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At the end of 2017, I quit my job in Corporate America to do this blogger/influencer/content creator thing full time. I also started lifting weights with a personal trainer. A local gym slipped into my DMs and just the right moment and offered three months of training in exchange for social promotion. I continued going to that gym and weight training all the way until March 2020, Lockdown.
Weight training made me realize my body is more than what size jeans it wears and by sharing my workouts I inspired other women to see that their weight doesn’t determine their worth and size doesn’t determine strength.
At the beginning of Lockdown, we got a Peloton bike and that became my weight training replacement. It was fun, it was a form of escape and therapy to get through a difficult time. And it was a way I connected with people, through Facebook groups as well as DMs from Instagram followers. I began following some people because of our shared enjoyment of riding the bike.
In the words of one of my favorite Peloton instructors Christine D’Ercole, I am bigger than a smaller pair of pants and I enjoy sharing my workouts to inspire others to feel the same.
I also like to share my workouts and show myself in activewear because I want to be the change I wish to see in the world. I want all bodies normalized enjoying movement on their terms, wearing what makes them happy and comfortable. I feel that partnering with activewear brands and going to brand fitness events as a soft curvy 46-year-old mom who doesn’t have decades of being active under her belt and was never athletic is important. I want to be the change I wish to see on Instagram, in brand collaborations, in the fitness world.
Trying to be the change can be a challenge
Recently, a popular apparel brand reached out to me. They were opening a store in the DC area and to celebrate was hosting a wellness and fitness event at an event space on the roof of a popular spot in the city. Would I like to come? It was from 10-2, there would be a variety of classes and activations. In exchange for my attendance, I would receive a whole outfit (four pieces) of my choice plus a pair of shoes from a popular fitness sneaker brand.
This brand has never been size-inclusive; I owned some pieces from the brand and knew I was at the top of the size range. I usually say no to partnering with brands with such a limited size range, but I wasn’t trying to get some paid partnership with them, I was being the change I wish to see.
I also hadn’t attended a brand event since January 2020. And while influencers don't always show this, brand events are hella intimidating. You know there will be cameras, and sometimes videographers on site. You are looked up and down, it's a bit like sorority rush where the brands are scoping out who came and who they'd like to talk to, photograph, parter with in the future. It has taken years for me to get the confidence to attend and even enjoy these events and I have gotten rusty. But haven't we all gotten rusty at being social creatures?
While the pandemic is still happening, my job as a blogger/influencer/content creator is also still happening and this felt like a good way to get back out there. It was outdoors, it was about fitness, the place had free parking and was easy to drive to, and hey, I have wanted a pair of shoes from that brand. I said yes… and almost immediately regretted it.
The entire process of picking an outfit with this brand was demoralizing. It took an hour to find four pieces that coordinated and were available in their my size AKA their largest size. It took just 15 minutes for them to reply to my email stating my selects were now out of stock. I tried again, and it was all sold out. By the third try, I just gave multiple options for each piece and ended up with separates that didn’t all match, but I hoped I could make cute with some items already in my activewear drawer.
I reached out to a few influencer friends to see if they too were going to this event. No one I knew was invited or even heard about it. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Who in the world is going to be at this event? If none of them were invited and they hadn’t heard about it from any of their other influencer friends, then they must have invited a whole different crowd.
I’ve been blogging for so long, we’re not called bloggers anymore. And I’ve been blogging for so long there is a new crop of influencers; they’re Gen Z. They’re young and full of energy and creativity and their skin is all firm and they are amazing and oh God no I do not want to wear this mismatched ill-fitting activewear and be the token older person and likely one of a handful of token bigger bodies at this event. What the hell did I get myself into?
I started blaming myself. Why would I be so stupid to say yes to this brand? Why didn’t I ask who else was invited? Why the hell would I think that this brand would create activewear that could fit my body? I’m not going to be the change, I am just going to be Steve Buscemi undercover at a high school.
You’re being ridiculous Alison. You’re a badass. Dude, just a month earlier you rode 50 miles in one day on that Peloton and felt great afterward. You may be soft, and you may be older, but you’re a fucking badass. Your weight does not determine your worth. Your size doesn’t determine your strength. You’re a stealth badass, the best kind. That workout is going to be hella fun. You’re going.
