Q&A: Melissa Walker Horn, Blogger, Suger Coat It

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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.

Kim’s Beach Hideaway, Toowoon Bay

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The best getaway destinations are those which can be enjoyed anytime of the year. A hotel where time stands still and rejuvenates ones body and soul whether the sun is flexing its big rays or whether the cool air kisses our skin leaving it pink at its touch.

Kim’s Beach Hideaway is one such place.

It’s hidden amongst a rainforest, right on Toowoon Beach on NSWs Central Coast. The compound is designed for reflection, rejuvenation and romance as the only sounds you can hear are the waves crashing on the shore, the gentle muffles of the few other patrons as they pass your hut and the rumblings of  resident wildlife. No children running a muck because it’s adults only!

There is one sound which penetrates the resort – thrice daily the bell rings signalling the buffet is now open. Guests are given a table during their stay and the dining room overlooks the beach and surrounding islands. At breakfast the view is nothing short of magnetic. I have been known to stay seated long after a meal has been served reading, watching or conversing.

After enjoying the gourmet food I return to the room to either prepare myself for the day, or wind down for the evening. The cabins are very comfortable with an ‘island chic’ flavour. An aging island chic vibe but it does a layer of comfort to the experience. There is lots of wood paneling and cane furniture. It many ways it reminds me of my families old school beach house. However our beach house didn’t include an in room or outdoor spa which the base rooms offer!

Due to the limited number of rooms and the all inclusive nature of the stay, the troops are not cheap. However for an escape from a busy work or family life you will return home ready to tackle whatever life will throw at you.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Kim’s twice; once with a former parter to decide whether we continue or end the relationship, and another time to reflect and consider a suitor. It gives me space not always found in the city, and as a result it holds a very special place in my heart.

For the Sydney siders amongst us it’s an especially great option as it’s less than a two hour drive from Sydney city.

If you choose to visit Kim’s, I’d love to know your thoughts!

 

The Power of a Blazer

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Some of my favourite outfits are made up of the most simple items; items which are so simple they can be repeatedly used, in various different ways, to create different looks.

The blazer is the King of wardrobe.

It adds sophistication to a pair of jeans, and plays a dress down – whilst retaining a necessary level of elegance.

The blazer featured is nicely cut to give me, or enhance my, shape. The gold buttons adds some texture and the paisley pattern under the collar provides unexpected interest to an otherwise potentially bland piece of clothing.

In these pictures I have paired the blazer with classic jeans and a white, long sleeve top, tan booties and my ultimate, fits everything I could possibly dream of handbag.

This is an outfit that I would comfortable wear to a work BBQ, chasing toddlers around, plane ride, dinner with friends, or for a drink with a date.

I typically choose blazers which have some stretch so that they still fits as my weight yo-yos.

What’s your favourite way to style a blazer?

Outfit details: 

Jacket: Jones New York, navy blazer

Top: Marks and Spencers, long sleeve cotton top in white

Jeans: Marks and Spencers, skinny jeans (long)

Handbag: Tods, Large Joy Bag in navy 

 

 

 

The Hydro Majestic, Blue Mountains

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The Hydro Majestic is a jewel in Blue Mountains crown.

When I was 10, I remember driving past it in the back seat of the family car, and thinking how grand it was. The sprawling, white, art deco estate alongside the highway in the township of Medlow Bath;  a few kilometres from where I first saw and felt snow….but I digress….

Over 10 years ago a bunch of friends drove up for high tea – the food was OK but the venue was a dump. Like anything, or anyone, in life it needed to be nurtured and loved. Over the next few years, it was abandoned and neglected. Thankfully the hotel chain, The Escarpment Group, bought it, refurbished it, and polished it like the precious diamond it is.

What surprised me most as I walked through the various sections of the hotel is how few bedrooms there are. The bedrooms are confined to one small section of the venue, the rest of the building is lounges, foyers, eateries – even a grand ballroom! I spent over an hour walking through the building enjoying the different views over the valley and the super luxe furnishings.

My room was overlooking the valley and not surprisingly the room was small. The styling was consistent with the rest of the venue – art deco, blacks paired with bold colours, velvet and sheer fabrics. And the bed, well, that was big and comfortable – The Escarpment Group seem to consistently nail the beds! Pun may be intended….;)

As the room is small, which matches the era of the building, it’s a perfect venue for those who would rather socialise in the many saloons or enjoy the various sites within the Blue Mountains. For a more intimate time, Parklands may be more suitable as it has couches, fireplaces and are designed for couples to spend time focused on each other.

As the hotel is part of The Escarpment Group, it’s possible to enjoy the facilities at each other of the hotels – whether that be the various spas or restaurants throughout the hotels. I spent a few solid hours enjoying the view, poolside at Lilianfels. As did the flock of ducks which joined me!

Before heading out for dinner, and again before breakfast, I spent time walking through the gardens and admiring the outside of the building. Even though I was there in the middle of summer it was cool and misty. So much living has happened over the course of The Hydro’s life that you can feel the magic pouring out of the walls and in the surrounding air. It didn’t matter if I was walking in the rain, there is something so invigorating and intoxicating about history, especially when paired with nature.

The Hydro Majestic is a very special venue and I loved my visit – it won’t be long before I take another trip up the mountains even if it’s for a g&t with a lover, or high tea with the girls.

* My visit to The Hydro Majestic was courtesy of The Escarpment Group.

 

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Parklands, Blue Mountains

Travelling is instrumental to my life.

I must travel, and regularly. Is there anything more exciting than exploring what this world has to offer? The people, food, sights and most definitely the hotels.

Have I mentioned my love of hotels?

I heard there was a new hotel in Blackheath within the Blue Mountains, called Parklands. I’d been eyeing the website for a ‘price is right’ deal, and someone got lucky!

After a 2 hour drive from Sydney, then up through the Blue Mountains, you drive through these big white gates, onto the white gravel. For me, that crunch under the tyres, or my feet, is the sound of the country. And it brings on a feeling of peace.

The main house is big, white and casually elegant – helps when it’s surrounded by big green, lush lawns and blooming cherry blossoms.

My room, wasn’t a room – it was more like a suite; master bedroom, living space and bathroom.

The rooms seem to be part of a series of newly built villas – rooms upstairs and downstairs. I chose the downstairs one, as I love access to a garden or a patio. However, as they are newly built, I couldn’t use the patio as it overlooked the carpark – so no privacy! The owners have planted some bushes around the patio, which with time will fill out.

The room was beautifully appointed with classic colours and all the mod cons you could ask for a luxurious weekend away.

The main highlight for me was the bed. It was so unbelievably plush – Queen size, which gave reasonable support while also having a topper to make you think you were floating.  There was a big window, with a bay seat, which overlooking the bush. Magic.

If you wanted to leave the property, there are a few restaurants in Blackheath, and plenty more in near by Katoomba and Leura.

Perfectly suited for lovers or a weekend away with girlfriends.

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