Representation is an often talked about subject in media. Far too often are we pushed unrealistic depictions of men and women that perpetuate low self-esteem, negative body image and ostracization.
To fight this, we here at Oh! My Mag launched the #OurStories interview series, where we put a spotlight on people with unique stories in the hopes to amplify their voices and make sure their message reached the masses.
In our new episode of the series, we sat down with Sheffield-based Georgina Grogan, a multiple award-winning disabled plus-size fashion and beauty blogger. She is the founder of the site She Might Be Loved, which has been recognised by multiple publications for the work she's doing as an ambassador for the plus-sized fashion industry.
We love what Georgina stands for and thought she'd be the perfect person to sit down with for a (social-distanced) interview to talk about the current state of the plus-size fashion industry, as well as learn more about her unique story.
[The plus-size fashion industry] really needs a wake up call. Brands can’t keep using size 12 models to promote plus-size ranges, it doesn’t make sense.
For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, how would you describe yourself and what you do?
I’m a disabled plus size fashion and beauty blogger. I started blogging in 2013 and I’ve done everything from catwalks at plus size events, to being the face of plus ranges/companies, I’ve modelled, presented webshows, you name it! I had a car accident a year into blogging so I had to leave my retail job due to the pain I was in, so I tried freelancing with Blogging/Social Media and people have come on that journey with me. I still talk about fashion and beauty but now I talk a lot about being disabled, having chronic pain, coming to terms with using a wheelchair and thanks to Instagram Stories, I show the reality of day to day life.
What’s your day to day routine like?
I have Chronic Back Pain and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME which means no matter how much I sleep and rest, I never feel rested so my days are wildly different. I can go from being able to get up, sit at my desk, work away for a few hours, eat, nap, work some more, then going to bed to watch a movie before sleeping, to just staying in bed all day, eating in bed and mostly being asleep. The most frustrating part is I never know what kind of day it’ll be but I can mostly tell when I’m going to flare now so I have friends and family around who will help me with any work deadlines. Being able to work from myself and at home has been the best for my illness as it means I can answer emails in the bath or bed! It also means that if I have a big campaign on where I need to shoot, I can rest up as much beforehand as possible to save my energy.
Tell us about your path to self-acceptance.
It’s a never ending journey! When I first started blogging and found the world of plus-size bloggers I really came out of my shell. I had never been a shy person but it definitely made me more confident than ever. With my chronic pain, my body is always changing and that’s hard for me. Not just visible changes in my body from laying down so much, but physically not being able to do things for myself is hard. I’m always working on it and it really is down to other people sharing their lives and struggles that help me, I always say to my Instagram followers that they help me more than I help them!
What are the challenges that come along with CFS/ME? How does it affect your day-to-day life?
It’s really in the name of my condition, I am chronically fatigued. No matter what I’m doing I’m tired, I never feel rested. It makes it extremely hard to have fun or do things I enjoy. I have to plan my days out and I can only manage them once every few weeks. It’s depressing, I can’t sugar coat it and say I handle it really well and I’m living a full life because I’m not. I’m not managing but by sharing that, I’m helping others know that it’s okay to not be thriving. I help others by sharing my struggles, and that actually really does help me. It makes me feel not alone, it makes me happy that I help others feel not alone too.
How do you feel about the current state of the plus-size fashion industry?
Well, I have mostly been in pyjamas for the last 7 months but it’s an interesting question. If you would have asked me years ago I would have said it’s getting better and better, diversity is on the rise, there are more brands opening up, there are brands extending their sizes but currently? It’s bleak. Diversity is more of a tokenism rather than on the top of their list. They’ll just throw someone in so it’s not all white abled barely-plus people. Brands that have been opened for years still won’t consider widening their sizes, there seems to be less options to shop from than ever before, especially when you take ethics into consideration. Ethical buying is a whole other topic on its own. So yeah, it really needs a wake up call. Brands can’t keep using size 12 models to promote plus-size ranges, it doesn’t make sense.
What are your go-to brands? Are there any specific ones that you think deserve more attention?
Loud Bodies have just increased their sizing to a 10XL, I’ve only just had the pleasure of trying them out and it’s love at first try! Playful Promises continue to bring out the sexiest plus size lingerie with a great sizing range. Both of their social media accounts reflect their ethics and what they stand for, they’re so diverse and it’s so great to follow and have on your feed!
Is there any pressure that comes with being an ambassador for body positivity and acceptance?
Definitely, there’s an expectation to constantly be an activist but people don’t realise how incredibly draining it can be. All plus size bloggers/instagrammers/Influencers have done it at some point or are doing it right now. Having to make a statement about every headline, having to get involved in every debate, always feeling like they have to be the ones to call out any problematic behaviour in the community. It’s a lot of hard work and eventually we all get to the point where we have to pick our battles. We can’t fight and have a say on everything, it’s not good for our own mental health. You’ll have followers send you headlines and expect you to say something about it, but you really need to look after yourself. Activism is great but don’t let it consume and drain you.
Society has certainly been improving as of late in regards to acceptance, but for some, the stigma, unfortunately, remains. What do you have to say about it? Are we moving in the right direction?
I think the current climate has really brought out the worst in people. People with, I don’t want to say wrong, but old fashioned opinions aren’t keeping them to themselves anymore, they’re shouting them from rooftops and it’s really sad to see. Obviously online you’re in your own echo chamber which I know people can say is a bad thing, but honestly right now, it’s really comforting and feels like I’m protecting myself whilst online to be surrounded by people who are kind and considerate and think like me. It feels like so much is going in the right direction but sometimes it’s overshadowed by the negative headlines and stories. We really need to amplify anyone making moves and raising awareness, anyone who is spreading kindness and acceptance to drown out the negatives as much as possible.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
Definitely people around me, my mum helps daily with inspiration and ideas, keeping me motivated and pushing me even when I want to give up. On Instagram I call her ‘dance mum’ as a joke and everyone laughs at it. I really don’t know where I’d be without her, I’m lucky to have her around all day every day, even if we do joke that we won’t be friends for much longer whilst shielding!
How do you define empowerment?
I would say empowerment is finding and doing something that makes you feel amazing, something that makes you feel the best possible version of yourself.
What would you tell your younger self?
I would love to tell my younger self about the world today and how ‘curvy’ is taking over trends, I don’t think she’d believe me! I’d love to tell her not to listen to other people and live her best life, say yes more, do more things, make more friends and be happy.
What advice would you give to plus-sized girls that are looking to break into the fashion industry?
Just start posting! So many people overthink posting online but it really is just as easy as posting for the first time. You can change your names on social media later, you just have to start posting and make sure you actually enjoy it. If you start to see it as a chore straight away, you won’t truly like it!
Aside from what we can see on social media and your official site, what would you like people to know about you?
I really am an open book, you can find out pretty much everything about me online! I’m a really open and friendly person and I love helping others, so if there’s anything you want to know, pop into my DMs!
Are there any other people you’d like to shout out?
I actually have a highlight on my Instagram page for people who I recommend to follow but just to name two: Jennie Berry is absolutely hilarious and yet one of the best people I follow on social media for raising awareness on accessibility and disabled life. Michelle Hopewell for fashion, beauty, and activism! I learn so much from Michelle and she is truly a beautiful person inside and out.