Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

The end of the year brings a time for reflection. And I have to admit that in the past, I have used this time to be hard on myself and get stuck feeling like I'm not doing enough to live up to my potential. I compared myself to others and I used that as a way to continue to feel stuck.

This year, I didn't wait until year's end to reflect on my goals. I wrote them down on paper and in my phone. I updated them regularly; crossing things off as I accomplished them, adding new goals and removing things that didn't align with my path anymore. I lived and breathed these goals throughout the whole year. I focused on myself and repeated this mantra over and over: what's not for you is not for you and what's for you, will be. Shifting my mindset also changed the course of the year. I aimed to reserve my energy for things that helped me grow. 

2017 was definitely the year that I decided fear was no longer going to hold me back and my actions showed it. I took a lot of risks on myself. I did things I never thought I could even a year earlier. I shoot a lot of shots. I didn't speak on anything publicly before it happened but I set intentions and I worked on manifesting them. Not everything worked out but even in failure, I grew simply by taking the risk to try. And looking back at the year I've had, I had more wins than losses. I am beyond amazed at what I was able to accomplish. 

 1. I did my first boudoir shoot & was exhibited in Italy! 

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Leaned Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

In honor of Valentine's Day, I teamed up with Cleveland photographer Amber Patrick to do my first ever boudoir shoot. At the time, I was single and I wanted to do the shoot as a way to express my own self love. I found the experience to be empowering. 

These photos ended up being exhibited internationally by ARC Cagliari, an LGBTQ+ organized based in Sardenia, Italy. These images and others were on display in a body positive exhibit during the three-day event focused on lesbian and queer culture. 

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Leaned Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

And I loved boudoir so much that I did my second boudoir shoot in New York with Boudoir by Nomi. Stay tuned to the New Year because I plan on taking this new found boudoir love to the next level! 

Best Moments 2017: Plus Size Boudoir

2. I was featured in a print publication as a blogger!

Best Moments 2017: FabUplus Blogger Feature

I've been freelance writing for magazines, newspapers and online publications since 2007 so the shininess of seeing my name in a byline for an article I've written has mostly worn off BUT being interviewed and featured as a blogger is still new for me. This March, I was featured in the body positive print publication FabUplus as the plus size blogger feature. I shot original images to express my personal style. Since this was my first time being featured for the work that I was doing rather than writing about someone else, walking into Barnes & Noble to pick up a copy definitely brought tears to my eyes. I've gone on to write for the magazine and am working now as an assistant editor!

Best Moments 2017: FabUplus Plus Size Blogger Feature

3. I Wrote Publicly About Living With Diabetes 

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Leaned Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes in 2016, my body love journey up until that point definitely helped me. But over the course of that first year, I went through a range of emotions and I learned a lot about myself and about the disease. I find writing to be healing and I decided that the one-year anniversary of diagnosis was going to be the time that I wrote about my journey. The response absolutely blew me away and all of the kind messages and requests for support that I have received since I first wrote this in March have truly shown me that life with diabetes is not a death sentence. 

4. Ready to Stare Jewelry Worn on NYLON Cover

Best Moments 2017: Gabby Sidibe Nylon Cover

When I first started Ready to Stare as a jewelry brand in 2012, it was always a goal to have a celebrity that I considered to be a style inspiration wear something from the brand. As I slowly pulled back from designing to blogging before that goal really happened, I made peace with the fact my celebrity moment didn't happen. And then I got a call to make jewelry for the cover of NYLON magazine. It was a call I had dreamed about getting for years. I prepared myself to send off the pieces and be told that they didn't end up making the shoot because this has happened countless times in the past five years.


Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

But much to my surprise, not only were the items I made used but the three layer gold chain necklace was featured on the cover with Gabby Sidibe, one of my celebrity favorites! Inside the spread, she wore the gold chain anklets layered. This moment was definitely a lesson for me that putting in the work matters even when you think people have all but forgotten that you started as a jewelry designer with a dream. 

Best Moments 2017: Gabby Sidibe and Ready to Stare

Bonus! I got to meet Gabby at NYFW and tell her what a big honor it was for her to wear my designs. 

5. I Went to the Torrid Pool Party

Best Moments 2017: Torrid's Plus Size Pool Party

Los Angeles was very good to me this year! I traveled there more than ever before. I shot a campaign with SWAK featuring sizes 20+ and did an empowering Lane Bryant swimwear shoot with Marcy Cruz that ended up in Glamour!

