Here’s the situation… J’son M. Lee, Owner & President of Sweet Georgia Press, and the host of A Different Kind Of Love, had a one-on-one, exclusive interview with yours truly. In observance of Valentine’s Day, The Situation Room is talking Love & Happiness with Michelle Cuttino.
J’son: Michelle, let’s begin by telling us a little bit about yourself.
Michelle: I was born and raised in Bronx, New York, and spent my formative years between New York and my parents’ hometown of Georgetown, South Carolina. I am an author, plus-size blogger, book reviewer, and columnist/contributing writer for several publications. I’ve written professionally for print and film, including the optioning of a screenplay with Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Films, Inc. I currently head Big Body Broadcasting, my BlogTalkRadio network, and I am the President and CEO of my own publishing company, Big Body Publishing.
J’son: Give us some background on Big Body Publishing and why you formed this niche company.
Michelle: I was always told to find a niche and fill it. I created Big Body Publishing to fill a need that was not being served in the publishing industry. We are the premiere publishing company for content written by and geared towards the plus-size population. Big Body Publishing gives a voice to the confident, mature and sexy side of full-bodied temptresses.
J’son: If you had to name one plus size person who has been a source of inspiration for you, who would that be and why?
Michelle: I have always been a fan of Queen Latifah. When she came on the scene with her single, Wrath of My Madness, I literally fell in love. Here was this regal African-American female, and she was my size. In addition, her message was uplifting and empowering. She is a rapper, singer, producer, talk show host, actress, entrepreneur, celebrity spokeswoman, and the list goes on and on. Latifah’s myriad accomplishments have proven that full-figured women are the icons of today.
J’son: There’s this mass hysteria of perfection that exists, which promotes thin women as the definition of beauty. What is your definition of beauty?
Michelle: I think beauty is confidence–knowing who you are, what you want, and what you deserve–and portraying that to the outside world. It’s not so much what you look like, but who you are inside. I know some beautiful people, who are the ugliest people inside. Beauty comes from within. I don’t really judge people on their outward appearance. I judge people on who they are, and how they make me feel when I’m around them.
J’son: Overweight characters are often cast in unsavory roles, and in turn perpetuate the myth that extra weight is naturally coupled with depression, undesirability, rejection, and drama. What is the Big Body platform doing to counter this myth?
Michelle: We are showing a more realistic view of being plus-size. I am also a plus-size blogger. So a lot of my blogs are based upon the misconceptions society has on plus-size women. I’m giving advice, tips, and encouragement. With the company, I want to show characters that are three-dimensional. I want to impart that size doesn’t make a difference when it comes down to it. We will show plus-size people in a more positive light. They will be attractive, educated, and confident. That’s the way to counter the myth.
J’son: I don’t know many writers who have plus-size protagonists. I know you wanted to create characters that mirror you and your experience. Do you think readers are ready for that?
Michelle: Yes, readers are dying for it! When I first sat down to write, I didn’t know what to write about. There were so many options, but nothing felt authentic. I kept hearing everyone’s advice to write what I know. The novels I was used to reading weren’t relatable to me, because I am not a small woman with a flawless figure. So, I decided to write about plus-size women, because that’s what I know. Since the release of Love & Happiness and Me & Mrs. Jones- Part I, I have had positive feedback. People have been waiting to read books with characters that look like them. Plus-size fiction is an untapped market, and I’m proud to be bringing more exposure to it.
J’son: Michelle, you’ve been writing for years. Why did you wait so long to release your first novel?
Michelle: I used to eat, sleep, and drink writing. I had created a buzz and was beginning to make a name for myself. Then something (or rather someone) stole my joy, and I just stopped everything. A few years ago, I lost my seven-year-old niece, who was like a daughter to me. Her death inspired me to live life to the fullest, and do what I love. I revisited the numerous manuscripts I had written, and modernized them. Now that my passion has been rekindled, there are many more releases on the horizon.
J’son: Your debut novel, Love and Happiness, is one of the first romantic stories I’ve read that’s built around a plus size character. Tell us about the book.
Michelle: Love & Happiness is about Roxanne Linden, a plus-size vixen, who expertly manages her marketing firm while her attempts at controlling her personal life are faltering. In her quest for fulfillment, she unsuccessfully juggles her engagement to fiancé, Mark Watkins, her complex dealings with her stepsister and ex-lover, Ayana Linden, and her no-holds-barred affair with Royal T. Roaman—who just so happens to be Mark’s nemesis, and Ayana’s new obsession. As their lives intertwine and begin to spiral out of control, truths are unearthed, betrayals come to light and futures are threatened. Once Roxanne realizes she may lose everything due to her misplaced affections, she must assume responsibility for her actions and make a final decision before she, or one of her lovers, lose everything—including their life.
J’son: Are there any similarities between you and your character, Roxanne Linden?
