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.

7 Habits of Stylish People

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Image: Stylecaster.com

There are very few people who can be considered genuinely stylish.

It’s easy to wear the hottest labels but this approach isn’t always sustainable. This can be very expensive and there are some bills which should always take precedence, but also because many fashionable items are no longer in vogue six months down the track.

Scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest the personalities are often wearing the same brands and if you squint your eyes start to morph into one another. Boring!

Then you stumble on personalities which are amazing;  chic, cool, interesting and unique. These women know their bodies. They understand their shape and style and what transpires is a visual love fest. They frame their bodies with clothes, the way an artist frames their paintings.

These women are truly stylish and from which we should aim to take our fashion inspiration. So, here is a list of 7 habits highly stylish people to help inspire you’re style journey.

1. They don’t copy exactly what they see
With Pinterest, Instagram and blogs aplenty there is so much fodder for your style inspiration. Remember it’s fun to admire but it’s not always healthy to emulate.

2. They aren’t afraid of any store—and can find something almost anywhere
Legitimately stylish women will visit any store with zero snob factor, yet they manage to stay true to their look. A stylish person understands quality, quirky and interesting items can be found anywhere from a Vinnie’s rack, Target or Louis Vuitton.

3. They know how to style themselves to their own taste
Most stylish girls will say “I’ve had this blazer for 10 years” and mean it.

The blazer itself is nice, but it’s the way it was styled; great-fitting jeans, loose shirt with an extra button undone, heels, and added a killer pair of modern statement earrings.

4. They always look radiantly natural 
Highly stylish people are often in the habit of always  standing out from the crowd in any situation.

They might wear a pair of sneakers when the others are teetering on sky-high heels, or pull her hair into a top knot when everyone else has long beachy waves. Small elements often make them look more natural but still polished.

5. Confidence is key 
The most stylish women are ones who have confidence, and who know they don’t need the $700 jumper or $2,000 handbag to make themselves appear cool.

A confident person can light up a room in a t shirt and jeans.

6. They aren’t slaves to fashion
Some of the most stylish people are able to have fun with fashion and follow trends without looking like a slave. If you don’t like a trend—even if every blogger under the sun is wearing it—don’t buy into it. It’s that simple.

7. They dress for themselves
During a time where the comparison game is strong, highly stylish people dress for themselves, their lifestyle and what looks good on them.

It doesn’t matter if those heels are the hottest around, if you can’t walk in them, it’s not stylish.

 

Sydney Skinny: Bare again

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Sometimes you don’t know how far you’ve developed until you’re tested again.

For me, participating in the Sydney Skinny, was always an experience designed to see if I could shed my clothes (in public!) and be comfortable with it. From my previous test runs, and the 2014 event, the answer was no. With that said, I completed it.

I was nervous leading up to the event. Despite my gym sessions, I felt my body was bigger and saggier than 2014. However, I was determined to face my fears and complete it despite this.

And I had a great time!

One of the elements I really enjoy about the day is the community vibe feeling the day has. Food vans, music, gloriously sunny day and so many smiley faces – it’s designed to relax people and remind people that life is for living and how friggin good that can feel.

This year, I was part of Team Nudie. As I walked over to the tent to pick up my Nudie goodie bag and register, I was horrified to notice that most of the women had their tops off and were having messages painted on their bodies. For those reading assuming they were naked, wrong! There were kids around…c’mon. The bit that gave me the ‘stomach sinking into my legs feeling’ was thinking of the two options I had in front of me – get involved, take my top off in front in front of the crowd and suck it up, or, play it safe and keep my top on (naturally I was thinking ‘I don’t really want body paint anyway’….).

Of course I got involved but farrrrk it was hard. I was nervous for two reasons – one,  because the bra I was wearing  was recycle from a very success date the night before (boom chika wah way) and not ideal for 9am, sunny day wear. The other reason was I would need to put my perfectly imperfect round belly to the clothed world around me. Majorly uncomfortable.

But, I did it as though I didn’t give two hoots. I slowly peel my t shirt above my head, sat down (ARGHH THE ROLLS), smiled and requested the team nudie logo. When completed, I slid back into my t shirt.

