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Love Yourself

BODY POSITIVITY AND MORE FROM KATIE STURINO

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Katie Sturino is an entrepreneur, author, and body acceptance advocate who uses her voice and personal style to raise awareness for size inclusivity. She’s the founder of MEGABABE, an innovative beauty brand offering non-toxic, solution-oriented products that allow people to feel more comfortable and confident in their own skin. She hosts “BOOB SWEAT,” a podcast that tackles “taboo” topics such as dating in your 30s, botox, and divorce. Her recent release, “Body Talk,” is an illustrated workbook that deals with the fact that women everywhere, through no fault of their own, have bad relationships with their bodies. Katie’s content series #SuperSizeTheLook and #MakeMySize reach millions and earned her global media recognition.

MY: You started a company, MEGABABE, that addresses topics and makes products for issues that large sectors of the population prefer to ignore. Why was it important to you to stand up and do this?

Katie Sturino: It was important to me to shine a light on things in the beauty industry that people weren’t talking about. I realized how much shame women were feeling about very normal body functions like thigh chafing and boob sweat. And the fact that big beauty wasn’t covering those problems meant that I had an opportunity to really help people feel good and normal and not feel so much shame about the way their bodies work.

MY: What hurdles did you face bringing up these topics?

KS: A lot! The manufacturing side of the beauty industry is very male-dominated. We had calls with men who said things like, “I don’t think this is a thing,” or “My wife doesn’t have that.” I knew it was so wrong and that we needed to make a change. Especially the assumption that just because their wives don’t talk about it means they don’t experience it.

MY: What companies received you well, where did you get your breakthroughs?

KS: Ulta and Target took the biggest chance on us. They put us full-chain, meaning in every single store. We were a new brand and had been shipping out of my parent’s garage, and they put our products across the entire country. That was huge for us.

MY: And how about when it comes to what we eat? It’s become so unfortunately commonplace that food guilt is a thing, to feel like, “I ate french fries and now I have to go for a five mile run.” How do you stop that?

KS: It depends on where you are in your personal food journey. Eating disorders come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and ways of speaking. I don’t know the answer to that. One thing I do is I prevent people in my circle of friends from talking like that. That’s something that I can control in my own life. The food thing is really hard. There’s not a clear answer. I’ve talked openly about my struggles of hitting diet rock bottom.

MY: Talk about diet rock bottom. What do you mean by that?

KS: I had an expert on my podcast talking about the relationships that we have with food, and I told her, “I feel good and I don’t eat crazy, I could definitely nourish my body better, but the thought of getting on any regulated program, I won’t do it.” And she said, “You hit diet rock bottom, when you just will not go on another diet.” That was a place I didn’t know existed. And I hit that point and I’m still here. The next step for me is figuring out what my day-to-day eating could look like to optimize my health. Everybody wants to eat “healthier,” but we have to deconstruct what that means individually. We tell ourselves the cookie’s “bad,” the carrot’s “good,” we say no to something we’ve labeled bad and then we crave it. It takes up way too much headspace for people. It no longer takes up headspace for me. That’s diet rock bottom.

MY: We can now see many different body types from mainstream retailers represented in catalogs and online. What else does the clothing industry need to do to move forward?

KS: It’s easy to point out what’s missing and what’s wrong with the fashion industry, but when I started my site in 2014 I couldn’t find clothes in a size 12 or 14 in every store. Now that’s pretty standard. The extended sizes that you can find online are more accessible. Body diversity, being able to see clothes on models of different sizes, this wasn’t happening 10 years ago. Diversity in mannequins and storefronts is very important, it signals to people that they can come in and shop, that they’re welcome in your store. Brands need to give extended sizing a chance if they’ve recently launched it. This is a customer that has been told for a long time that they can’t shop here, and they need some time to learn to trust you. It’s better to deal with people upfront, even in the store window, let people know exactly what sizes you have in store, and what’s found only online. Some stores secretly stock extended sizes but don’t tell anyone about it, and then they decide there’s no market for it because it failed to sell.

