June 10, 2002 12:00 PM

The hot new nightspot in Culver City, Calif., doesn’t have a velvet rope or an A-list roster of celebrities and supermodels. Located in a cinder-block building in a strip mall, it doesn’t even have much atmosphere. But every weekend Club Curves has a full house, a large number of whom are overweight women—exactly the crowd plus-size owners Shadoe Gray and Michelle Wilson have in mind. “We want to show them they can go out and have a great time,” says Gray, “just like anybody else.”

The club was a hit soon after opening in August (men of all sizes make up nearly half the patrons), and last month on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno the host joked, “It’s very exclusive to get in—there’s a two-dinner minimum.” In June, Gray, 37, and Wilson, 32, plan to open a second place in Oceanside, Calif. “Whether they’re there to meet men or just dance,” says Frances White of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, “the club is a wonderful social outlet.”

For former office manager Gray, who lives in Redondo Beach with son Michael Harrington, 17, and Wilson, a city administrator who lives alone in Hawthorne, bettering large women’s self-confidence is part of the plan. Says Gray: “We want to teach that what you project to the world is what you get back.”

It seems to be working. Taking a break from dancing, administrative assistant Linda Weldon, 38, looks around, grins and says, “I don’t have to worry about people saying, ‘Why’s she wearing that dress?'”

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