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Clearly not me, but to give you an idea…..

Well, I’ve never done that before. And boy, I was feeling very proud of myself.

When the time came, the group congregated at the meeting area. Time for a group picture!

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Then we slowly made our way down the windy, rocky, dirt path down to Cobblers Beach.

And just before we arrive, as because I wanted to, I had a selfie with our team Captain, Tim Dormer.

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When we arrived at the beach, the previous waves were returning to shore in all their naked glory. But in fairness all you see are a bunch of heads bopping up and down on the surface of the water.

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I put my bags down and started chatting with a very handsome 30 something year old man who was telling me how much we was enjoying the day. I was enjoying looking at his bare chest and trying not to look below his waist….oh wait….heyyyyy big boy (unfortunately I don’t have any pics of this to share…)

I stayed clothed for a few minutes, chatting and enjoying…errr looking at the broader view. My breaths were definitely increasing and I started to do the little dance I do when I either need to pee, or I am uncomfortable. I didn’t need to pee….

When the group was called up I slid off my shorts, and my knickers (maybe a g banger wasn’t the most sensible underwear to choose) and finally took off my t shirt and unhooked my deliciously black lacy bra.

I am naked! What surprised me this time around was how comfortable I was walking to the water. I found it a lot more relaxing than 2014, and even more relaxing than having paint written on my back an hour earlier.

Because I like a plan, I decided I was going to take a completely didn’t approach to my previous swim. I am not going to treat it like a race. I am going to slowly make my way around the 900m course. And I did. I chatted with people as I past them, or they swam past me. I was even dared by one of the lifeguards to swim under his board. So I did remember at the last minute to not do a dolphin dive. I was naked but I doubt the world need to see my bent over bottom rise from the clear waters of Sydney Harbour.

As I walked out of the water, it was so nice to be greeted by smiling faces, music and so much laughter.  I chatted with a various people about how amazing the experience is – and how proud of themselves they were for doing it. The beauty of the event is it brings people together for all different reasons. One lady was standing there in all her glory after telling me she was there with her daughter, how her husband wouldn’t have seen her naked for year yet here she was! In front of hundreds of stingers. I think her husband will soon be getting very used to her strut her naked, glorious self around the house. Another guy mentioned he was ok with being naked but wasn’t a strong swimmer and wanted the support of swimming 300 metres at the beach.

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It doesn’t matter what the reason is, I was so proud of everyone who attended – even the amazingly fit entrepreneur who picked up a couple of girls. It doesn’t matter what your reason is, for being there, it’s about getting involved, pushing your boundaries and having fun. And the day represented all of that and more!

Will you attend The Sydney Skinny 2017?

Thanks for Nudie for all the images in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Don’t Look Like You Have An Eating Disorder

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As I was scrolling through Facebook earlier today, a video titled “You Don’t Look Like You Have An Eating Disorder” caught my eye.

A group of people with, or who have survived, eating disorders were interviewed. The purpose was to show us the harmful misconceptions society hold about eating disorders and the impact this can have of those who suffer from them.

Please watch the video. There is a high chance a friend, family member or even a lover has an eating disorder – you just don’t know it because it’s so secretive. I know people in my life with them, and I’ve been blessed enough to have them open up so I can hear how they view themselves, what type of illness they have, how they do it, and why they do it. It’s incredibly confronting.

People with eating disorders are so shameful of the way they look. There is so much hatred and disgust when they look in the mirror. And unfortunately it doesn’t just alter their mood for an hour or so, they live with it every hour of everyday so the flow on effect is felt within their worlds as other relationships are affected by it. Is this not hell?

About 30 million people in the United States experience eating disorders at some point in their lives, but even more experience disordered eating; this is when “a wide range of abnormal eating behaviors, many of which are shared with diagnosed eating disorders.”

And people wonder why the body confidence movement is necessary! Not everyone may be comfortable looking at plus size, or petite, women online but the above statistics are related to the US ONLY. What if we could encourage and nurture more self love. Maybe people would focus inwardly and not be so critical of others which naturally perpetuates the cycle. And if we stop, or even slow down the cycle, we can reduce these these alarming stats.

