Self-proclaimed “Bayou Belle,” Zakiya Kyles, is Chief Queen Officer of Queenly and Confident Brands. Kyles spent fifteen years empowering girls and women through Girl Scouts as a volunteer management professional in Louisiana, Indiana, and Georgia. After returning to Louisiana, Kyles founded the Women’s Fellowship Chick’s Chat, which is designed to bring women together to chat about real-life topics while providing godly wisdom.
Recently, Kyles was chosen as a style ambassador for Catherines, a retailer of plus-size fashion for women. She is featured on the cover of their fall mailer, and is part of their national campaign featuring women who live inspired lives. The campaign will launch in over 400 Catherines stores this fall.
On The Plus Side caught up with Zakiya Kyles to find out just what makes her Queenly and Confident.
OTPS: Please tell us a little bit about who Zakiya Kyles is.
Zakiya: You really want to know? LOL! Here it goes! I am a Bayou Belle who loves all things South! I love our language, manners, food, culture, and those good ol’ homegrown southern boys! Yasss! I am down for Friday night lights, and family gatherings on the back porch with some friend catfish and seasoned fries! Although, most wouldn’t know it by first meeting, I am an outdoor girl who can build a bodacious camp fire, and cook up a hobo dinner that will make you want to kiss me. I see the beauty in all things, the good in all people, and hope as a path to healing. I am a woman who loves to see women and people WIN! I want to see you do what they say you shouldn’t, couldn’t and wouldn’t do. Zakiya wants you to get why you are here, and get busy doing whatever that is! I am your biggest champion, and can be your biggest checka, because what you have been sent here to do has no time for you dealing with your lower self’s mess! Get that in check!
OTPS: Your plus-size health and wellness initiative is called “From Stuck to Start: Winning the Battle of Obesity.” What inspired you to create this program?
Zakiya: From Stuck to Start (FSTS) derived from the acknowledgement of me dealing with my mess! It was my story, my junk, and my stress. I created FSTS to be a beacon of light and life-line for those of us struggling with the effects of morbid obesity. After years of dealing with countless doctors, it was time I made a firm decision for me. It was time I stood up for me. It was time I got over the me that I allowed people dictate to me who I should be for years so I could help me. I had to deal with the cultural norms, the religious norms which bound me, and left me validated by some shaky barriers. Many see obese people and assume food is the root of their problem. Sometimes, what we see in physical weight is the manifestation of emotional, mental, and spiritual weight. That’s the thing we can’t see, and all too often masked in a variety of ways behind pretty and handsome faces.
On my journey, I found a great need for people like myself (morbidly obese) to adopt healthier habits that made sense, were easy to adopt, and yielded consistent progress. These same steps should make maintaining a healthier lifestyle within reach. While it takes work, the process needed simplicity. What I learned is this: If we can minimize frustration, then it is more likely a person will stay committed. At From Stuck to Start, we speak to adopting healthier habits for a “lifestyle.” We focus on new habits, new foods, and new minds versus monitoring what we can take away. We promote sustainable results versus temporary changes, which always lead to temporary results from fad diets. I learned to do this through the Fresh Start for Health initiative which changed my life. I loved it so much I became a Certified FRESH Start Coach. I am not necessarily the person you see talking about health and wellness, but who says you must be a certain size or have achieved a certain goal? You don’t. What I continually find is there are people looking and have been looking for me. Imagine if I hadn’t stepped up? I don’t want to think about it. To sum up From Stuck to Start, it is a phrase penned to a journey—an evolution that transitioned a girl from existing to living a full and rich life
In this I found a genuine and authentic love for myself. A healthy love, God love, that validated who I am from inside downloads, and not things taken on from external sources of identity and validation. I’d found my long-lost love—me, Zakiya Siti. A love I now know as the purest form of love and it all depended on me embracing me. Not just embracing me by settling or ignoring reality. Honestly, this portion of the body acceptance movement rubs me wrong at times, because there is a bleak reality if we do not care for ourselves. We cannot shy away from talking about our truth when it comes to body acceptance and other topics of the movement. While I accept me, I also LOVE me enough to take care of me for the BEST version of me. The BEST version of me is healthy and whole and she ain’t no size 4. Embracing the process of becoming my best self meant taking care of ALL things concerning me. A holistic approach is so necessary so that nothing is lacking or missing.
OTPS: You are also the founder of Queenly and Confident. What is the mission of your consulting firm?
Zakiya: Queenly and Confident is a faith-based personal development firm aimed at helping women and girls “Discover the Royalty Within.” We do this through myriad opportunities that lead women down a path of self-discovery from the inside out. Queenly and Confident currently focuses on the following areas–self-love, self-identity, spirituality, and wellness. Our current programs and offerings include:
- Pretty Princess: A program dedicated to the development of plus-size young ladies.
- From Stuck to Start: A wellness initiative that provides small, simple solutions to adopt and maintain a happy, healthy and whole lifestyle.
- Chick’s Chat: A fellowship providing women a safe space to discuss current events and topics with godly wisdom.
- The Kyles Media Group: Aiding purpose-driven individuals with establishing credible brands that people trust, like, know, and LOVE.
OTPS: Congratulations on being selected as one of the ambassadors for Catherines’ Plus-Size Campaign launching this Fall. How did this opportunity come to be?
Zakiya: I credit this opportunity to a collaboration between God and I, when I decided to get out of my way. Deposits were made through a strong social media presence which is the part I was responsible for—showing up. Therefore, I call it a collaboration between God and myself. Social media works. Social media is REAL, and it brings REAL opportunities for those brave enough to use it for the benefit of GOOD! Interesting enough. I almost missed this opportunity, but active social media pages are EVERYTHING! After an Instagram DM with Catherines’ marketing rep, review of material, and a phone call, I accepted the opportunity as a fall style ambassador featuring women living inspiring lives. Nothing deep, just accepting that “my moment like this” had arrived. I am extremely grateful! The campaign launches September 5th so stay connected as I share my experience on working with Catherines, their beautiful Fall attire, and living an inspired life!
OTPS: What else can we expect from Zakiya Kyles in the future?
Zakiya: As we like to say in Louisiana “Whoa now!” We are excited about this fall, and all that 2018 holds. Look for the launch of Pretty Princess, as well as Chick’s Chat meet-ups in Louisiana. In 2018, we are launching a Chick’s Chat tour along with some other regal happenings I can’t disclose at this time. Thanks to some STRONG encouragement (I LOVE my accountability circle) I am writing, and a publication is coming forth soon. Find me a few city’s here and there or invite me to come to your city for a little royal treatment.
OTPS: What is your best advice for plus-size women looking to “Live Royally,” too?
Zakiya: Forget the labels, advice, suggestions that everyone has said you should be. Discover the path to your “Royal Place.” You’ll find that’s the perfect place for becoming totally YOU!
OTPS: How can our readers contact and/or follow you?
Zakiya: Readers can find the Queen hanging out on social media in the usual spaces.