Best Moments 2017: SWAK's Extended Size Campaign

Best Moments 2017: Plus Size Swimwear

But my favorite part of my LA travels this year was the Torrid Pool Party! I got to meet so many of my plus size blogging peers in person for the first time and the vibe was totally positive. My image from the event ended up in People, Ravishly and Allure among others which was a bonus!

Best Moments 2017: Torrid Pool Party

6. I Traveled Back to Italy and Sicily

Best Moments 2017: Plus Size Travel Italy & Sicily

Back in 2015, I traveled to Sicily for the first time. When I studied abroad in Rome in 2008, I vowed not to travel to Sicily unless I was with my family and I made that happen two years ago. I connected with my relatives in Bagheria and Modica. I found a place where I felt like I belonged. Sicily felt like home and I couldn't wait to go back. This June, we flew into Naples and traveled to Positano and around the Amalfi Coast. We traveled to Capri by boat before a two-day stay in Sorrento. We visited Pompeii (shown above), Sant'Angella, Otatti, and stayed in a converted castle in Bovino before traveling to Sicily to see Taormina, Salina Island, Sant'Agata and end our trip in Aspra/Palermo.

Best Moments 2017: Plus Size Travel in Italy

With this trip, I have now been to every town that my great-grandparents lived in before they immigrated to the United States. I have seen three of the homes where they once lived. I have met four of the mayors of these towns and seen the birth certificates of my relatives. And most importantly, I met family who welcomed me into their homes like we've known each other forever. Connecting with my heritage in this way was a major lifetime goal, unlocked! 

7. I Helped Create Queer/Trans Inclusive Imagery

Best Moments 2017: Queer/Trans Inclusive Imagery

In June, Qwear and Bluestockings Boutique released their collaboration shoot  focused on visibility for queer/trans bodies not often seen in lingerie imagery. I was elated to asked to be a part of this collaboration as plus size bodies are often not shown in lingerie or queer images. This set was one of my absolute most favorites with immeasurable positivity. 

Rupi of Qwear writes, "This lingerie shoot conquers overpowering mainstream fashion norms as it turns us away from the male gaze and towards a revolutionary examination of queer fashion assembled at the intersection of race, gender, and body size."

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

 8. I was featured in a print editorial for SLiNK Magazine

Best Moments 2017: Plus Size Editorial Fashion

I never thought in a million years that I would be asked to create my own fashion editorial but I have certainly been prepping for this moment most of my life. UK-based SLiNK Magazine is the premiere plus size fashion magazine and having the chance to create my own multi-page editorial alongside fellow plus size babes photographer Amber Patrick and Makeup Artist Erin Thomas was truly life-changing! Check a big goal off the list! 

Best Moments 2017: Plus Size Editorial Fashion

9. The Big Fig Brand Ambassador at the TCF Style Expo

Best Moments 2017: Big Fig Mattress

It's not everyday that you get to represent one of your favorite brands at one of your favorite events and that's exactly what I got to do this year at the TCF Style Expo. Big Fig Mattress has absolutely transformed my sleep and I was so excited to represent them as their brand ambassador. Since Big Fig is an online brand, this was the first time that folks were able to test the mattress in person. I was happy to introduce so many curvy babes to the Big Fig Mattress. Catch my review here! 

Best Moments 2017: Big Fig Mattress

 10. I went to NYFW! 

Best Moments 2017: Ready to Stare at NYFW

The goal I've probably had longer than any other would be to attend New York Fashion Week. It's a goal that dates back to my first goal list created in middle school. I always knew I wanted to get there and this year I made it happen. I started by covering the Project Runway show for The Curvy Fashionista and over the course of the week I attended shows for Chromat, Addition Elle, Hakan Akkaya and Torrid.  In between shows, I was lucky enough to shoot with three of my blogger besties all wearing Fat Bitch tees and photographer Rochelle Brock captured it all (as well as the image above)! 

Best Moments 2017: Fat Bitch Tees

The week was full of photoshoots, laughs with friends, late-night dinners, brunches with brands and impromptu self love tattoos. There were some celebrity sightings. I fangirled often and I found out that Chrissy Metz is a fan of mine which is my mom's new favorite story to tell!

Best Moments 2017: Chrissy Metz and Ready to Stare

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

Plus, my friend Sabrina Servance and I even chilled with blogger extraordinare Necole Kane (formerly Necole Bitchie) at 29Rooms. I went home exhausted but this was one of the greatest weeks of my life.

