It Figures is Yahoo Life's body image series, delving into the journeys of influential and inspiring figures as they explore what body confidence, body neutrality and self-love mean to them.
Katie Sturino is one of countless body acceptance advocates using social media as a part of her platform to speak about the importance of size inclusivity and to represent trendy fashion sense on a plus-size body. But while the creator of The 12ish Style and author of Body Talk doesn't currently stand alone in her work, she's recognized as one of the first people to facilitate an online community of curvy women and to empower them to live their best lives.
From childhood, Sturino recalls feeling singled out because of her size as she shopped for women's clothing and was given a coach's uniform while playing on a youth soccer team.
"That really shaped the way I felt about my body. I didn't really belong because I couldn't shop where my peers shopped and I couldn't wear the same types of things because I just had a fully grown adult body," she tells Yahoo Life.
It began contributing to the belief that there were things she could and could not do merely because of her figure. Even where she saw her height as an advantage, Sturino thought of ways she'd have to shrink herself to fit traditional beauty standards.
"I tried to see modeling as like something that I could get into that my height could go to good use," she says, noting that she's 5' 11". "I'll starve myself and become model size and then that will be my solution," she recalls thinking.
But even as she got older and solidified her interest in fashion and styling, her options as a size 12-14 felt limited. "I just thought I was too big to be successful and to an extent at that time, I really was. Like things are very different than they were 2014 to now," she says, explaining that both representation in media and access to clothing as a curvy woman were difficult to find. "At that time when I realized that my body wasn't the problem, that it was me and my own insecurities holding myself back, that’s when everything changed for me."
While working in fashion PR, Sturino was tapped for a feature about seasonal trends and how to dress for summer with a curvy body. "For the first time I saw myself in an editorial sense out there being photographed," she says recalling the impact of the piece. "I read the comments of the readers and they were like, 'Wow, I've never seen myself represented on a fashion blog.' And again, this is 2014. So I was like, 'Wait, neither have I. What if I'm the person to do it?'"
The 12ish Style was born out of her interest in catering to mid-size women who hadn't yet been served by other accounts inspiring fashion looks among straight-size and plus-size women. "They didn't quite fit into the current mold of what was available," she says. Among a "bleak" social media landscape, however, Sturino says it was difficult to be a curvy woman on the internet and to be taken seriously as a fashion blogger.
"I think people in my friend and family group were embarrassed at first," she says of her early posting. "I still hadn't gone on my full discovery about my own body acceptance journey. It was hard because people still viewed it as something like, 'Oh, she is in this temporary body.' Or maybe I even thought that eventually you'll lose weight, and then I stopped feeling like that as I started to do the work."
What started as representation in the fashion space grew to something much bigger as Sturino garnered a community of empowered women. She herself began to look at ways to feel more at home in her body and ultimately used her growing platform to demand that the rest of the industry do their part.
Using the hashtag #supersizethelook, Sturino started recreating celebrity fashion looks to show women of all sizes that they could pull off all of the biggest trends by finding clothing that accommodated their figures. Her next movement #makemysize called attention to the brands that needed to make those pieces accessible.
She later went on to create her brand Megababe, which provides body care products that target "taboo" body issues like thigh chafing and boob sweat. She also hosts a podcast called Boob Sweat that addresses a number of topics that "women are afraid to talk about," but ultimately brings her community closer together.
"I can't believe that I get to be a part of someone's journey of self-acceptance in any way," she says. "It's really powerful."
It's through her relatability and her willingness to use her voice to discuss otherwise unspoken parts of a woman's lived experience that Sturino's platform has gone above and beyond its original mission. Today, she recognizes that it serves as a community for women of all sizes who experience a lot of the same insecurities when it comes to their bodies. In many ways, her community reflects the evolution of the body positivity movement as it encompasses acceptance and neutrality.
"At one point being called body positive was another way to say you were plus size. So I like that now people really understand that it's not about a size," she says, "it's about a mentality and that you have women who are a size 4 doing the same type of work and helping women accept their bodies because we need it."
As more people of all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life take to the internet to share their body image journeys and demand more acceptance, Sturino is hopeful that acceptance will come earlier for young people than it did for her.
"I feel like now, if I were a 16-year-old girl with access to social media, I would feel so good because I would be able to see hot, fashionable, successful, stylish women and examples of how to dress. And I certainly didn't have that at all," she says. "That means that more lives are being affected and it's not an anomaly. It's not just a handful of people doing it. I love that more people are doing it."
-Video produced by Stacy Jackman
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