It is, by now, folk wisdom on the Internet: Never read the comments beneath a news article. They can be filled with sexism, racism, cruel mockery and ad hominem attacks. Avoid them at all costs — especially if the article is about you, or you’re a woman, or you don’t fit a very narrow range of acceptable body types.
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Katie Sturino ignored that advice. She doesn’t regret it. In fact, she credits it with inspiring her aha moment.
Four years ago, after being the subject of an article about personal style and “how to get dressed as a curvy woman,” Sturino took in readers’ reactions and was surprised by what she saw.
“I read the comments of women, and they said, ‘Oh, my god, I’ve never seen my body on a fashion blog.’ ‘Oh, my god, I’m a size 14, and I didn’t think I could wear shorts,” Sturino said in an interview for POLITICO’s Women Rule podcast. “It was this thing where I realized that it was my job, this was — I was being called to this.”
Since that realization, Sturino has become the serial entrepreneur behind a small style empire that focuses on the women who are often ignored by the fashion industry.
“I think that there’s this misconception with designers, where you’ve got 12 people sitting around a boardroom, none of them are over a size six, and they’re like, ‘We’re dressing all women,’” said Sturino. “That is how they think.”
Sturino wants them to think again.
She’s perhaps best known as the blogger behind “The 12ish Style,” a site dedicated to exploring the world of fashion through the eyes of women whose clothes are somewhere between a size 12-18, a “weird size purgatory,” in Sturino’s words.
At first, Sturino was uncomfortable with offering herself up in such a vulnerable and public way. But eventually, she overcame those qualms, made the site a success and built herself into an Instagram star with hundreds of thousands of followers.
“If you are trying to put yourself out there, just realize that no one cares as much as you think they do, and it’s okay,” said Sturino. “That is the hack: It’s just to look around and say, ‘Oh. Actually, no one is looking at my body at this pool to see that I haven’t lost this seven pounds I’ve been stressing about all year.’ Like, no one actually cares, and no one’s noticing that, so why are you putting yourself through that stress?”
Recently, she’s branched out with her own line of personal-care products, Megababe. When she founded the company two years ago with her sister and best friend, it was with a very specific purpose: Offer the types of products that women want and need, but which are ignored by the fashion industry or considered taboo.
First among those offerings: an anti-thigh-chafing stick. “I wanted [women] to feel like there was nothing shameful about having this very normal thing that women have that men have, too, that people just don’t talk about,” said Sturino.
That desire to talk about the topics others ignore but deal with on a daily basis led Sturino to become a major advocate of the #MakeMySize movement, pushing major fashion labels to be more inclusive in the sizes they offer.
“Since I got a divorce, I’ve gained 60 pounds, so my size has fluctuated,” explained Sturino. “Which opened my eyes up to the fact that, ‘Oh, my god, the average woman in America is a size 16, and this is how she gets dressed?’”
She hopes that eventually, fashion designers will have their own aha moment. And if hers are the comments that inspire it, that’s all for the better.
To hear more from Katie Sturino — including the Instagram star’s advice for using social media — listen to the full podcast here. Women Rule takes listeners backstage with female bosses for real talk on how they made it and what advice they have for women looking to lead.