Best Moments 2017: 29 Rooms

11. I Walked in dapperQ's Runway Show

Best Moments 2017: dapperQ NYFW Show

I thought it was exciting just sitting in the audience during a NYFW show but walking in one was a whole different kind of high. I was asked to walk for designer Audio Helkuik. DapperQ's annual runway show at the Brooklyn Museum is held in conjunction with NYFW and it was one of the largest LGBTQ NYFW events in history. The event received covered from Teen VogueNBC, Vanity Fair, NYLONThe Cut, Huffington Post, Top Knot, Page Six, Time OutBustle, and Yahoo NewsThe show was streamed live on Huffpost Queer Voices. I was truly honored to walk in this show and represent for plus size queer folks! 

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

12. I was in an advertisement for Dia&Co.

Best Moments 2017: Ready to Stare for Dia&Co.

During NYFW, I also attended theCURVYcon on behalf of Dia&Co. As part of representing their brand, I got to do my first editorial style photoshoot complete with stylists, manicurists, hair, makeup and even a wind machine. Much to my surprise, the images were used for national advertisements for Dia&Co. both online and in print!

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

13. I Was Featured in A Buzzfeed Video

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

September was really the best month of my life. At the end of the month, Buzzfeed's Top Knot published "30 Ways to Style A Little Black Dress" featuring yours truly among a 16 other babes of all sizes. The video received 591,000 views and more than 3,700 shares! 

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

14. I Had Three Midwest Speaking/Hosting Engagements

 Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

Starting with a keynote speaking engagement SecondHand Curves Con in Rockford the first weekend in October, I was booked for the month! I hosted a plus size styling event at the new ELOQUII store in Columbus which was so successful that I followed up in December with a second event. I spoke on a the fashion blogger panel at the Dream Big Curvy Girl Conference in October and I even worked in a trip to Palm Springs with friends in between. These events solidified me as a strong voice in the Midwest. 

 Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

 Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

 Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

15. I Came Out as Queer

 Best Moments 2017: Chicago Pride

If you're reading this list (which is chronological by date), you're probably thinking hello you were already very out by National Coming Out day in October. And trust me, I felt like my actions and moves very much aligned with my queer identity throughout 2017 but I hadn't written anything about my journey and a lot of people publicly still didn't know (or chose to ignore it). I decided to share my story on National Coming Out Day and I've never felt freer! 

 Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

16. I Celebrated My 30th Birthday in the Bahamas

Best Moments 2017: Plus Size Travel - The Bahamas

I wasn't one of those people who was dreading turning 30 but when the date approached in December, I started to have some feelings about it. I reminded myself that success is individual and that I never expected myself to have a white-picket fence life anyways. I decided to celebrate my accomplishments and all the fears I conquered with a cruise to the Bahamas with my best friend Kristen and she did everything possible to make it my best birthday yet. We went to Art Basel in Miami and spent my actual birthday on a private beach in the Bahamas. 

Best Moments 2017: Art Basel Miami

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

Best Moments 2017: Plus Size Travel Miami

17. I Fell in Love

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

If there's anything on this list that surprised me most, it's the fact that I fell in love this year. I started 2017 frustrated and cynical about love. I believe my 2017 New Year's Resolution was actually not to date and to use the time to focus on personal growth and development. I did that. But I also opened myself up to the idea of love. I read the book "Love Will Find You" at the suggestion of my business coach who noticed I had a limiting belief and I still struggled with not feeling worthy of love. So I decided to change what I had always told myself and start to believe that love (without settling) was possible for me. I didn't know when or how it was coming but I believed it was possible and then it came at the most unlikely of times.

I had just ended a short-lived relationship a few days prior that shook my confidence  when my mom dragged me to an LGBTQ networking event. I had resigned myself to dedicate another year to self exploration but instead, at this networking event of all places, I met a man who turned my world upside down. I spotted him across the room and I was drawn to his energy. We went out a few days later and have basically been inseparable ever since. Giovonni gave me the space to mend my broken heart but he showed me that he was there for me at the same time. He made me laugh. He challenged me to do better for myself and others. He celebrated my wins like they were his own. He helped show me what a love that is built on mutual respect, communication and care for each other's feelings really looks like. All of the work I've done on myself helped prepare me for this relationship and everyday I learn more about myself by being Giovonni's girlfriend.

Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Lean Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

 Best Moments 2017: 17 Times I Leaned Into my Fears and Turned My Dreams into Reality in 2017

 

Looking back, I cannot believe the year I had. I am going into 2018 with a heart full of gratitude, a mind full of ideas and a drive that cannot be matched! ARE YOU READY FOR IT?!