By: Esther Liu, Contributor
The Silhouette: Please introduce yourself!
Inemesit Etokudo: My name is Inemesit Etokudo but I go by Inem. I am a 28-year-old [McMaster University alumna] living out in Alberta, Canada. I split my time between Calgary and Edmonton, but I’m primarily based out of Edmonton right now.
Since graduating from Mac, I joined the energy sector, specifically the oil field. Right now, I am a pipeline operator and engineer. I was a [life sciences] major. I went into sciences and thought I was gonna do the whole med school pathway.
After four years of gruelling school, I decided another seven was not for me. My parents live in Calgary so I actually moved back to my parents and took a year off to figure out what I want to do. I ended up just falling into the sector because that is all we Albertans do.
What are some of your hobbies?
When I first moved out to Alberta, I knew no one. I was just like: “I’ll pack up my stuff and move across the country”. When I first got here I found it a little lonely. I didn’t really know anyone and wasn’t making friends yet. So, I decided to turn my passion [for] fashion and my love for styling into an online blog.
It literally started with my mom taking my pictures in front of her house, my brothers and sister pitching in and my parents buying me my first camera. That’s how it’s evolved to where it is now, where I’m really lucky and blessed to be able to help women who don’t see themselves a lot in the media and in fashion have someone to look to.
That’s really one of my biggest goals. As much as I love clothing and love shopping and love styling, the undercurrent of everything that I do with my passion is to help Black fat women feel seen. That’s really all I try to do and I try to use my platform to ensure that their voices are heard as well.
What inspires you?
The first thing has to be my parents, my family and my heritage. So I’m Nigerian and I’m not sure if you know a lot about the Nigerian culture, but we love colour. We love expressing ourselves through our clothing, we love wearing traditional garb that’s beautiful, colourful and full of patterns. I believe my styling really evolved from that.
I love playing with patterns and colours to sort of push some of those boundaries that plus people feel uncomfortable doing sometimes. They want to just wear the dark colours and fade into the background. I’m like “Hello, a leopard print mixed with hot pink” — that’s kind of what I love to do.
Secondly, I grew up travelling the world. My dad was an [expatriate]. So every year or two we found ourselves in a different country up until I was about 12 or 13 years old. So, I’ve been able to see the traditional dressing up of quite a number of countries in my lifetime and it really showed me how unique your fashion and style can be dependent on geographical location.
Being a Black woman is a huge influence of mine. Especially in the field I find myself in, it’s quite dominated by older white men. So trying to break in and figure stuff out is a real passion of mine because I look around where I am [and] I don’t see a lot of me. I’ve always been the type of person to find those really tough places where I do not exist and try to force my way in.
Through that, I’ve realized that as much as fashion is important and I love it and it’s the backbone of what I do, it’s the advocacy portion that I really enjoy the most. Using fashion, which everyone speaks in terms of style, everyone can understand it. I use that as a gateway to discuss more pressing topics. I also started a sorority while I was at Mac. It’s one of Canada’s first or second Black-focused sororities. So my sorority sisters are huge inspirations for me. It’s really cool to see what all the alumni are doing and really awesome to see all the new classes coming in.
So much of fashion is from Black culture and Black women in particular.
It’s a very interesting subject that you brought up. For a while, Black culture has been the inspiration behind high fashion. However, when seen on Black bodies, that same fashion is seen as ghetto or unprofessional or it doesn’t “fit right”. But then, all of a sudden, you have high fashion houses like Gucci and Louis Vuitton doing cornrows and braids and then, all of a sudden, it’s alright, we’re fine now. That bit is an ongoing battle.
To be honest with you, it’s the reason why no matter what space I’m in, I like to make it very clear that I am Black first. That is a very important thing for me. Even something as little as driving into my work parkade, I’m blasting my Childish Gambino on full blast and then getting out and saying: “Hey, morning Tim, morning Bob,” as our 47-year-old white counterparts are getting into work. I really want to ensure that people know that I know that I’m Black first.
What keeps you going when it comes to your Instagram account?
Honestly, it’s the community I’ve built. The interesting thing about myself being online is that being an influencer is not my job goal in five to 10 years. I’m very rooted in my career, you know, CEO of a Fortune 500, that’s the path that I’m going on. So my online journey is a very casual one. I don’t really care much for the number game. It’s more so building a community where people feel safe within it.
Having done that for a couple of years, I’ve genuinely formed a group of individuals around me who are positive and support each other and know not to troll accounts. It’s just such a positive environment that I’ve intentionally fostered online. When times are rough and for the beginning of this year, I’ve taken a couple of months off cause being online a lot is a lot. It can definitely take its toll on you. Even being away for so long, I still got such lovely messages. Some people who follow me were checking in and these are people I’ve never met before. So it’s just such an awesome way to connect with people, especially during this time where we’re all so not connected physically.
How did you get into modelling?
That was literally just by fluke. I had no plan in place, I was just taking my own pictures. And then, I believe it was Addition Elle. They were really the first supporters. They’re a Canadian-based plus-sized brand. They really, really supported me and still to this day support me and everything that I do.
The modelling aspect came because honestly, taking my own pictures, I learned how to model just by doing that. When you have a tripod and a camera and a remote, you have no choice but to figure out how to work angles on your own. I think that some of the images I got as a result of that really showed how I could do that. Agencies and companies started noticing and from there — it just kind of blew up. I wish I could say that I had a path or a plan for it but it was all a fluke.
Do you have any personal goals for your online presence?
Online, I have Instagram, TikTok — that whole shebang — a YouTube channel and a website. For the website, I would love for it to eventually become a place where I can let other people speak. That’s always been a goal, to give other writers a platform where I can let them speak about what they want to.
For my Instagram and TikTok side of things, again, I really just wanna show a body that does not look like the conventional Instagram body or the conventional TikTok body. I just want to show that just because you don’t look like these people online, which — asterisks, many of them don’t actually look like that either — it doesn’t mean that you cannot have fun with fashion, that you can’t wear a crop top and show your belly, it’s okay, we all have stretch marks.
With my YouTube channel, I want to show that a plus person can inhabit that lifestyle. So, I’d do off-shift vlogs where I’ll do mundane things around the house, go grocery shopping, hang out, show behind the scenes of some shoots just to show that being fat — and again, I use the word “fat” as a descriptor, to me it doesn’t have any negative connotations whatsoever — does not mean that you must stop just living.