Lisa Schoenberger on the Importance of REAL Fashion Inclusivity and The BodCon 2022
Lisa Schoenberger (@mustangsallytwo) is a plus-size fashion blogger, influencer and advocate for size inclusion, representation and body diversity, encouraging us all to celebrate our body, no matter what size and shape we are.
And this month, Lisa will also be among the incredible panelists at The BodCon 2022, a virtual conference about body confidence and self-acceptance. The conference will be held this year on Feb. 27 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and will also feature speakers including Bri Scalesse, Clara Dao, Alexandra Stewart, Michele Selene Ang and so many more, with Lisa appearing on the Body Confidence & The Workplace panel. Ahead of the big day, we got the chance to chat with Lisa about her own body acceptance journey, becoming an influencer and what it really means for fashion to be size-inclusive.
Sweety High: What inspired you to become an influencer focused on size inclusion, representation and body diversity?
Lisa Schoenberger: When I first started out, my motivation was that there was a lack of representation of plus-size influencers who were a size 26 or larger and I wanted to show that no matter what your size was that you could look and feel great. It has evolved over the years to more of a focus on size inclusion and body diversity because you still see in the plus size fashion space one type of body and models and influencers of smaller sizes in the size range, so I wanted to represent those women who still don't feel seen even within the plus space. Now that straight-size brands are expanding their size ranges to include plus sizes, they often only go up to 3X. That is not inclusive, and I don't believe in using language that implies you are inclusive when you're not. And that is just not for sizing. The word inclusive has been watered down and hijacked by brands as a buzzword to attract the attention of consumers who have long been ignored.
(Photo credit: LivePixels Photography)
SH: What type of audience do you hope to reach with your content, and what do you hope they learn from it?
LS: As a creator in her 40s, I want to reach women of all ages who have ever felt they were less than because of their size or their body type or any other reason that makes them feel that they aren't deserving. I want them to know that they are deserving of anything that they want in their life and that they are worthy of love, a career, a family (if they want it), etc. I want them to know that they can love their body regardless of their size or where they are in their journey as our bodies change throughout our lifetime, and that's okay. There is not one standard of beauty, and we all deserve to be celebrated. I also want anyone who suffers from a disability or invisible disability, which I have, or mental health issues, like me, to know they are also worthy and that it's okay to have a disability, it's okay to have a mental illness. It doesn't mean that you can't have a fulfilling and wonderful life. I share the good and the bad days so I hope they know they are not alone.
SH: What was your own journey to accepting your body? What advice do you have for others to accept their bodies, no matter what size and shape?
SH: I hated myself until I was 40 years old because I was convinced that the answer to everything was being thin. In 2012, after years of extreme dieting, I had lap band surgery and suffered complications and then gained the weight back. At that point, I realized that it was time to stop hating myself and start living my life because I wasn't living my life—all I did was work because my career was the one thing that I was good at. Learning to accept your body is a journey that is constant. You are always going to have good and bad days, and that's okay because our relationship with our bodies is complicated. I always say that you should learn to reframe the way that you think about your body by starting with things that you like about it and re-focusing your thoughts on the positive as opposed to always focussing on the negative. Wear clothes that fit you and don't worry about the size on the tag. Have fun with fashion. Fashion itself is a form of self-expression. Be kind to yourself because we live in a world where we are constantly judged for how we look, but the more that we try to see ourselves beyond our bodies, the easier it is to love them.
(Photo credit: Rebecca Northcott Photography)
SH: Why is it so important for fashion brands to be size-inclusive, and not leave anyone out?
LS: Because we all need clothes and 67% of the population is size 14 and up in North America, so it's not only important as a social movement, but it also just makes good business sense for any fashion brand to be inclusive. I advocate for those of us who are size 26 and up because brands either don't make our size or their whole plus size range is not a true plus-size fit. You really have to understand what it is to make clothes for plus-size women and the nuances that come with sizing. You simply can't just grade a size 2 up to a size 28. Plus-size bodies have different needs. Brands need to educate themselves on what it is to be inclusive and this isn't just about sizing. It's about people who have disabilities that require adjustments to their clothing. It's about people who are petite. It's about people who are not your cookie-cutter ideal that we think fashion belongs to because fashion belongs to everyone. And if you want to use the word inclusive in your marketing, then I expect to see an inclusive size range (at least a 5x/32), and if you don't want to, then simply don't use the words, because words matter.
SH: What's the most important lesson you've learned over the course of putting yourself out there and sharing your message with the world?
LS: I think the biggest thing I have learned is that I am not alone. The majority of us have grown up with negative body image regardless of our size. When I first started, I focussed on fashion and I didn't necessarily share a lot of my personal life, but I realized that I had more to say and that my community wanted to hear it all. So I started to share the good, the bad and the ugly. It's been a really freeing experience to know that you can share all of yourself and at the same time inspire others. I wish that I had role models who looked like me growing up and my hope is to be one of those people for the current generation.
SH: What advice do you have for dealing with negativity and hate, especially online, about the way you look?
LS: The popularity of social media has been amazing for connecting people and creating a community as we've never seen before, but there is also the double-edged sword of experiencing unwanted judgment and hate. Unfortunately, it's easy to be negative and hurtful behind a keyboard, especially at my size. What I have learned is that the hate doesn't come from seeing my body specifically, but it comes from within the person who is sharing the hate, and so I try to disassociate that it is specific to me, which admittedly can be hard. But at the end of the day, I always say that it doesn't cost anything to be kind, and you need to remember that there are still many, many women, especially of a certain age, who are learning to love themselves, because, like me, they were told to hate themselves their entire lives and are still in that same negative environment. You can only control what you can control, so do be careful with who you invite into your community. Don't be afraid to set boundaries with people. Don't be afraid to unfollow people who make you feel bad about yourself. It's okay to make your profile private if you want to, to limit comments, to not allow certain set trigger words, etc. And ultimately, if you need to take a break from social media, then take a break.
(Photo credit: LivePixels Photography)
SH: How excited are you to be invited to be involved with The BodCon 2022? What perspective do you hope to bring to the table?
LS: I am so excited to be a part of BodCon 2022! Last year was such an amazing experience and I'm looking forward to an even better one this year. I'm really excited to bring perspective about the workplace and fatphobia because I think it's a topic that a lot of us experience. but we don't talk about it. And as always, I love to share my perspective about living in a larger body, having a 22-plus year career as a CPA, CA and being a woman in her 40s.
For more on the discussion of body confidence and self-acceptance, click HERE to read our interview with fellow The BodCon 2022 speaker Michele Selene Ang.