'I'm a Plus-Size Fashion Influencer'

It's quite a thing to love something so deeply that you know may never really love you back. It all started when I was a starry-eyed little girl, hoping to be noticed and harboring a desire to fit in.

My attraction to fashion as a little girl grew into an intense teenage love. But, as I got a little older and reality tightened itself around me, I learned a hard truth—my love was not being requited.

I'm a plus-size influencer and loving fashion isn't easy when you're fat. This love has required fight, dissertations on why I am worthy, defending my right to exist despite my BMI and so much more. If you look like me, you will nudge and then push, only to be met a fraction of the way. The crazy thing is, my love still endures. As difficult as it has been made for me: I get dressed.

Fashion has always been a huge part of my life. I loved watching my mother get dressed. From an early age I analyzed her choices and thought about what I would wear when I was a grown up. What outfits would I pick? Where would I be going?

As a lifelong creative, fashion quickly became a way for me to express who I was. I love the idea that without speaking, there is so much you can tell someone about who you are. My career in fashion began with roles in events and publicity. Being the only fat girl in a room for a really long time was both empowering and traumatic. You immediately feel judged. But, I knew I had the chops and belonged in those rooms. I also knew that it took so much more for me to express my fashion sensibility, because what was in my mind rarely existed in my size.

Around 2012, I created a blog called And I Get Dressed. Early on in the influencer game, we were just creating and being creative—sharing outfits and where to shop was about the gist of it. Many thin influencer stars started to rise, and a very small handful of plus-size bloggers like Gabi Fresh were also making major moves. It was around 2013 that I began to think my hobby had real business potential.

Years of posting, working with brands for free—or for very little payment— and building a community with a loyal audience grew into paid collaborations. Brands like Nordstrom, Target and Nike hired me because of what I've been able to build over the years. A recent career high was being featured in Vogue. Yes, the American Vogue. An entire feature about me and my hair felt sort of mind-boggling. But that achievement didn't come without struggles.

plus size, influencer, fashion, New York, LA
Kellie Brown is a plus size influencer based in LA. She started the blog And I Get Dressed in 2012. Hope Leigh

There are plenty of times I have been overlooked in the fashion world because there's long been an "acceptable fat". That is: curves with a slim face and small waist. What we recognize as an hourglass or pear shape figure. Many influencers, like myself, have talked about being overlooked because of our brown skin and paid less than white colleagues with similar followings to do the same work.

But, the incredible thing about years of getting dressed is that it's allowed me to continuously challenge myself. Not only have I been able to explore my style and how to express it, I've been able to proactively work on dismantling my own insecurities. People often think that confidence is genetic and just something you do or don't have. The truth is that it's constant work—a journey with ebbs and flows. No ones confidence is permanently fixed.

A while back on my YouTube channel, I challenged myself to wear something that I'm afraid of for a week. For me, it was sleeveless clothes. Like most people my size fluctuates but my arms are never slim, or anything close to slim. They are large. They jiggle, they wobble—the whole shebang.

I thought I was just making a video people would relate to but what happened is that I changed my own perception of my body. While filming some b-roll in a sleeveless black dress. A thin woman walked by me and shouted, "you look so cute!"

I was taken aback. It's not that thin people have never complimented me, it was that in the midst of my heart beating fast and nervous armpit sweating—she was kind. I told her I was filming something about being afraid of wearing my arms out and she looked baffled. "Why? All I saw was a pretty tall lady in a cute dress I want," she told me. Wow. We are harder on ourselves than most people will ever be.

My journey in fashion hasn't been easy. But, through it all, the most valuable thing about putting yourself "out there" online is that people who might be struggling with self-love in all its forms, can take the good, the beauty and the value they see in you and apply it to themselves.

Right now, I'm focused on continuing to grow my platforms. The community of positive spirits those platforms have allowed me to cultivate is bigger than anything I imagined while standing in front of my old apartment building in New York, snapping photos of myself in my various outfits.

I live in LA now, but a few seasons ago at New York Fashion week I created the #FatAtFashionWeek hashtag. At the time, I didn't anticipate how many people would feel so seen and included by this little organic moment in my life.

But there has been a journey of people from all over the world using the hashtag to say, "we are here, we belong here." It has helped reaffirm that working in the fashion industry is not limited by the size of your body. It has been incredible.

Kellie Brown is a multi-hyphenate content creator and brand consultant. Brown's blog, YouTube and brand And I Get Dressed focuses on fashion, beauty, home décor and all things stylish living. The blog has been featured everywhere from Good Morning America to Vogue, Glamour magazine and more. Brown has launched a body-positive inspired collection of inclusive tee-shirts that can be purchased here. She recently brought her New York City fashion sensibility to the west coast and is chasing the sun.

Follow her on Instagram @itsmekellieb

All views expressed in this piece are the writer's own.