I did a short ride on the Peloton bike before I went to get myself feeling powerful. I got dressed… and I had a panic attack. I have worked so hard to create a relationship with my body. It may not be deemed conventionally attractive, but I think it is a good body and over these years of lifting and spinning I have come to respect it and see not just the flaws, but those moments of power and beauty.
And this outfit was causing that relationship to crumble. I don’t know how it did it, but a shitty pair of blue leggings and a sports bra that couldn’t even contain one of my breasts was getting the best of me.
A seam created the appearance of love handles. A thick band disguised the curve of my waist. I bent over to see how bad the back view was and I could see my tattoo through them. I could even see a freckle. When I stood up, the leggings didn’t bounce back and I had sagging in front and the waistband was stretched out and folded over. I went to hike the leggings up and the rise extended an inch and stayed there.
The bra was of the same fabric as the waistband of the leggings and because of that, had absolutely no support. I had no choice but to wear one of my Freya sports bras underneath, which was on full display because the “bra” didn’t cover my breasts from areola to armpit. I picked one that seemed to coordinate best.
The event was 10-2. The email said multiple classes and activities. I wasn’t being paid, so I sure as hell wasn’t going to be there for four hours. I decided to show up around noon, which is what I usually do for brand events. Don’t be the first one, don’t be the last one, arrive when there is likely the largest crowd.
I put on my waterproof blue eyeliner and my 1975 birth year necklace along with literally my big girl panties: Soma Vanishing Edge Microfiber Retro Brief in Warm Amber which made all my bits vanish under the worst leggings I had ever worn. I am going to fake it until I make it. I am going to rock this.
I sauntered up to the door in my sunglasses… and the door was locked. A sign on the door said, “Closed for a private event until noon.” Well, it was noon and I was invited to this private event. So, I went around the side of the building and found a stairwell and walked up it. At the top the door said, “Exit Only. If you enter, we will make you turn around and leave.”
I opened it anyway and reached the rooftop event space. It was gorgeous… and pretty empty. There was a DJ at a booth playing Top 40 dance hits. A wall with the brand name in neon lights set up for selfies. A few folks were rolling up yoga mats on a field of Astroturf. I saw a woman in the same leggings I was wearing. “I thought this event was from 10 to 2, did I miss it?” I asked her. She had on sunglasses, but she looked for a while at me, mouth slightly agape. Then she looked at the Astroturf, then back at me. “Yeah. I’d say you missed it,” she said and walked off.
I walked to the other end of the space, where picnic tables were set up. As I got closer, I saw a buffet set up and everyone at the tables was dressed in the brand’s activewear. There was a mix of body sizes there; I was not the largest, but I was just one of a few over a size 10. However, as far as those who remained for the lunch, I was absolutely the oldest person on that rooftop. Scratch that, there was a male photographer with silver hair. We were the only two on that roof who were over 35.
I saw a stand offering cocktails. I don’t drink very often these days but I sure as hell needed a drink right then. I got in line behind a woman who was likely half my age but was probably around the same clothing size. I said I missed the class, was it good?
She said, “Yeah I guess…” and I opened my mouth to say something else and she turned around and gave me her back. I was being… a 40-something mom at an event full of people who were young enough to be my daughter’s older sister. That may be me, but to these youngins, I was Steve Buscemi.
I figured if I was there, I might as well get something from it, so I took my cocktail over to the buffet to grab a free lunch. A woman was in line before me. She apologized for taking so long to get her food, I told her no stress I wasn’t in a rush. I checked out the food. Cut up veggies with hummus and tzatziki, field greens with some Craisins and olives sprinkled in, pita, and dry little mushroom and chicken sandwiches. I felt like I was back in Corporate America having our workshop catered by Panera.
I wore these shittastic leggings for this? At least the tzatziki was full of feta. I grabbed some food, scoped out the tables, and felt transported back to high school. Everyone was in pairs and foursomes, every table was taken except one over near the air conditioner. I saw the woman who was ahead of me in line at the buffet, she was sitting alone.
I asked if I could share her table. She was hesitant but agreed. We ended up having a nice conversation. She shared what I missed and how her invite instructions were drastically different from mine. She went as a non-influencer fan of the brand. On the brand’s Instagram, they offered a select number of folks a code that would also get them the free outfit and sneakers. In exchange, they had to attend a single class that started at 9:45am.
After we finished eating, we said goodbye and went our separate ways. I took a last walk around the event. I looked around to see if anyone would take my photo in front of the selfie wall that had the brand’s name in neon but no one was there. And I thought… why? Am I really going to promote this brand’s non-inclusive poor quality activewear? Am I going to feign excitement for attending an event that I really didn’t attend due to no fault of my own?
