Becoming the master of ones own destiny is something many shy away from; it’s difficult, emotional and down right scary. Facing these challenges with a smile on ones face can be even harder. Melissa Walker Horn, otherwise known as Suger Coat It, is one of these people. This woman has constantly pushed her own boundaries and continually evolves herself into the big hearted, funny, generous, ambitious soul she is today.
Melissa is a big name in the plus size world and it has taken taken an enormous amount of commitment and passion for it to be so. But, blogging isn’t her only job. She used to be a real estate agent in her home town Gympie, but transitioned to a not for profit to help create some balance so she could also manage her social media company, and blog! Lets not forget her role as wife to Mr Suger. Respect lady, RESPECT.
Her posts instantly resonated with me. Being a plus size woman can be a struggle for many reasons; one being our joint mission to find great quality and stylish clothing. But, her posts are real and relatable. Feelings and experiences she wrote about, I understood. The highs, the lows and everything in between.
In the weeks approaching my 30th birthday, she posted a fabulous and seriously OTT glitter outfit. I wanted it. I needed it. So, I messaged her desperate to know more details; within a few days it was in my hot little hands on loan.
Naturally, Melissa is a woman I wanted to profile and her answers didn’t disappoint.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
What are the biggest challenges the Australian plus size fashion brands are facing?
From my experience speaking with brands and hearing them talk lately, I think it’s funding their ranges and the stock requirements. The best thing we, as the customer, can do, is get behind the brands we love with our money and our support. I know that I want to see these brands survive and flourish, so I try to do my bit, and we all can do that.
How has the Australian plus size fashion game changed over the past ten years?
I started blogging in 2009, and since then the options available in plus has exploded. I still remember the first time someone told me to try ASOS and I was like, on the floor. Not that they’re Australian, but it opened up this idea that plus could be fresh, modern and on trend. I love that. Not to say there weren’t Australian brands already doing that, but to see it on that scale was huge.
For me, the fashion ‘game’ has changed in the sense that it’s a busier space to operate in. Lots of new brands and bloggers popping up, lots of requests for time and attention and more and more we see ‘plus size models’ in mainstream media. It’s exciting to see progress; I can’t wait to see where we end up in the next ten!
Is plus size fashion different? If so, why?
I wrote a post about it once prompted by a Tumblr post that stated it’s like ‘slaying a dragon’ to find the pieces, sizes and styles to put together a killer outfit. And it’s not just about what the customer goes through to express their personal style; it’s all of it. Plus size fashion is so different from the way we shop, the way we are REQUIRED to buy, and the money spent marketing to us is ridiculously different.
It’s different because for a long time now fashion didn’t want to include us, society didn’t want to see us, and even within ourselves, we felt that we didn’t belong. But every step we take away from those ideas shifts things, we may not be there yet, but we’re closer than before. But THAT is why it’s different.
The plus size model industry seems to be going from strength to strength. Who is your favourite plus size model? Why?
I have a few favourites! I adore Margaret Macpherson for that killer bone structure and an even better personality. She shines, and I can see why that makes her popular with advertisers and customers alike. You just can’t fake being a genuine person, and Margaret is one hundred percent that.
My other favourite is Laura Wells because of the way she conducts herself and the conversation she is part of online. But mostly because once I saw her at a show with poker straight hair in like a billion percent humidity, so she’s gifted. She seems like she has this great sense of humour, that appeals to me.
What do you hope to see from the Australian plus size fashion industry within the next five years?
I want to see more effort. I want to see campaigns that knock me on my butt, shows, grand openings, and launch parties. I want plus fashion to look every bit like mainstream fashion. I want us to claim our spot as the majority of women in this country and demand that brands try harder for us as we have for them as they found their feet. I want to be wooed and wowed; for shopping to feel like this big dramatic, heart flipping courtship and the clothes are the prize. I’m sick to death of some shoddy rack in the corner; I want plus and extended sizing to take centre stage.
What are the top ways to grow your online influence?
Be human is my number one tip. I don’t care what anyone else says or does; I think you need to operate online as you would in your life. Here’s the hot tip, fakes and posers get found out sooner or later, stop trying to be someone you’re not and be real.
Be honest and genuine with people, sure there’s a curated theme to social media, but that shouldn’t stop you sharing your wins and losses with people. It’s about connection and putting yourself on some magical pedestal will never serve you.
Then be consistent with your content and keep delivering the best you can provide for people. It takes a lot of work to deliver high-quality, valuable content to people, I know, trust me. But the good news is that they appreciate it, and if you do it consistently enough, they will love you for it.
How has the plus size blogging sphere changed over the last ten years?
