Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Behind the Scenes With BoPo Babes: ReadyToStare

Welcome to my new blog series! I will be going behind the selfie sticks, tripods, and self timers with some of my favorite body positive babes. I suspect if they're not your favorites yet, they will be soon!

Alysse Dalessandro aka @readytostare is a force in the plus size community. She self identifies as “a size inclusive designer, fashion and beauty writer, body positive advocate, plus size fashion blogger, professional speaker, and all-around loudmouth.” She is also the entrepreneur behind the Ready To Stare brand which was one of the first to design plus size body chains. The online boutique now includes jewelry, t-shirts, and other fashion accessories.

According to their website, “Ready to Stare believes in fashion as an act of empowerment and the name itself was inspired by designer Alysse Dalessandro's own experience being fat shamed, harassed, cat-called and bullied for the way she dressed.” Also featured on their website is a blog where Alysse shares look books ranging from daring to easily wearable every day outfits.

No matter what social media account of Alysse’s you browse you will find one underlying theme – unapologetic fierceness lined with positivity. After starting her brand, she realized quickly how much she could affect people just by being herself.

“I started posting selfies when a friend told me that my business was suffering because I wasn't infusing any of myself into it. I was really afraid of my visibility for a long time and posting selfies was so scary for me. Having that outside voice believe in me and tell me that I could do it really helped.”

She started to establish herself as a trusted voice in plus size fashion and body positivity in early 2014. She not only speaks out about body positive issues on her personal sites, but writes for Bustle, The Curvy Fashionista, On The Plus Side & more. She says bloggers like Tiffany of The Fat Shopaholic, Essie Golden, GabiFresh and Jessica Luxury really helped (encourage her visibility) too.

Now, with over 48,300 followers on Instagram she is one of the most visible plus size voices out there. Of course with so many eyes on you, there is bound to be some negativity. Online haters are easy for her to handle as she employs the “read, delete, block, and move on” technique.

In her day to day, dressing loudly and not hiding her body she receives more in her face comments – literally. “I receive hateful comments all the time about the way I dress. People have been rolling down their windows of their car to scream hateful things at me while I am simply existing and thriving in my fat body for years. I refuse to hide my body and that bothers people online and IRL. It makes me sad that someone is that uncomfortable by seeing a confident fat girl that they go through all that effort to try and bring her down but I'm glad I'm not that kind of hateful person.” And even though her desire is to shake it off and let it go, it still affects her from time to time.

“Every once and a while depending on how I am feeling that day or the nature of the attack, I will still get affected by it. I'm a sexual assault survivor and so some comments trigger me more than others. If you want to call me land whale, it's whatever to me but when some leaves a comment that makes me feel threatened or as if they feel entitled to my body, that still shakes me.”

When she needs to take a break and perform some self care, she turns toward family and friends, but also the camera. “I take a lot of selfies! Selfies are a form of self care so when I feel bad, I put on a look that I love, try out some new lipstick and take a selfie. Even if I don't share it, I am reminded of how far I have come in my self love journey and whatever I am going through that day doesn't seem quite as big anymore.” As a formidable body advocate she finds that she doesn’t have as many bad days specific to her body anymore; however, that doesn’t mean her life is without any problems.
“I have more bad mental health days than I have bad body days at this point but my process is the same. As someone living with anxiety, it's really important for me to zoom out sometimes and to step away from a situation before reacting with anger. I am learning and growing everyday but I still struggle with this.”

If you’re starting your body positive journey her advice is to seek alternative narratives. “I think that imagery is really powerful. If you only look at the images you see on TV or in magazines, it's easy to look at your own body and feel like you don't measure up. That's part of what I try to do as a blogger and as a designer: create the inclusive imagery that I needed growing up so that another plus size teen doesn't have to grow up hating her body the way that I did.”

Offline, of course is tougher. “I think it can be a challenge to build community offline especially depending on where you live but I think you can look up events, plan your travel around and see what resources are available to you locally. I attend a local body positive circle where we get together monthly to talk about different issues. We've talked about plus size dating, weight neutral fitness and mindfulness.”

She also advises to use your knowledge to inspire self love in others as a good way to keep your mind in the best positive place. “I challenge my family and friends IRL to re-think the way that they talk about their own bodies and the bodies of others in the same way I challenge people online.” When we change the conversations not only in our heads, but in our everyday lives it can really change your outlook on life. “I always tell people that self love starts by changing the way you talk and think about yourself. You have to be kind to yourself. Recognize that self love is a journey and a process.”

Lightning Round

What’s a movie that never gets old?

  • Cool Runnings - I watched that movie a lot as a kid and now when I am feeling counted out, I watch that and get inspired. It reminds me that you can't emulate someone else's success because you win just by being you. 

What’s a book you could read repeatedly?

  • Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker

Favorite ice cream?

  • Cherry ice cream slush from Sonic - I actually prefer sno-cones to ice cream so this is the best of both worlds. 

Favorite brick and mortar store?

  • In Cleveland, I love Re/Dress and I feel extremely lucky to live close to this amazing body positive space. In Chicago, I love BLAIR and Fashionable Addictions. They have both been with me since the beginning of Ready to Stare. In terms of big box stores, I go to Fashion to Figure every time I am back in Atlanta. 

Favorite online store?

  • I love Chubby Cartwheels when it comes to indie designers. For a mainstream brand, I am obsessed with ELOQUII. 

Do you have any hobbies?

  • The funny is that I have SUCH a hard time answering that question because fashion/bopo/blogging are not only that big of a part of my life but I really genuinely want to be doing this more than anything else. If I had to pick one other favorite thing, it would definitely have to be travel. I am pretty adventurous and I crave change so traveling helps me meet those needs. And these days, I find myself traveling about every other month. I am really lucky to be able to do this. Plus, I love to put together a travel look! 

If you were able to throw an over the top party for your birthday a la My Super Sweet 16, what would the theme be?

  • I am so over-the-top that I have thought about this a lot actually. I love my birthday. I think the theme would be like Italian gaudy decadence. Like I want people to come dripping in gold and Versace. And I want to come in on a ornate gold carriage and shit. 

Until Next Time,
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