It's the last possible day that I can write a celebration post about all of the amazing things that happened for Ready to Stare and #StareStyle in 2015 and maybe you're wondering why it took me this long to do it. My BestNine2015 roundup was almost all bikini photos so that didn't seem to reflect the year I really had. 

It was a year of major growth and change for me and Ready to Stare and I definitely had my share of challenging moments. But I survived and in the end, thrived. This year alone, Ready To Stare released four original clothing collections, I started writing for Bustle and The Curvy Fashionista and #StareStyle started to get recognized as a plus size fashion player.

Personally, I feel like this year helped me to see my worth: as a designer, as a writer and as an active member of the plus size community. I've always struggled with feeling good enough. It's the reason why for the first two years of my business, I stayed behind the scenes. And while visibility as a fat person comes with its challenges, it's also been hugely rewarding and freeing. Here's a look back at some of the things that made 2015 the best. 

1. Models Size 22+ In ALL Lookbooks 

I have always been proud of Ready to Stare's lookbooks but this year, I focused on making the lookbooks representative of the customers that this brand serves as well as making a statement about fat visibility.  I made sure there was at least two models size 22+ in each lookbook. Our two-part Watch The Queen Conquer lookbook featured an epic NINE models sizes S-4X. And Bustle named our Thank You For Staring lookbook one of the 11 body positive shoots that made the world a more inclusive place. SCORE! 

2. My Writing Platform Grew

For those of y'all new here, I studied journalism in college and intended on being a fashion journalist before realizing that my heart was in design. I started freelance writing as a sophomore in college so by the time I graduated, I was pretty burned out and took a little hiatus before starting to write some for my blog in 2014. This year, I decided to start freelance writing again and was lucky to be hired on a contributing fashion and beauty writer for both Bustle and The Curvy Fashionista.

Two of my favorite Bustle pieces include "9 Ways To Be An Ally To Plus Size People When They're Fat Shamed," and "A History of the Words 'Fat' and 'Fatkini' In The Fashion Community And Why These Still Matter." I got to do a lot of really cool feature stories for The Curvy Fashionista and I even got to interview Project Runway winner Ashley Nell TiptonI am also very proud of the piece "Ten Models Size 18 and Up Who We Need To See Slay More Mainstream Campaigns" which was named one of TCF's top 15 posts from 2015

3. This Epic Mother's Day Post  

Blogger babe Chelsea aka TheChza said that this post that I did with my mom for Bustle around Mother's Day where we wore the same thing was her "fav Ready to Stare post ever" and I have to agree that it was pretty awesome. Since moving back home in late 2014, I've grown super close to my mom and because she's also an entrepreneur she often ends up taking a lot of my blog photos. The reason why this post was so fun was because I got to get my mom in front of the camera for a change and show why she's such a style/life/diva inspiration of mine.

4. My Nails Got Gaudier

I've loved nail art for years but when I left my beloved Spifster in Chicago, I never really clicked with anyone in Atlanta. I felt pretty hopeless about finding the perfect artist for me in Cleveland but only a few weeks after moving in late 2014, I got a recommendation to Autumn a.k.a GlamLife and she has made all of my gaudy nail dreams come true and fulfilled a few I didn't know I had. I got a cannoli painted on my nails, rhinestones UNDER my nails, and a real dollar bill encased on my nails. It was a pretty big year for my claws. Nail art is a major form of my self expression and hugely important to my personal style/aesthetic. Big thanks to Autumn for being so dope! 

5. Bikini #StareStyle Ruled 

I went from owning one bikini in 2014 to seven in 2015. Because I love traveling and hate being cold, swimwear has become a #StareStyle staple. Like I said earlier, many of my bikini photos ended up as my most liked photos on Instagram. But that wasn't the only place I made a splash (pun intended). My bikini photos were published in Curvy Connect Magazine, featured in Fat Girl Flow's viral post: We Exist: Diversity in Plus Bodies, included on Fatshion Peepshow's 101 Body Positive Bikini Babes roundup and got me named one of Plus Model Magazine's 10 Bloggers Taking To The Beach In Style

6. I Wore Pizza Box Shoes

Speaking of bikinis, this was one of my most liked photos on Instagram from 2015. And while I could credit my sunburnt banging bikini bod, I think it had to do with the epic story that went along with it. I will copy it here because the message is really great. It's definitely going in my book one day. 