It’s less about the blog, the actual website, and more about your reach across the social media platforms. We are one hundred percent content creators now, for us, for brands and for the causes we support. You become an influencer when you can manage to engage people across the board, and when that happens it’s powerful in a way that it wasn’t when the industry was new.
The plus size blogging space is more competitive too, more so now than when I started seven years ago. I think a lot of new bloggers arrive on the scene all the time (through Instagram especially) and they realise that a blog is a lot of work. Like, a lot! I’ve seen some people give it up over the years because life happens and blogging is time-consuming, it takes something to keep generating content day after day and year after year.
Why did you start to blog?
I started it because I’ve always loved to write. I wanted a place to record a few thoughts, some images I found online and things like that. At the very start, Mr Suger and I were trying unsuccessfully for a baby, and there was a community online that go that. The I found plus-size fashion and body positivity, and I never looked back. I love the interaction and community that a blog offers, I’ve always said, if I wasn’t into that side of things I’d keep a journal instead.
You talk about bodies and confidence in an online environment. Unfortunately, these topics typically attract bullies. How do you deal with this?
I handle them with a swift kick in the delete button. There have been times where my urge to sass them has been greater, but it uses so much energy to interact. I just delete them, ban them and move on. Some people assume that means I don’t like to be disagreed with or challenged, but I love that, I just won’t stand for body shame or insults. I think if you want to have a conversation, great, I’m in. If you’re just here to take a dump in my space, then I won’t allow that. Be gone fucker.
Balancing your ‘real’ job, family, friends and your online presence can be tough – what gets you through?
Systems and scheduling get me through the mess of all the work there is to be done. I try to work in batches and plan well in advance. I manage a social media business alongside my blogs and the podcast, so it means that I have to fit my client’s social media in there as well.
I keep all the balls in the air and try to rest as often as I can so I don’t burn out. And rest for me is a day at the beach or kicking back on the couch with a book or Netflix. Brain free time!
My top tip for balancing all the things is that no matter what I make the time for my family and friends. If I can make it to an event, a coffee or a catch-up, I will. I may not be able to be at everything, but I like to think that the people important to me know that I’ll be there if I can be because they are the most important parts of my life.
How do you handle life when your worlds collide?
It’s the funnies thing, I’ve been blogging for seven years now and in the past year or two people in my hometown have only just started to notice. It’s fun and strange to be approached at the shops or have someone from here follow the blog. It used to make me feel self-conscious about sharing as openly as I do, or things like posting photos in my underwear or swimwear, but I try to push that aside. The community on my blog deserve the best of me, not some watered down version just so I don’t feel weird about some stranger in the supermarket knowing what I look like in my undies.
We are both strong believers of being who you are. How do you achieve this?
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred time, my big secret to being who I am, and living that to the fullest, is to stop giving a fuck. Stop letting other people tell you what to do or looking to them for your happiness.
How do I achieve that? I do the things that make me happy and the things that advance my dreams. I stopped asking for advice I didn’t want and started trusting my gut. Piece by piece my life started to fall into place in a way that I loved, that became the incentive to keep going. This is your one chance, take control and live it in whatever way you see fit.
What’s your must-have beauty item?
Errr, next question, I’m a beauty items fail.
Does it matter if that outfit makes my bum look big?
Nope! Never. I have no butt; sometimes my aim is to MAKE IT look bigger than it is. Haha. So no, it doesn’t matter if that outfit makes your bum look big, embrace the big bum. I think that for too long we have been told that women should be this or that, should look this way but not that way. Sooner or later we have to decide that some random, far off ‘they’ aren’t going to tell us what to do anymore.
For me? It’s sooner rather than later. Maybe it was easier for me because I never fit into the ideal woman mould. I was always too tall, too broad, too athletic, too something… So I stopped using that as a measuring stick. Sometimes I think that it’s harder for women who ‘did’ fit to move on from that ideal or rebel against it, because it’s easier to try to get back there than carve their own path outside of it.
Which are your favourite clothing brands?
17 Sundays are my go-to, always. I picked up some basics from Target and ASOS, add in a few swimsuits, some active wear, and that’s about it. I’m a simple girl; I don’t need much to keep me happy. And don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. Haha.
What items are consistently in your handbag?
Apples, I seem to find those things everywhere. My stash of sunglasses, a phone charger, chewing gum and a whole bunch of random receipts. My bag is a huge mess.
The one item you must have while travelling?
Mr Suger! He’s such a laugh, which no matter where I go or where I’m travelling, he is what I want with me. After him, a water bottle, a phone charger, sunscreen and a good book.