Reading the materials and watching the videos has reinforced why I am again doing the Sydney Skinny. We need to learn to understand and accept our bodies. We need to stamp out these unnecessary and very harmful illnesses.

WatchCut has realised this video as part of a series to raise awareness during Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

How To Build Confidence

People often make comments about how confident I am. I find this quite amusing, and often surprising. Like everyone I have certain sensitivities but I make a conscious effort to not let my own potentially destructive thoughts get in the way of how I live my life. Am I a master at this? Hells no. But, the thought of living a half life is so sad, that the only thing to do, is live.

So, here are my top tips to be more confident with my body:

Make the choice

Every decision we have in life is a choice. Naturally I’m very curious, and my personality is one which needs to be constantly tested and tested – for this I am extremely grateful. When I have the option to do something I am not comfortable with, there are always two options – do it, or run away. I do believe in knowing when to walk away, but how can confidence ever be built up, if we never test ourselves? I also know that when I don’t do something, I regret it later – and I really dislike that feeling of regret and guilt which sits in the pit of my stomach. I’ve also noticed, that it’s typically after our biggest challenges that I feel the most pride and sense of achievement – which naturally builds confidence.

 

Get a massage

When I turned 18, my sister took me to the Gold Coast for my birthday. At this stage in life, I was not as comfortable with my body as I am now – and I was probably half my current size. We opted for a massage and even today I remember the feeling of shame I had towards myself. How was I going to let someone touch my body – especially my stomach! But, I distinctly remember thinking, ‘But I want the massage…so I have two choices; get on the bed or leave’. I got on the bed.

Did I enjoy it? I did, but I would have enjoyed it more, if I wasn’t so self confident. I remember lying there stiff as a board – particularly when her hands were close to the areas I was least comfortable.

I faced my fears, and realised it wasn’t as bad as I had accepted. These days I love massages and have them often. I strip off with not problems, lie on the bed and wait to be pampered. It just feels so good and makes me happy.

 

Go on a date

I do not believe in looking to outside parties for validation (especially men!) – in the long term it doesn’t work. However, there is something to be said about going on a date with someone who finds you attractive. And there is always someone who finds you attractive! The flirting, dressing up, maybe a vino or two, and the possibility of a kiss at the end of the evening is usually incredibly sexy and very alluring.

 

Look at yourself in the mirror – naked

I am a big believer in jumping in the deep end. Face your fears. Be kind to yourself, remind yourself of your worth, be grateful for what you have and practice. Over time, how you view yourself will change. This can be confronting to some, and I can imagine some of you cringing as you read this; I certainly have friends who would never do this. So if jumping in the deep end doesn’t work, dip your toe in. Who knows….you might realise it’s not as bad as you’ve built up in your head.

 

Focus on your ‘good’ parts

Everyone has a body part they like. For me, I have thick, long hair (despite the fact I cannot control it), tall, long back ( I know, so random, but I seem to always check out my back haha!), fairly good skin and a booty to rival all bootys (it really is my calling card!). When I dress myself, I accentuate the areas I like, and chose clothing that best suits my least favourite parts (STOMACH!).

Also focus on my other good parts. For me, I remind myself of my )reasonable) intelligence, loyal as all buggery, kind, caring, occasionally funny and interesting. It’s important to keep in perspective that the sum of a person is not just their looks. And as a whole, the package looks pretty damn good.

 

Have sex

Having sex is generally good for the soul. Have more of it. And it does make people more confident – including myself. If you’re in the sack with someone, and it’s getting steamy, the person you’re with is pretty happy to be there – otherwise they wouldn’t be there! Personally, I’m not confident at all times, and in all positions; there are (for me) varying factors including who I am with. But, the more confidence you have, the better and more often the sex will be – your partner will love you even more for it!

 

Push your own boundaries

The only way to grow confidence is to continually test yourself and move past your comfort zone. It’s such a cliche, but there is so much truth to it. If there is something you have always wanted to do, swallow your fear and do it. You might be surprised by how you feel afterwards!

 

Building confidence is a decision we all make and like a muscle, can be built up. The more confidence you have, the more authentic and fulfilling your life will be. I remind myself of this on a daily basis.