There are many similarities between us. Roxanne is like my alter ego. She does things I wish I had the nerve to do. Roxanne views the world through her own rose-colored glasses, and acts accordingly. She says what she means, and does what she wants. Where we differ, is our outlook on love. Roxanne is a little jaded, but when life happens, she learns to adjust.
J’son: What did you learn about yourself through the writing of this book?
Michelle: I learned it’s okay to make mistakes. I learned if someone wrongs you, it’s okay to forgive. A lot of our issues stem from childhood, and we carry them into our adult lives because we don’t know how to resolve them. When we keep things to ourselves, they fester. I learned it’s okay to confide in people, because the ghosts you try to bury always come back to haunt you. Most importantly, I learned one way or another, you have to face the demons of your younger life, so you will be able to move on and prosper in your adult life.
J’son: What do you want your readers to take away from your writing?
Michelle: I want them to take away a real experience. I want them to walk away with something on their conscience, like how can I better myself, or how can I make my circumstances better than what they are. I want them to be able to relate to the changes in my characters, and let some of their own fear go. I want my readers to start doing what they feel is best for them. I want people to read my books, and walk away in a better space, doing whatever it is that makes them happy.
J’son: What projects are you currently working on?
Michelle: I also have my eBook series—Me & Mrs. Jones, which is an adaptation of my screenplay once optioned with Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Films. Part I is out now, and Part II will be released on Valantine’s Day. Me & Mrs. Jones is like a five-way love affair. It’s a three-part series based around two full-figured married women – Brenda Jones and Kim Baker. Brenda is a plus-size beauty, who sought excitement by having an inter-office affair with her colleague, Kevin, outside of her ten-year marriage to John. Kim is a thick and sexy executive, and welcomes John’s advances due to the neglect of her husband, Kevin. Stephanie is Brenda’s assistant and when she meets Kevin, their chemistry is undeniable. Fate teaches them all a vital lesson… In the game of love, the things you take for granted, are the things someone else is silently praying for.
I have Me & Mrs. Jones – Part III releasing in the spring, a full-length novel releasing in the fall, and the erotica anthology with Zane releasing at the end of the year. I am also looking to launch my YouTube channel, Big Body Media, later this year or early 2016.
J’son: Where do you see this platform taking you?
Michelle: Worldwide. LOL! Seriously, I hope it takes me some place where I can help other women. I have always been the mother hen. I love people. I love great spirits. I attach myself to people with great auras. I’m always one who gives advice, or delivers a motivational message. I hope this platform takes me to a place where I can change the world’s view on plus-size. Not everyone wants to be skinny. Some of us are actually happy in our skin. I want to raise awareness and let other women know you don’t have to succumb to society’s standards to be successful. No matter where you are in life, be happy with who you are until you can get to your next level.
Michelle: I want to be remembered as a person who loved people. I want to be remembered as an intelligent woman with a big heart. I hope my legacy demonstrates I was kind spirited, someone who was always there for you when you needed them most, and someone you could talk to. I want to be remembered as someone who always had something good to say, and words that helped you get through whatever you were going through. My legacy should confirm I was someone who you could depend on. You can’t be everything to everybody, but for everybody in my life, I am something. That’s a big statement, but it’s true. I mean something to every single person in my life, and that is what’s important to me. I hope that transfers over to my business and my brand. I want to mean something to every single person who has touched my book, listened to one of my shows, followed my blog, been on my websites, or read one of my articles. Whether it’s my funny subway stories, or any of the personal experiences I share, I want to leave a lasting impression. I just want to leave people with a good feeling and a smile on their face. That’s what I want my legacy to be.
J’son: How can our listeners keep in touch with you?
Michelle: My website is www.MichelleCuttino.com. Twitter @MichelleCuttino. Facebook is www.Facebook.com/MichelleCuttino. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Pinterest and Instagram @BigBodyPub. My business website is www.BigBodyPublishing.com.
About The Author
Michelle Cuttino is the “Queen of Plus-Size Fiction,” and serves as a freelance writer, talk radio host and motivational speaker. She is the President of Big Body Publishing, the premiere publisher for content written by and geared towards plus-size women. She is the author of Love & Happiness and Me & Mrs. Jones, an eBook series adaptation of her screenplay once optioned with Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Films. She will be part of an erotica anthology under Zane’s Strebor/Simon & Schuster imprint releasing late 2015.
Cuttino is a plus-size lifestyle blogger, who also blogs about publishing advice and industry events. She is a book reviewer and contributing writer for African Americans on the Move Book Club, and a columnist at Proud Times and Real Life, Real Faith magazines. Cuttino is the owner and Executive Producer of Big Body Broadcasting, her BlogTalkRadio network that hosts three unique talk radio shows.
Cuttino’s personal mission is to embrace, enlighten, and empower women—principally plus-size women, but her message is for everyone. You can contact and read more about her at MichelleCuttino.com.