Half Aboriginal, half Puerto Rican, Amy is a striking women inside and out. Confidence and warmth exude from her making you want to stay in her company to soak up some of that light. A blogger, a PA, a Pub trivia host, a women that stands up for others that may not be quite ready to vocalize there own troubles she was an absolute delight to photograph and chat too. A world of surprise career moves has come just from having the courage to think to her self, you know what I think I can do that! An admirable trait that I believe all women could do with more of! We sat down to chat about it all in her Surry Hills terrace.
L: So, what do you do for a living?
A: I'm a PA by day. By night I host pub trivia. It’s a funny story actually. I got drunk at trivia one night and the girl that was hosting wasn't great. I thought to myself I could do this. So I got the number for the company and I emailed them (while I was still drunk). I told the guy I want this venue and asked if I could be interviewed. The next day, the owner called and I said the trivia host you have in Newtown is lovely but I think that I would suit the area more. If you have an opening I’m in. A week later he had moved the girl to another venue and said I could have the spot.
A year later I auditioned for another trivia company that was all stand up comedians around Sydney, but didn’t have many female hosts. I’m not a comedian but I still showed up for the audition and I got it!
L: What gave you the confidence to just go for that trivia role having not worked in anything similar?
A: I don't know. I've always been pretty confident, but it's definitely gotten worse as the years have gone on. As I settled into Sydney I thought now I can do what I want to do, which is funny as I didn’t even know this was what I wanted to do! But it has opened up some many opportunities for speaking. It's such a fun thing to do.
L: Besides all of that you also run a page calling out sizing within brands and promoting body positivity.
A: Yeah, I started the page about two months ago, its super fresh. I had the idea about three years ago when I went to a party for a brand sold at General Pants. When I got there people were coming around from General Pants and asking what do you like about us? And I said I really love all the stuff in General Pants but it realistically doesn't fit me. At the time I was probably 10 kilos lighter than I am now. I said to the woman, I’m really tall, I have broad shoulders and everything is so short; dresses are like shirts on me. Can you let head office know the feedback because I'd love to like shop at GP. Her response was - maybe if you lost some weight you would fit into the clothes…
I just laughed it off. I’ve always been really happy with my body and not wanted to change it. But my friend that was with me had an eating disorder in the past and I couldn’t help but think I'm just so lucky that she said it to me and not to someone that could actually be harmful to. The next day I contacted General Pants to tell them about what had happened and she was let go. General Pants said she's not aligned with our brands, and we apologize for what she said. I was like, well hang on a second you don’t sell my size. You don't have anyone above a size eight working in your stores. I actually think she is a really good representation of your brand. Maybe you're not directly telling me I need to lose weight like her but you're not going to stock my size. In a round about way you want me to lose weight to fit into your clothes.
It got to a point last year where I thought why don't brands sell bigger sizes? It's so frustrating to have to buy everything online. Even shoes, I’m tall so I have size 11 feet. I can't find shoes in store. What's happened in the last six months is a lot of brands have tried to jump on the bandwagon of body positivity yet still not having any larger size representation at all. Cotton On for example has just launched their Curvy range, which goes up to size 24. But Cotton On is notoriously known for being small sized, so realistically I’d assume they go up to a size 20. Meaning they are promoting plus sizing but they actually only sell two plus sizes because 16 is considered straight size. And then you've got people creating articles saying this is the best plus size we've ever seen. Are you kidding me?
On top of that the way they announce it is hidden little promotional emails. It's a really sneaky way of saying we want to take your money but we don’t want people to know. You can only order the line online, which defeats the whole purpose. Who doesn’t want to try on jeans before they buy them? It's like they don't want to have fat people in store but want them to buy because they're starting to realize there is money in it.
The average size of Australian woman is a size 14, yet brands aren’t catering to this market. So women are buying overseas and it's killing the Australian fashion industry. It's a really hard balance, I would like to buy Australian and not be buying fast fashion, which I feel really conflicted about. But I can't walk around naked!
I started the page when Ashley Graham was in Australia recently for Virgin Australia Fashion week. She was dressed in brands that don’t sell plus sizes. So they were using a plus size model for advertising, for a brand I couldn’t even shop! I wrote a post about it, which blew up. I think I got around 500 followers in a day. This is clearly a problem people want to talk about. It’s continued from there. It's cool because I get to promote brands that sell up to a size 30 so it's inclusive for everybody.
L: And you can hold other brands accountable.
A: Yeah, and I've done that even this morning. I made a post about Pedestrian TV who did a write up about Cotton on Curvy range by a women who is about a size 10 saying “its the best curvy range I've ever seen.” She would never even have to buy it! Of course she would think that those baggy T-shirts are awesome. I hope that it will make a difference.