I grabbed one of the swag bags and headed out. I walked back down that stairwell, and halfway down, propped up my phone and took a few photos with the selfie camera, not sure exactly what I was going to do with them. I took myself out to lunch and then headed home. By the time I got home, I was glad I attended. It was an accomplishment.
Sure, I missed the event. Sure, the clothing was terrible. Sure I got myself all into a panic over nothing. But I did it. I did something challenging and scary, even if most of that scariness was all in my mind.
So what's your point, alison?
Maybe I was meant to go to this event not to be the change I wish to see in fitness and influencer marketing, but because I needed to show that we all are going through a difficult time, and getting back out there isn't as easy as it looks on the ‘gram. Several of you followed me sharing this event in real-time when it happened last month; you shared it was heartening to see even I can feel awkward AF at social events. Maybe by being vulnerable I am also being the change. This was the challenge I needed, and I needed to share it just like my fitness accomplishments.
Every so often, we have to do challenging things so we can be reminded of how amazing we are. PeloFondo, when I rode 50 miles in one day, was one of those challenges, and the power of accomplishing it buoyed me for weeks after. But challenges don’t have to be feats of physical strength. Putting on these shitty leggings, leaving my house after almost two years of being primarily at home, going to an event where I knew no one… those are also feats of strength.
These challenges don’t have to be shared on the ‘gram, you don’t have to receive a medal or participation trophy. These can be private challenges that are accepted and accomplished for just yourself. But especially as we get older, we need to seek them out on a regular basis.
I was able to have the confidence to go to this event because of previous challenges I survived. And now I have survived this different kind of challenge which will give me the confidence for the next challenge presented to me.
Strength is not determined by size. You are stronger than you know, and sure as hell stronger than anyone around you recognizes. It’s easy to forget how strong you are when life is sapping all your reserves. This has been a hell of a year+ and it’s not ending anytime soon.
We need to protect our hearts, we need to rest, we need to care for ourselves. But we also need challenges to remind ourselves of how far we have come and how much further we can go. Because we are badasses. We may be stealth about it, but truthfully the only person who needs to know is you.
Thank you so much for this. I affirm your badassery!!
Goodness, the rudeness at that event! Glad you came out of it with positives.
Paula Spizziri says
This post is an example of why I’m a regular reader. So real and down to Earth. Like others, I’m angered at how you were treated and at how poorly the event was run, and want to know the brand so as not to give them my business. And, like others, really proud of you! I especially loved this: “ I was able to have the confidence to go to this event because of previous challenges I survived. And now I have survived this different kind of challenge which will give me the confidence for the next challenge presented to me.” Yes, I am learning that this is how you build resilience!
Love you, Alison – thanks forthe unvranished truth. And as Bill Maher (not so kindly says when he encounters ageism) – “I may be old/er, but you’re stupid” .
So much respect and appreciation for this post. Like some of the other commenters, I can totally relate on the being out of practice on the social event thing, and each event feels heightened now that there are so few. I always find conferences energizing but incredibly draining too, due to all the social stuff. BUT – I don’t have to go to those in SPANDEX. I can’t even imagine the vulnerability of putting yourself out there mentally and physically and emotionally without the protection of so much as a blazer. Much much respect to you for soldiering through, making it a learning moment for you and a teaching moment for us. Next time I have to take a gulp of air and walk into a room full of people I don’t know, I will think of this post and not feel quite so alone. I hope for every one event like this you have 50 that are fun and energizing and lead to more friendships and fruitful partnerships.
I need to give this blog post 12 million heart emojis. Seriously, Alison. Thank you for sharing something so vulnerable. Although I am not a blogger/influencer, I relate to all of this Your voice always resonates with me, but this post is like seeing my heart on a page. Big love to you.
I’m reading this after having sent my usual cut and paste (because I send it so often these days) email to yet another activewear brand that only goes up to size 12/XL. What’s disappointing is that they used to be size inclusive and still promote themselves as such – but that’s only for their core offering of basic black leggings and now no longer includes anything in a fun print, fab colour, or vaguely seasonal. And this ridiculously limiting business model is everywhere – I DO NOT UNDERSTAND!!! And especially if you then write back to me with some lame excuse about the pandemic and its impact on your business, difficult decisions needed to be made – I say to you as brand marketer with 25+ years of experience, FIND YOUR POINT OF DIFFERENCE! If all your competitors who only offer size 2-10 are going out of business, be the brand that thrives and builds a business by offering sizes 8-24!! In quality finishes, fabric and fit!!! How hard is that?
