Playing By Her Own Rules. Meet Jenna Rusnak of The Curvy Rebel


Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
My name is Jenna Rusnak. I am a plus size model, social media influencer and newly turned entrepreneur. I started The Curvy Rebel about 2 years ago. After multiple failed attempts in finding work throughout the modeling industry, I quickly found out that there was not room for a 5’11” tattooed and edgy model. It was then, I decided to create my own market. The Curvy Rebel represents authenticity and the importance of being true to yourself despite the standard here in society today. She’s an avid member in the body positivity community/movement, and also represents the edgier more daring side to fashion that is often missed when representing plus size women today. More recently, I’ve been working on developing her into more of a lifestyle brand, rather than just a modeling brand this will eventually lead to an online space where all babes will be able to visit and become their own type of Rebel.

Video by Joshua Ludwig of A-Frame Digital

What are you passionate about? What makes you tick?
I’m most passionate about changing the beauty standard, I love pushing the boundaries and breaking through barriers. I believe the industry is evolving but we have so much more work to do. Like today we have curvy women in the magazines finally (YAY)! But, there isn’t one way to be curvy… I personally think that showing only models with hourglass figures is just as bad as showing only models sizes 0-4. We need diversity, there is no wrong way to be a woman.

How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
I started locally here in Rochester, I was a hair and makeup artist and often liked the creative aspect working on set with models. A photographer saw something in me and asked to photograph me. It was after that photoshoot I knew I was hooked. I tried modeling locally for awhile but I realized to follow my dream of inspiring people on a different level, I’d have to go bigger. I decided to make the move to NYC. I was signed to an agency almost immediately upon arriving. I thought that I would be thrown right in to the industry…WRONG! I was told to cover my tattoos, color my hair differently and to add extensions, I had to lose 2 dress sizes because a size 14 blonde got more jobs than a size 18 blonde. I spent thousands of dollars investing in a portfolio all for companies to take one quick glance at me and send me right back out the door because of “all those tattoos”. I continued hiding who I really was for about a year which ultimately lead to an identity crisis. I lost my way. That’s when I decided I could either give up or I could take matters into my own hands. I decided to give a big EFF YOU to the industry. I stopped covering my tattoos. I stopped listening to other people and I became The Curvy Rebel. I worked on my social media every. single. day. I went to every possible networking event to get my face out there. I worked a full time job to pay my insane rent and then i would collaborate with photographers on my days off for free. Once I became authentic, people started gravitating towards my social media, I remember hitting 10k and couldn’t believe it. Then it just kept going… Now with a following of almost 60k I work full time on collaborating with brands like Forever21, Fashion Nova, and even some of those companies that were originally telling me “no”… they were now reaching out to me to wear and promote their clothing.

You’re passionate body positivity and self love. Have you ever struggled in the past with it? What message would you like to give others that struggle in this area?
I definitely struggled as a kid, I think once I hit the age of 20 was when I started my self love journey. I was bullied a lot at a young age because I was bigger then all of the girls, and even some of the boys. I didn’t have anyone to look up to because there wasn’t anyone out there that looked like me. Everyone on TV and magazines were all small and portrayed as beautiful, so I wanted to be smaller because I wanted to be beautiful… I tried every single fad diet out there starting at the young age of 12. I became obsessed with the number on the scale, some days going the whole day with only a granola bar in my stomach. I associated being fat as being ugly, being ugly meant I was unlovable, being unlovable meant I wasn’t enough… you get the idea. It was a personal decision I made to stop hating myself for what I wasn’t and to start loving myself for what I was. It’s exhausting hating yourself! Self love isn’t easy and it doesn’t come overnight but it is so worth it.

My advice to others is to find out who you are… without any distractions. Figure out who you are on the inside, then figure out who you are on the outside and then love them both unconditionally. You’ll be happier and you’ll want to be healthy in respect for your body instead of being healthy in spite of your body. I also think it’s super important to learn how to forgive, and to stop worrying about what other people think of you. Do things because it makes YOU happy.

What is your biggest regret?
Definitely that I signed on to an agency on impulse and excitement without doing my research, I also signed for 3 years… which is a really long time in the industry. Had I looked into other agencies or asked around and done my research I would have saved a lot of time and stress that ultimately lead to my identity crisis.

Now, with that being said, I don’t believe in regrets. It was a lesson learned and I’ll never make that mistake again. If I’m making a decision or signing on a new client I weigh the pros and cons beforehand.

Lettering by Lanni Maszerowski

What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
Stay true to who you are as a person or your brand.

Don’t ever back down from your vision.

Keep going … life likes to throw you obstacles (I always said i would take 3 steps forward and then life would knock me 5 steps back). Just pick yourself back up and keep going. I remember the day the call came in that I had booked NYFW, at a full size 18 with visible tattoos, it will be a moment I will never forget, it was all worth the struggle.

How do you find balance?
It’s hard, especially now that I’m making the switch over to entrepreneurship… I find myself constantly on my computer, or thinking about what I have to do, or I’m on my phone working on my social media. It’s important to make a schedule, and stick to it. Find time to allow yourself to relax, also find time to spend with friends, family, and loved ones… and put your phone away.  

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What is the most challenging part of running your business?
It’s often up and down. Some months clients are knocking at your door and your swamped with getting everything done, and them some months you have to throw yourself at them because you have bills to pay.

As a social media influencer a lot of brands like to work for trade, keeping the clothing as a payment. It was fun in the beginning because who doesn’t love free clothing?! But I had to eventually stop because they weren’t taking me seriously. I had to realize I was offering a service, I was advertising and promoting their company to my following that I had worked so hard to get. It’s important to know your worth… then add tax.

What is your favorite part of what you do?
When someone either emails me or messages me that they wore a crop top for the first time ever because they saw me wearing one, or they put on a 2 piece bathing suit because they realized its OK to rock one. That’s my favorite part… my followers push me everyday to keep going, and they’re the reason why I want to take The Curvy Rebel to the next level and incorporate them more, they’re the reason why I do what I do.

Name some local creatives/business owners that you really admire.
Hannah Betts - creator of Livesstyled, remember that photographer I was talking about earlier photographed me for the first time ever? Yeah… she’s amazing.

Jordan Betts - owner of Mint Salon, my best friend and ultimate Girl Boss. She inspires me everyday and pushes me to take my business to its highest potential.

Jen Fowler - Hairstylist with Mint Salon, not only an amazing artist but also a BoPo queen.

Austin Hunter - Owner of Vintage Electric Tattoo, the most talented tattoo artist I know, literally.

Michael Moncibiaz - St. Monci, seriously… his artwork is ridiculously good.