We are all works in progress; even the successful women you see owning it on Instagram faced stumbling blocks along the way and continue to work hard to stay at the top of their game. In this series, we're sitting down with the people that inspire us to find out: How'd they do it? And what is success really like? This is "Getting There."
It wouldn't be hyperbole to call Katie Sturino a style icon and role model. She owns her own public relations company, hosts the "BoobSweat" podcast and founded MegaBabe, a beloved personal care company that sells products to deal with sweat and chafing. Now she's releasing her first book, "Body Talk," a how-to manual that helps people on their own journeys toward body acceptance. And while she's built a loyal fan base who follow her for body-positive fashion tips, beauty advice and more, she didn't start out feeling as confident as she does now.
Sturino spoke to TMRW about her progression from PR professional to social media maven and what advice she'd give her younger self.
TMRW: What was your very first job that led you to where you are now?
Katie Sturino: I got into public relations right out of school and that definitely put me in the fashion world. That's definitely where I wanted to be. I did start working for big, higher-profile luxury brands, and then I found that I actually really liked the work of public relations but I did not necessarily love the field, the environment or the way that people talked to each other. You know, I'm a nice Midwestern girl, it was a bit different for me I think. And that's when I started my own company.
TMRW: How did you want your company to be different from the industry you were working in?
Katie Sturino: I would say that I tried to treat everyone that I worked with like a human person, and I think that there are ways that you can help people learn without bringing or breaking them down. I think giving people feedback, both positive and negative, is really important, but I think it's much more about recognizing that you're working with a person who's on their own journey and that you're part of their journey. This is especially true now, when I have my own thing and my own brand and I work with women who may be with me for just a year, but I think it's important to help them figure out what they want to do on their journey and provide a positive experience in the meantime.
TMRW: As somebody who started in the fashion industry on that level, what has it been like becoming a fashion icon for women who aren't necessarily the size 0 or size 2 model that you see a lot of fashion brands putting out?
Katie Sturino: When you say the word "icon," that feels like that's for someone else; that it's not for me. And I think that's the way I feel about most of my stuff. I'm much more drawn toward the service role of this job versus the celebrity-like angle of my job.
TMRW: You've talked a lot about embracing body positivity. What has that journey looked like for you?
Katie Sturino: It's about normalizing that your body changes. My body has changed, even since I started my Instagram account. My body has changed and I think it's about accepting that change with a little bit more grace, and less judgement. For me, it's about kind of freeing up the mental headspace that takes up so much of our time, around the judgment and the tearing ourselves down that we do all the time, the thoughts that we're not good enough. Questioning this whole narrative that is so common for women has become a center part of my body acceptance.
TMRW: Speaking of tearing ourselves down, in your book "Body Talk" you talk a bit about the impact of the word "fat." Was there a moment where it felt like that word lost its power over you?
Katie Sturino: Ten years ago, if someone called me fat on the internet, I would want to throw my phone in the ocean and never log on again. Now, that's something I kind of see regularly and it doesn't impact me that way. I don't have that initial crushing feeling that I used to have, because that was the worst thing that you could call me. For many men and women, that is still the worst thing you can call them. You can call them a rude person, a bad person, anything, but don't call them fat. I think once that word lost its power, I stopped being scared of hearing it.
TMRW: You brought up people being insulting and cruel online. What impact do you think that's had on your own life when trying to have this message of body acceptance while also dealing with trolls and negative people online?
Katie Sturino: Well, I think if you're going to be on the internet, to a certain extent you have to accept that there are going to be rude people out there. That being said, I really do stay in my little corner of the internet, and if it weren't so positive where I am, maybe I would feel differently. But my DMs are mostly people telling me about their body journeys or asking where I got something.
That's what I love. I love interacting with people, with individual women, who are telling me about how their opinions about themselves have changed. That's really what I love to do, so I guess I don't deal with the negativity on the same scale that I deal with the positivity, so that's probably why I'm OK. I see people sometimes who get canceled or who get really bullied and read really bad comments all the time; that feels like it would be really hard to deal with.
TMRW: What has it been like starting the #SupersizeTheLook and #MakeMySize hashtags? What was the process behind them and what's it been like watching them grow in popularity?
Katie Sturino: I think it's cool to watch #SupersizeTheLook come together. I think it's a place where I draw outfit inspiration and it's a place for me to challenge my own style or aesthetic and wear something that I wouldn't have worn before, not because I didn't think I could wear it but more because I didn't think that was my style, and then I try it on. I love to resize the look from a fan perspective, and I think it's also something that is very popular with people because they like seeing the way that it comes together; they like seeing that both bodies can look good in a certain style.
The #MakeMySize stuff is when I go and try on clothes in the biggest size that the company makes just to show them how far away they are from fitting onto my personal body. And I think that that whole series is super interesting because it's fascinating to see how companies respond. Some companies engage in the dialogue, some companies ignore it, some companies reach out and say, 'Hey, we're in the middle of it, we're trying to do it, watch out, it's coming,' so I find it to be really interesting experience to see how brands are going to respond. I never try to take a brand down or boycott a brand or say, 'These people suck.' I think it really is more about just education.
TMRW: You've got quite the profile between your social media presence, book, brand, podcast and everything else you work on it. What is it like wearing so many different hats and juggling so much?
Katie Sturino: I guess it's a natural fit for my brain. For me, it feels more comfortable to jump around to different things, which is why starting a PR agency — I really loved that I could work with many different clients in one day, so that nothing was ever the same. You're always flipping between things and I like that it keeps it fresh.
TMRW: Your book is written more like a workbook, which really struck me. Why did you decide to go with that format instead of a more traditional book style?
Katie Sturino: I think that if you are just looking for inspiration or my story, you can get that in my Instagram. What I wanted to do was take the lessons that I've learned through my own body journey and turn them more into a kind of program that you can follow, with actual steps and homework to make progress on your own body journey, because that's the whole point. This isn't about me. This is about you, and women, and helping individual people get to a better place, and making an impact. That's what makes it all sustainable.
I think if I were someone who was just trying to be famous or have my photo taken or get on TV, it would be different. I don't think it would last. I think it feels empty. The important stuff for me, really, is ... talking to people about things that have happened to them. That's really what gives me energy.
TMRW: Say someone learns just one thing from the book. What would you want that to be?
Katie Sturino: Your body is not the problem.
TMRW: With all that you've done, with everything you've achieved in your career, is there any advice you would give to your younger self, seeing where you are now?
Katie Sturino: I wish I learned that lesson earlier, about your body not being the problem. I think I used to feel like I wasn't as successful or something because I was not the right size to be successful in fashion. I would say there's also an element of 'Why not you?' I think we look to people outside of ourselves to be the expert or the game-changer. I was like, 'God, there really should be someone out there showing women of a certain size how to dress or exploring different brands. I think that someone should do that.' And sometimes you miss the fact that it could just be you.