar with. She is an actress, the owner of Nimani Boutique, a singer, and a plus-sized model who has wowed fans with her talent on social media and TV. She can currently be seen in shows including BET+'s All the Queen's Men, BET Her's Curves and a YouTube series, "Pretty for a Big Gurl." While she is steadily taking over the small screen, she's also using her social media pages to spread body positivity by proudly embracing her curves.
The first-generation Guyanase-American beauty has even addressed the criticism she has faced online for displaying her body and even spoke out about TikTok flagging her videos because of it. However, Nzinga has remained positive and continues spreading her light across social media. Besides landing TV roles on a major network, the actress just released her collab with popular online fashion boutique Fashion to Figure.
xoNecole caught up Nzinga with to talk about body positivity, her role on All the Queen's Men, and why she unapologetically takes up space as an actress.
xoNecole: You star in several projects on BET+, BET Her, and YouTube. How does it feel to see your stock literally rising in the acting world?
Nzinga Imani: It feels incredible. It feels affirming. It's everything I've been working toward these past several years. I decided a long time ago that I wanted to pursue acting, and it's been a steady climb ever since consistently working and being able to do what I love. There's nothing better than that—to see progression in the field—because as much as I've worked, a lot of times it felt like roadblocks were put up.
I'd get somewhere and then the project would be sidelined or I think I'm cast in a lead in a major production that's funded by this network and that network, and then they table the entire show even after we've filmed it. So, there's so many times that you'll think that you're moving forward and then the roadblock will hit, but it's in some ways connected to where you're supposed to be.
"As much as I've worked, a lot of times it felt like roadblocks were put up. There's so many times that you'll think that you're moving forward and then the roadblock will hit, but it's in some ways connected to where you're supposed to be."
Kaylin James of Howell Designs
In 'All the Queen's Men,' you play a character named Dawn, and you have a nude scene. What was your first reaction to finding out that you were going to do that?
I knew that the scene was nude when I auditioned for it. The moment I auditioned for it, I had some reservations for maybe five seconds and then I was like, 'Hey, it's an audition. I'm just gonna submit and see what happens.' When I got the call that I actually got it, I was first in shock because I was like, 'Really?'
Although they allowed me to audition for it, I still wasn't sure once they got the tape and physically if they would still [be] interested in using me. But I just had fun with the audition, and when they told me I got it, it was a little shocking, but I also knew I had killed that audition because it was a fun one.
Did you know this role would be a game-changer, as far as being a plus-sized woman having a nude scene on TV?
I absolutely knew that it was going to be a game-changer. I know, for myself, seeing all these shows and seeing how there's more and more nude scenes on television, a lot of the time, it's the stereotypical body that they show. It's the perfectly flat stomachs and the perfectly proportioned women and you don't see a lot of typical body types because 67% of women in the U.S. are plus-sized. But when we show that in the media, it's not reflective of what the reality is. You just see a bunch of what they consider perfect-type bodies on screen.
I had seen someone who was just barely plus-sized before in a sex scene, and I knew how much that meant to me to see her even though she doesn't really represent me or my culture, and she didn't look like me. Just the fact that she wasn't the stereotypical body type, it meant a lot to me. So, I was excited to be that for someone else and I've been receiving so many messages about what that meant to other women. To see me, 3XL body out there on TV and how they felt represented and seen—it was a big reason why I felt comfortable to do it and felt like it was something I could do and be proud of doing.
"To see me, 3XL body out there on TV and how they felt represented and seen—it was a big reason why I felt comfortable to do it and felt like it was something I could do and be proud of doing."
Kaylin James of Howell Designs
You're also a content creator who posts many photos and videos on social celebrating your body. While you receive lots of love, how do you rise above criticism?
I think that I always remember that there will always be someone who has something negative to say about what you're doing. No matter what you are doing, there's always going to be a group of people who hate what you stand for, and you just have to remember who you're standing up for and what your goal is. For me, it's just not to let something as benign as my weight stop me from doing everything that I want to do.
I've been part of a community that showed me that plus-sized women can be mothers, business owners, entrepreneurs. They can do anything. They are just powerful beyond measure. So often society tries to make us feel like we're less than if you're plus-size, then you're undesirable, but that's just not true.
I think [it's about] just kind of pushing [away] that stereotype and showing other women and girls like me that you don't have to listen to what they say and that you are desired and you are phenomenal and you can do anything despite your weight and that shouldn't even be such a big deal as people make it out to be.
You posted a video on TikTok calling the platform "fatphobic." Other TikTok creators have spoken out against TikTok in relation to censorship. What are some things you've experienced?
Although I do have a nude scene on BET+, I have not posted anything nude or in any way sexualized, to me, on my platforms. I don't violate community standards. I don't post sexual content. So, for them to continually take down posts and the content that I spend sometimes hours creating because of "nudity" or "sexually explicit" content and it would just be me in a crop top, it kind of got to the point where I just was overwhelmed and just irritated that they were consistently able to take down my content that wasn't hurting anyone. It was only promoting self-love—never anything sexual. They were consistently taking it down for violations that didn't exist.
Meanwhile, other people can wear the same things, if not less, than me and their page is not taken down. People can say horrible things and be mean on there, and they don't suspend them or block those pages, but in the meantime, they take down my posts. So, it just became very [irritating] to see that kind of behavior repeated over and over again. So many of my videos were deleted. So many of my videos were banned, and there was even a moment where I thought my page might get taken down. When you put so much time into a platform, to know that your page can be taken down—[due to] no fault of your own, just based on someone else's bias—I was done.
We see so many people talk about body positivity, more now especially with celebs like Lizzo in the forefront, but what does body positivity mean to you?
To me, body positivity is just loving yourself where you are right now. It doesn't mean that you can't be working toward a different body goal or you can't be disciplined. [It also means] not letting other people's opinions or biases affect the way you move throughout the world because there's always going to be people who look down on you or have something to say, but if you can stand up tall with your chest out and really defend yourself and not let their negative comments affect you, I feel like that's what the whole body positivity movement is about—having that community to back you up so you know you're not alone.
You know you don't deserve less and just having a support system—I think it's what the whole movement is here for. When I was growing up, I didn't really have that around or I didn't know there was this community of plus-sized people who were killing the game and successful in every avenue of life. Once I grew up and was introduced to that world, it made me realize I don't have to settle. I don't have to hide.
"If you can stand up tall with your chest out and really defend yourself and not let their negative comments affect you, I feel like that's what the whole body positivity movement is about. Once I grew up and was introduced to that world, it made me realize I don't have to settle. I don't have to hide."
Kaylin James of Howell Designs
What do you want people who are following your journey to take away from it?
I would just like to be an example of how resilience and authenticity can put you in the places where you want to be. I'm just trying to be 100% myself all the time, showing my personality whether it be a goofy day, a sexy day, whatever it is because we're not one-dimensional.
So, just being authentic with my audience, I feel has given me the momentum I need to feel confident when I walk into those rooms and when I walk into those auditions and I hope that my audience continues to see that authenticity in me and my performances, and my characters. No matter who they are, I always try to bring a little of myself into the characters to find that truth, because we all have that in common.
For more of Nzinga, follow her on Instagram @nzingaimani and on YouTube or check out her website is NzingaImani.com.
Featured image courtesy of Kaylin James of Howell Designs