'Sick of it': Gympie plus-sized blogger defies ideals
MELISSA Walker Horn's blog is built on courage where none should be required.
After all, in her own words: "We're talking about a singlet, not being dropped into a war zone."
The Gympie woman is the founder and face of Suger Coat It, a plus-sized fashion and lifestyle blog that serves as a how-to guide for gaining confidence regardless of body shape.
It all started as a personal hobby seven years ago, but morphed into a style blog featuring Ms Walker Horn in her latest outfits.
"As a natural progression to that, people would be like, 'Oh, I'd never have the confidence to wear that, I wouldn't do that, I'm not brave enough to do that," Ms Walker Horn said.
And so her refusal to hide away as a plus-sized woman became the blog's greatest strength.
The website has more than 2000 subscribers, attracts about 40,000 page views every month, and Ms Walker Horn's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest accounts have more than 10,000 followers each.
"I think it's just that I'm not afraid to put myself out there," Ms Walker Horn said.
"I love to write, so I wasn't afraid to write about the topic that everyone talks about.
"No-one really wants to stand up and say "yeah, okay, this happens to me and it's not right".
Ms Walker Horn has since been accused of "glorifying obesity" for encouraging others to love their own bodies.
"Basically now I'm force-feeding people to make them fat too," she joked.
"It's just part of how ingrained this fat-phobia is, it's like, 'Please don't be on there telling people they don't have to be miserable their entire life.'"
She stressed that her message wasn't about "not trying" to be healthy, but more about accepting they will never be perfect.
That conviction comes after Ms Walker Horn struggled with body-image issues since her youth.
She said while her family were supportive, she grew up in the "waist generation", when waifish women were in vogue.
"It was the exact opposite of everything I was, so of course I struggled," she said.
But her ability to be "arrogant" eventually let her reject the image expected of her.
"I'm not always going to listen to someone when they tell me what I should and shouldn't do," Ms Walker Horn said.
"I'm staving myself, and instead of enjoying the exercise I do, I do it to count points.
"This isn't right, this isn't the way to live a life.
"I think I just got sick of it."
She still felt the pressure when it came time for family photos and her wedding.
"There was this idea of what I should look like when I get married, like I should definitely have been thinner if you ask people," Ms Walker Horn said.
"I'm stubborn. Ultimately I just said, 'I'm not going to pay attention to what you want any more.'"
"I'm better for it."
She applied the same attitude in her blog title, originally misspelling "sugar" when she set up the blog and eventually deciding she preferred the erroneous spelling.
"No one else had it, it still got the point across and it was unique," she said.
"A girlfriend of mine laughed so hard at that story that she decided she'd start calling me Suger."
Ms Walker Horn runs body confidence courses through her blog, and says the first step to gaining confidence is simple but takes work.
"The first thing I always open up the courses with is that you just have to question every idea that you have about your body or other people's bodies, or what beauty looks like, or what sexy looks like, or what good looking looks like," Ms Walker Horn said.
"All these are just standards and ideals that change over time, but they're so ingrained in ourselves that we forget that they're not actually real, and for most of us, we're not actually going to live up to that.
"But giving all [those ideals] up will change your experience of life."
Suger Social is Ms Walker Horn's social media consultancy, and she runs local workshops while keeping a part-time job at SkillCentred.
She has previously worked as a property manager and real estate agent.
"Blogging's definitely been my longest-standing career," she laughed.
Her advice to new bloggers was to be tenacious, no matter how little people seem to care.
After all, it took years for Suger Coat It to gain recognition.
"A lot of people expect to get in and be one of those overnight successes - which I'll keep my fingers crossed for them, because it happens, it's the internet - but it's the exception rather than the rule," she said.
"Find something that you love, start talking about that and start sharing that.
"Just start reaching out to people who have the same interests as you do, and start forming yourself a little community, because that's what it's all about."