L: Would you work full time doing this?
A: I don't have the experience behind me. I have to really rely on it being a community thing because I don't know enough about what goes into making clothes. There are people that I know that have got their own small businesses that sell plus size clothes and that's been really helpful for me. I really want it to be a collaboration.
I want to change the fear behind changing rooms as well, because I don't know how many times I’ve cried in the changing room, every woman has. Or that horror when something is stuck on you and you can't get it off because it’s too small. I kid you not I've even had a list on my phone of all the excuses that I could use when you come out of the change room and something is too small. I didn't like the frills, the colour wasn’t great, and now I just say, it doesn't fit me. That's such a hard thing for a lot of people to say. But it’s important to say it and ask them to pass that feedback onto their head office.
L: I think sometimes just spreading that awareness can be the best thing you can do. We need to keep having these conversations so that the people behind the brands are being held accountable.
A: Yeah. When I have asked a brand have you thought about stocking larger sizes? They always say we've tried that before and there wasn't a big demand for it. I just don’t believe that. Were you advertising it as a size large? Because most plus size women don't trust that size, or even XL because that's generally a 12 in Australia, that’s not large.
L: I used to work as a visual merchandiser and I remember one of the brands had a slightly older demographic, a lot of the women were bigger. They hated the fact we didn’t stock 16 in store, you could only buy it online or in A grade stores. Head offices excuse was we never sold it. Which I understand, there is a bell curve when it comes to sizing. You're four and six you don't sell a lot of. 8, 10, 12 is your main market then you sell less of 14 and 16. But that doesn't mean they don't sell. You just don't have quite as many.
A: So why don’t they adjust? You don’t have to order the same amount of 10’s as 16’s.
L: That was the feedback that we gave head office. Okay, well why don't you stock three of the middle sizes and one of the two sizes either side. So the woman that walks into your store that's big doesn't feel like she isn’t welcome at her local store. Frustratingly that feedback was passed on but never actioned. You have these women that are your true brand customers that can't buy anything and then at the end when everything goes on sale, you have a bunch 10’s left over in stock.
A: Yeah, I can never find a 14, it’s the quickest to sell out. If that's the quickest to sell why wouldn't you re-adjust your stock? Women are squeezing into 14s as brands don’t stock 16 so why wouldn’t you offer a 16 as well?
L: Exactly. I think it's definitely something that brands need to look at. People’s sizing is increasing. Even from the point of view that every generation is getting taller so proportionately our ratio overall becomes larger. I think it's definitely an untapped market and we need more people standing up and saying I’m not okay with this sizing offer; I want to look good, I want options. Just because I’m bigger doesn't mean I'm not fashionable or care about what I wear.
A: That’s what drives me crazy! The clothes that they have available are so baggie with no shape and are made to conceal the bigness. I think you should be embracing your bigness in you. Wear mid riffs, wear crop tops, wear what ever you want.
L: It was infuriating when I went to the head office with this feedback from customers who were in the 14-16 range saying they didn’t want baggie clothes that the information was never acted on. Yet they wonder why there profit is dropping.
A: There’s actually been a lot of times when I've spoken to the manager on the phone about sizing issues and they apologies, but have no ability to change anything. Which I understand but we can’t stop these conversations. If anything there needs to be bigger volumes of them.
It is hard though, it took me so long to be comfortable enough to walk out of a change room and be comfortable enough to say this doesn't fit me. It incredibly vulnerable. I'm trying really hard to make change rooms funny, like taking photos of stuff getting stuck on me. Or the discrepancy between sizing in brands. I bought a beautiful dress the other week, which fits perfectly. The exact same dress from the same brand in the same size but a shorter length version got stuck on me. How does that happen?
L: Completely. My sizing will vary from a size 4 in some shops to a size 10. Now, I've got a small frame so that doesn't worry me. I dress for comfort, I will happily go up three dress sizes. But I know if I wasn't secure with the way I looked, if say my variation of size was 10 to 16 that would make me really self conscious. I really feel for people that aren't as comfortable with their weight as me. If you have a variation of four sizes and you walked into that change room on a bad day with that bigger size you are going to be a bloody mess!
Women are constantly told your value is measured by your waist size and if you are bigger something is wrong with you.
A: Yeah, I think we need to unlearn everything and relearn that being fat is actually completely fine. You're not unhealthy; you can be unhealthy at any size that actually has nothing to do with your weight. I would much rather be unhealthy physically if that's what that means. Then not okay mentally.
L: I couldn’t agree more.
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Photos By Lila Marvell.