MY: With models like Ashley Graham and Precious Lee showing up regularly on magazine covers and runways, do you think the high fashion industry is heading in the right direction as far as fashion for all sizes? What else does the industry need to do to keep the forward momentum going?

KS: The high fashion industry has been making clothing in extended sizes much longer than conventional retail has. Carolina Herrera’s highest spending client was a size 16-18 recently. Valentino was making up to a size 18 at least 20 years ago. Even Channel was dressing a woman of size. High fashion might be one of the last holdouts as far as size representation, but there’s a disconnect between what we’re seeing on the runway and who’s actually wearing these clothes.

Even some contemporary brands refuse to acknowledge that the industry is changing. I think that’s because the old thought pattern is based on exclusion; they don’t want everyone to be included. I don’t know how to change that other than those people sort of die out.

MY: Do you think that women in high level positions within the fashion industry are going to help change that? Are women more accepting of the body positive movement than men are?

KS: Yes, it’s all about experience. The more diversity we have in the room where decisions are made, the more points of view we have, the better. I can make assumptions about what men want to wear, but I don’t really know, because I’m not a man who talks to other men about that sort of thing. Wouldn’t it be better to have someone in the room with firsthand knowledge? Someone who can speak to that experience? Women want to see themselves in the campaign, on the TV. Hollywood is one industry that’s been slow to embrace body diversity, such as women who are main characters that are big but the whole plot doesn’t revolve around size.

I watched Lizzo’s SNL performance from December, and she was wearing a high cut dress, and I was like, “Wow.” She had some cellulite, and her leg looked beautiful. I couldn’t believe I was seeing someone who was so glamorous and so gorgeous and bigger in this role. It was a special moment.

MY: You’ve talked about your experience having Ramsay Hunt syndrome and being treated like nothing was wrong because doctors couldn’t see the symptoms. What wisdom can you share with others feeling marginalized when dealing with “invisible illnesses”?

KS: Doctors have said crazy things to me, I would guess that every woman has had a similar experience. We’re so often ignored when we walk in based on the fact that we’re female. I had a doctor tell me that I just seemed like a high strung New Yorker after I’d just gone through the RH ordeal, he was laughing at my questions. I also think that women are used to being in pain. I’ve had two IUDs put in and both times I was told to take Advil. This is an extremely painful experience.

When I got Ramsay Hunt, I kept showing up and going to the doctor and saying “something’s not right,” but I had to have the experience of my face falling for them to take me seriously. That was really frustrating. For me it took a week, but for some people it can take years to be acknowledged. Being comfortable and confident in your own skin is an important part of being comfortable advocating for yourself. If you recognize your own worth you believe you’re worth fighting for, rather than being told that your opinion doesn’t matter. You stop putting all of your trust in people and you become the expert of your own body.

MY: What are your thoughts on the way that we as women tend to view our own bodies versus the way we view other people’s bodies?

KS: I used to be under the impression that as soon as you become a size two or a size zero, your life will be perfect. But as soon as I started talking to other women about their experiences and hearing about how unhappy they are, that really opened my eyes that there’s no destination to size. I was looking at other women in that size range and I thought that they had it all together, and as soon as I peeked behind that curtain and realized that wasn’t true, that was really powerful. Accepting and loving your body is a mindset. We look at other people and think they must be happy with their bodies, because we assume we’d be happy if we were that size, but it’s not true. I’m a size 20 and women who are half my size come up to me and say that they wish they had my confidence. It’s eye opening to realize that women that are a size two stand in front of the mirror and say the same things to themselves that a woman who’s a size 16 does.

Katie Sturino

An illustrated guide-meets-workbook on how to embrace your body and start living your best life.

Check out Katie’s #SuperSizeTheLook on Instagram @katiesturino and keep up with the latest Megababe releases @megababe and megababebeauty.com.

Photography: Jamie Magnifico

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Katie Sturino

Entrepreneur, Author, and Body Acceptance Advocate