So I have a funny/ fatspirational story that I've been meaning to tell y'all since it happened. On Sunday, @thereallexadale and I went to a water park just outside Atlanta. Because we didn't have water shoes, we left our shoes in a locker and pranced around in just our suits. This was all well and good until we made a wrong turn and ended up walking across a bridge that we thought was a shortcut. The concrete bridge was burning hot but we ran (okay she ran, I power walked) across to what turned out to be an exit to the park. The only way back into the park was across the fire bridge! I came up with the brilliant idea of tearing up cardboard from pizza boxes and tying them to my feet with the string from trash bags. It sounds crazy but it actually worked. I say this all to say you've never been stared at as a fat girl in a bikini until you've been stared at as a fat girl in a bikini wearing pizza box shoes!!! But shit if I was gonna burn my feet further! When we went to first aid later, the guy told us, "well you gotta look out for you." And that about sums up how I feel about other people's opinions on my life, health, clothes, etc. I'm not gonna make myself uncomfortable just to appease someone else's insecurities.

 7. New Website & #Staretique 

I started Ready to Stare on Etsy in early 2012 because I was way too nervous about driving my own traffic and that platform worked really well for Ready to Stare for a few years but by the beginning of 2015, I knew I had started to outgrow it. I made it my goal to switch Ready to Stare to its own stand-alone site and along with that, I decided to also curate a boutique, #Staretique, featuring other indie designers and brands AND release a new collection of RTS originals too. Well this ended up being a massive undertaking but once it finally happened, I had the website I had always envisioned for the brand and driving traffic didn't seem to be a problem after all.  

 8. Most Frequent Flyer Miles Ever

This year, I traveled to Phoenix in March and Chicago in April for trunk shows. I headed back to my old stomping grounds in Atlanta for a fashion show. I went on my first ever #Baecation in Pittsburgh in June. I made a pilgrimage to Sicily in July for the a live-changing heritage trip followed immediately by Chicago for Pitchfork Music Festival. In August, I headed back to Atlanta for the TCF Style Expo followed by Las Vegas for Magic Market Week. I went to Miami for the first time in September for another edition of #Baecation. And I ended the year in Chicago for the Eleven60 Pop Up Tour. It was a busy year of travel and in 2016, my goal is that this list gets even longer! Putting it out there that I would love to end up in New York and LA in the new year. 

9. I Conquered My Fear Of Lingerie

 

In June, I penned one of my emotional pieces to date on Bustle entitled "My Emotional To Wearing Lingerie and Why My Fears Had Nothing To Do With My Body Image." The journey I shared was extremely personal. The images featured myself in lingerie from Curvy Couture Intimates and the Nicki caged body chain. As a survivor of sexual violence and trauma, this was an extremely important moment for me. 

10. You Asked; We Made It

Custom jewelry/body chain pieces have always been a part of the Ready to Stare brand. It's part of the beauty of still being small and handmade. If your request featured chain in someway, we made it. From this simple custom belly chain for Britt to the most complicated face chain ever for Lindsey, Ready to Stare did it all this year. 

11. I Made Fat Babe Friends

Like I said, this year was extremely challenging for me and while my family and friends in Cleveland were super supportive, I was also lucky to have the support of fellow fat babes all around the globe who knew a little more intimately some of what I was going through with online bullying and fat shaming. There's few too many folks who I love to name them all but I gotta give a shoutout to Corissa from Fat Girl Flow (shown here twinning with me in IGIGI) and fellow Bustle writer Jodie Layne who named this her favorite #StareStyle look and also wrote about RTS

12. I Broke The Fat Internet

By far my favorite Ready to Stare moment of this year was the cupcake dress controversy. The reason why this is my favorite moment is because it was the perfect combination of design, fashion, activism, challenging norms and fat visibility. It was the perfect storm of everything I am trying to accomplish. And while all of the criticism wasn't always easy to read, it was an absolutely necessary discussion for the plus size fashion community and proud to have sparked it. I definitely couldn't have survived it though without the support of my fellow fat babes who supported me. 

 13. I Wore Rompers, Jumpsuits & Shorts

And killed each one, duh. 

14. Ready To Stare & I Got Illustrated

I am such a huge fan of plus size fashion illustrators and I was lucky enough to be captured by uber-talented artists Jonquel Norwood and MurderOfGoths this year multiple times both as a blogger and as a designer!

15. ALL OF YOU! 

Most importantly, this year was epic thanks to all of you! If you bought something from Ready to Stare, liked a photo, retweeted me, sent an encouraging e-mail, left a positive review, shared a story I wrote, read this blog, or did all of the above, I want to say that I appreciate you. You are what energizes me as a writer, designer, and activist. When shit gets me down, you are what makes me keep pushing.

Here's to an amazing 2016 for all of us full of personal fulfillment, body positivity, fat visibility and of course not giving a fuck about fashion rules. 

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOOXOXOOXOOXOXOXOXO