How Suffolk University is responding
to the coronavirus outbreak
Story by Kara Baskin
Photograph by Marta Skovro McAdams
By day, Chardline Chanel-Faiteau, BS ’12, is the resource development manager for the City of Boston’s Centers for Youth and Families, providing development support, resources, and social media planning for 36 community centers in the city. By night, she’s an effusive, body-positive, online fashion influencer, sharing her favorite places to shop for plus-sized clothing, offering fitness advice, and writing candidly about self-image.
“I’m someone who always loves to see fashion, who loves to see style, but I did not see a lot of girls who looked like me on the runway—if any,” she says. “I just remember never seeing a girl above a size eight. There was always a specific type of girl walking in shows.”
Using her professional skills and connections through her popular website, www.chardline.com, Chanel-Faiteau has presented plus-sized fashion shows throughout Boston.
“I never thought we would see someone like us on a runway,” she says. “I never thought people would call me beautiful.”
Chanel-Faiteau, a 2020/2021 Suffolk 10 Under 10 alumni honoree, was inspired by her mentor, the late Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, for whom she worked as a project assistant and intern organizer. Menino rose from humble beginnings to become Boston’s first Italian-American mayor and prided himself on championing the underdog. She can relate.
“He taught me a lot about leadership,” she says. “Working with him allowed me to understand that it wasn’t really about politics. He was really a people’s mayor, and he liked to change lives. He liked to make people feel better. That’s pretty much the same thing I feel that I do as a public servant and also within my career as a digital content creator. I help women [say]: ‘I’ve never seen someone like myself. Thank you for being able to help through that journey of re-imagining myself as someone who is worthy or beautiful.’”
In her role at Boston’s Centers for Youth and Families, she has collaborated on partnerships with the New England Revolution for soccer clinics at urban community centers and organized philanthropic donations with the New England Patriots Foundation. Her daily objectives include development and planning support for 36 community centers, senior sites, and freestanding pools.
It’s a long way from her childhood as the daughter of Haitian immigrants in Dorchester and Roxbury, where she felt like a voiceless outsider as a minority student at predominantly white Catholic schools.
“I was the only person of color in my graduating class. The first time I had a Black professor was at Suffolk,” she says. “There wasn’t a lot of diversity in my life. [My siblings and I] didn’t have many friends who looked like us—maybe just the ones that we could find on the bus. I also saw a lot of microaggressions in school, a lot of prioritizing certain students over others.”
Suffolk changed her perspective on what was possible. As an undergrad, Chanel-Faiteau staged fashion shows, was a founding member of Suffolk’s First Gospel Choir, Voices of Zion, and helped implement youth cultural programs at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in Roxbury.
Chanel-Faiteau says Suffok changed her perspective on possibilities. “At Suffolk, I met Black doctors, I met Black lawyers, I had Black professors, and I also was a Black studies minor.… Suffolk helped ground me and understand not just my worth but my potential to really soar as a Black woman,” she says.
What’s next? Maybe law school. Maybe community organizing. Whatever she does, she plans to work to put Black youth, women, and all body types at the forefront.
“I feel like I have a duty to give back to the city of Boston,” she says. “Once, my parents were afraid for me to leave the house. I finally moved from that place of being afraid and trying to get to a place where everyone could feel as empowered as I do.”