This profile is part of Health’s #RealLifeStrong series, where we are celebrating women who represent strength, resilience, and grace.
Three years ago when Katie Sturino launched her blog, her goal was to provide fashion inspiration for women with similar body types to hers. The 12ish Style struck a chord: Today, Sturino has 225,000 followers on Instagram (if you haven’t seen her #SupersizeTheLook posts, you need to) and a new line of personal hygiene products that address realities—like under-boob sweat and thigh chafe—that the beauty industry tends to ignore. Here, Sturino talks about overcoming insecurities, loving the skin you’re in, and what she wants designers to know. (Check out her video profile above, too.)
When did you realize there was a need for The 12ish Style?
The Man Repeller team asked me to do a curvy style profile, and when it came out, so many women commented that they had never seen their own body type on a blog before. And they were right—you normally see plus-size women or a size zero. There was really no in between.
The article was about styling hacks I use, and the brands I shop. And the fact that I have to get dressed with hacks is a really weird way to think about clothes. Like, “How do I shimmy my way through this retail industry that isn’t actually trying to dress me?” In my opinion, that was the most interesting thing about starting the blog. The body positivity message came later.
What was your biggest struggle getting the blog off the ground?
Well, it was really awkward at first. It’s hard to find your own tempo about what you are going to share and what you are not going to share. It can also be difficult to determine what people are interested in, and what resonates with them. You especially don’t want to make people feel bad.
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How did you overcome that awkwardness?
It’s as Internet as it gets, but to be honest, it was the positive feedback. I had this “aha” moment when I saw women commenting, “this is my size!” I truly had forgotten that other women were my size. I forgot that I’m not the only woman shopping in the men’s department at Barneys. There are other people out there who are also trying to figure out how to exist in an industry that doesn’t welcome them.
The internet will tell you if what you are doing sucks. But I saw that people liked it—especially videos, and #SupersizeTheLook—so I kept giving them more of my personality and that’s what grew. These days, I constantly receive direct messages from women about their struggles and journeys. They tell me that I have helped them take a step in the right direction.
What is Megababe, and how does it tie into The 12ish Style?
Megababe is my message in a product. Thigh Rescue and Bust Dust are for women just like me who thought they were the only one who had to buy Gold Bond Men’s Stick to walk in a dress. I am trying to make women feel less alone about issues that are not niche. These are not issues just a few women have—women of all sizes have thigh chafe and boob sweat.
Last month you launched the #MakeMySize campaign. What inspired you to start that movement?
I had an online shopping order come in and nothing fit me. I’m a fashion blogger in New York City and I have a really tough time finding something to wear. And if I have a tough time, imagine how the regular woman who’s not a fashion blogger feels. I’m hoping that designers will take note and extend their sizes. And if they don’t already have plans to introduce extended sizing, I want them to see how many beautiful women they’re missing out on.
Have you always been confident and comfortable putting yourself out there?
I have always been confident, but I have not always been comfortable with my size or my body. When I first moved to New York City after college, I was working at a big fashion house and I felt inadequate every day. My clothes weren’t good enough, I didn’t have a boyfriend with a driver, I was too big to fit into the samples in the fashion closet so I had to wear the accessories. It was a real domino effect to a not-so-awesome cycle.
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How did you break that cycle?
As you move on in life, you realize that people are drawn to people who are genuine. I began to realize what is important, what’s real, and what makes you happy. I saw that I had things that a lot of people didn’t—a great personality, unique style, things you can’t buy. I started to see myself in a way that I had not seen myself since I moved to New York City.
What advice would you give someone who is struggling with self-image?
Put your confidence on first, and stop talking shit to yourself in the mirror. When you walk by the mirror after you have gotten dressed and feel deflated, cut that negative conversation short. Try to get out of your micro thought process and instead say, “I really love my dress. I’m happy that I am doing so well at my job that I can afford this dress.”
Also, don’t look at another person and think, “God, their life is perfect,” or “She looks so cute in those shorts—I wish I looked cute in those shorts.” Because then you go down the rabbit hole of thinking you would look better if you didn’t eat that sandwich or if you went to Pilates last night. Realize that every girl, even with all of her perfect physical attributes, has their own issues and insecurities too.
We want to hear more amazing stories about #RealLifeStrong women. Nominate yourself—or a friend or family member—here. We’ll be sharing the most inspiring stories we receive in the months ahead.