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.

 

You’re Weird

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Image courtesy of the WWW

Have you ever been told you’re weird? Or that thing you did was weird?

I have. In some sentences, repeatedly so.

This is a tag I have decided to own and not be ashamed, embarrassed or withdraw from. I own this tag like a boss and wear it proudly like a badge. A big, shiny, badge sitting on my chest for everyone to see.

Is this statement…weird?

Weird is a term people use when they don’t accept, agree or understand you or your choices. Often it comes from a place of insecurity, ignorance or  judgement.

Knowing this is empowering.

Information is key. Typically, there are now three choices to make; you can either invest the time to bridge that understanding, let it be and agree people are different, or just walk away from the situation or relationship .

Each situation will require a different chosen path.

People will always have different view points on you and your decisions. A friend or family member might not like the way you cut your hair, the size of your ass, your new nose, sexuality, new boyfriend or holiday locations. The list is limitless and can be as petty or significant as one can imagine.

Some people will disagree with you, others will agree with you and the rest will accept those decisions as yours whether they agree or not.

If you’ve thought out your decisions, believe they reflect your real self and are in your best interest, then it is what it is.

Everyone is different and it’s time people start accepting it.

 

 

PCOS, hormones and excessive facial hair

This post isn’t my most glamorous….

But for so many women around the world, including myself, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has many, many unglamorous downsides – including excessive facial hair.

I know my PCOS is going crazy when my facial hair starts to grow very quickly. It’s typically in the same spots; just under my chin and the sides of my face. I pluck, and wax, but within a couple of days the hair is back; and it’s angry. Even though it can be a lot worse it does make me uncomfortable and at times self conscious.

After many conversations with a friend of mine about hair removal for women with hormone imbalances, I decided to give electrolysis a go. Thankfully for me, she has been my (and our!) guinea pig. She has plucked, waxed, done laser and electrolysis; for her, the only treatment which stopped the areas affected by hormones was due to electrolysis. However, it is painful and expensive.

Thankfully my friend researches everything to an inch of its life and has recommended the Advanced Electrolysis Centre in Sydney.

I called to see when the next available appointment was and as I have luck on my side, they had a cancellation and I am going to visit them today. The next available appointment is in three weeks!

I will let you know how I go…..

My journey to & beyond anorexia nervosa

 

Earlier this year I joined a Lulu Lemon Summer Series Yoga class, down at Balmoral Beach in Sydney.

I started chatting with the instructor; a gorgeous, blonde and incredibly sweet Canadian. We started talking about bodies, wellness, confidence, body positivity, fitness and health…we focused on mental health. It was at this stage that Lauren opened up about her struggles with anorexia nervosa (more commonly known as anorexia).

The fascinating thing about humans is everyone, EVERYONE has something they struggle with – but the stories which unfold as a result are even more fascinating. How do people find a way to keep moving forward?

I am proud to say that Lauren agreed to pen her story for A Quaintrelle Life. So this is her story about her journey to and beyond anorexia nervosa…..

 

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you the journey my eating disorder – from the beginning to end and all that happened along the way.

I was 10 years old when I first experienced a deep sense of loss and uprooting in my life. My mum sat down with my sister and I, her arms around each of us, and told us that our Dad has just passed away. From the moment I heard the news, I felt unraveled, afraid, and just not okay.

That year was by far one of the toughest yet, and when I was 11 years old, I was hospitalized with anorexia nervosa. After my Dad passed away, I felt depressed and lost my appetite. I wasn’t trying to diet or to lose weight, but food was one of the only things I felt in control of in my life. I felt worthless, that I was fat, and that I was not enough.

My relationship to food became destructive & soon I was limiting and restricting all food into my body. I lost so much weight that my body was hardly functioning and I ultimately lost complete control.

Eating, or controlling my eating, thus became my way of managing the psychological distress, the grief, and the fear that I was experiencing. I became completely disconnected from my body and overwhelmed by my thoughts, leading to feeling hopeless and lost for such a long time.

Eventually, 3 years later, with the support of physicians, psychologists, social workers, nurses, dieticians and my family and friends, I was discharged from the hospital. However, the negative thoughts I had about my body and the struggle I had with food never really subsided, and every day was a battle against the destructive and distorted perceptions I had of my physical self. As you can imagine this lead me to feel more disconnected to my body than ever.

So what changed? The biggest influence on my recovery was my introduction to yoga. Disordered eating and thoughts of being ‘fat’, worthless or not enough are destructive, and for me, yoga has played a meaningful role in reviving my love for my body and myself just as I am.

Disordered eating is like a war against the body, and for me the practice of yoga played a role in reviving it. I am now able to listen to and respect my body, have confidence in myself, and feel empowered. My relationship with food is positive where I don’t restrict what I eat, diet or let food determine or control my sense of self-worth.

It was a long journey that was full of ups and downs, lots and lots of tears and lots of pain. However through the journey there was a lot of growth, learning and understanding of myself and who I am. Fully recovered now, I have a purpose. I have a purpose and have made a commitment to share yoga with those who are on their own recovery journey.

Don’t ever be too afraid to seek help when it doesn’t feel right. Whether your appreciation for yourself isn’t there or your relationship with food is a struggle. You deserve to live in place of joy with yourself, your body and with food – you’re too important not to.

Lauren is a social worker, yoga teacher & fitness instructor. Lauren is the co-founder of Love Body Yoga, a program in partnership with eating disorder treatment centre BodyMatters Australasia, that introduces yoga as a step on the journey to eating disorder recovery.
Lauren also teaches yoga at Yoga Sivana in Mosman & Heat Studios in Balgowlah and is a fitness instructor at Physicore Sydney.

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.

Nude, beaches, fun – AGAIN

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Well guys, I am back at it. I am getting naked…again !

The Sydney Skinny will be held on the 28th February 2016 at Cobblers Beach in Sydney, Australia!

You may remember when I did it in 2014….the test runs, and what it was like to stip bare and swim 900 metres with 1000 other nudies. 

It has been confirmed that I will be in the Nudie wave, which is led by Tim Dormer (Big Brother fame).

My interest in this swim is still on highlighting that despite our differences, we are all the same. And in our own way, we are all beautiful – cliche, I know I know, but it’s true. I recently saw an image of an 80 +  year old woman in a bikini; I couldn’t help but look at her lines and bumps in intricate detail. My nose was quite close to the screen of my mobile phone….Not what I would call traditionally beautiful but very unique and interesting. The surprise wore off and I started to appreciate the beauty in her body and spirit. To her husband, I bet she is a total fox, whose body has given him children and a lifetime of pleasure and comfort.

The other reason is to test myself. No matter how many times I get naked in front of a beach full of strangers, it tests my confidence. And like a muscle, the more we test the muscle, the bigger it grows.

And, it’s surprisingly fun. Simple, clean, fun. So, off I toddle to the naked beach !

I had committed to doing it last year, but due to personal reasons, I wasn’t able to complete it. Thankfully, life is full of second chances, so I am back at it!

Will you be joining me? I promise to not look….

* Image from The Sydney Skinny