Also, I commend your classiness in choosing not to name the manufacturer of those dreadful leggings and crop top.I would have been tempted to strip them off in the stairwell on your way out and livestream a mini bonfire of craptastic activewear while wearing just your own far nicer bra and undies, dignity be damned!! But you didn’t – bravo!
Michaelann Jundt says
Thank you so much for sharing this. Your willingness to talk honestly and model courage is badass and important!
I too think you are a badass and I’m sorry you had this experience. BUT…thank you for your honesty about it. Designers and retailers need to know how women feel when bombaded by stores that are skewed to single digit sizes. We deserve better.
Bonnie Grove says
Like others I am wondering “who is this shitty brand?” So I can be sure to boycott the hell out of them and scream it from their empty & inhospitable rooftop! And also like others, I am hella impressed with your tenacity, bravery and all around BADASSERY. Go you.
L H Carter says
The blue of the outfit flattered you.
You are a class act.
You showed up for yourself and us.
You also showed up for your daughter, your mom, your sister and your friends.
We are all sooooo proud of you.
Sue G says
First time commenting, but wanted to say thank you for this post! You always come through as so strong and confident and showing this vulnerable side really connected with me! Thank you for keeping it real.
Those of us in the DMV would totally do a body positive socially distanced workout and picnic lunch, hike through Great Falls – Billy Goat Trail? Find your tribe! No side eye allowed
Hi – I was going to comment: “Thank You especially for those last four kick-ass paragraphs!” But this Entire post is Fire (as they say ). I really appreciate your writing and what you share with us.
Love this post. It was such an honest and hurtful post. I hate that you had to go through that. I have felt like I wasn’t wanted before and also felt like a 3 rd wheel. It has made me moot get out onto the world as much because it hurts me so much when I feel like that. You did an amazing thing of going to this and staying even though you were treated like that. Thank you Allison for posting this.
You are, and always will be, a bad ass bitch in my book! So proud of you! Don’t know if I could have stuck around after seeing the place full of Gen Zs. Don’t you ever stop being you. ♥️♥️
Blimey. Good on you for using this shitty event to get something positive out if it for yourself. Even if you had to work really hard at sticking to it! Shame on this company for not offering more support and shame on the other attendees for not being friendlier. You are a role model for all of us.
Karen J says
I want to know what the name of the brand is so I can be sure NOT to purchase anything from them. Thank you for your honest, frank opinion!
Beth Djalali says
I’m so glad you shared this, Allison. One thing I know is that we never stop learning and we never stop growing. No matter what age we find ourselves we need to continue to challenge ourselves in big and small ways. Those generations that come after us like Gen Z will reap the benefits of not having a cap on age and out out to pasture. ‘Cuz we’re all one day older! So keep taking those 50 mike bike challenges along with brand events catered to a younger generation! You’re the winner in both cases.
One of the many things I love about this post is how you model for us your choices to continue, and your reasons for doing so, at every choice point (note I’m not happy you had this crap experience. you deserve exponentially better). BADASS
Thank you for sharing this. And I agree with what others have said. The other thing that thing I see missing is customer service. The way you described the event, it seems their was not company representatives when you got there. Based on that alone, I wouldn’t want to purchase from them. I am a project manager and worked in marketing. Based on that perspective, they totally missed the mark.
I loved every bit of this. Thank you .
Stacie Scattergood says
You are absolutely badass. You are a rockstar. I hope **itty brand gets a wakeup. Wow, what an incredible miss on their part, in so many ways. Foster excitement, encourage communication and conversation. I’m on the opposite side of the Gen z thing with a place I volunteer at–they skew 65 and older, and while their services are AWESOME, I worry about how they’re going to carry on if they’re not attracting a younger crowd…same thing for this brand. At some point these people are going to have families, and then have your experience–and then that brand is dead to them, because they won’t have the emotional growth and strength you do.
You kicked ass.
Linda Stevens says
Thank you for always being so honest, open and real! No one has a perfect life but so many are unwilling to show anything but perfection. It’s too bad the event was so disappointing but aren’t you glad you went anyway? By the way, that color is amazing on you.
This should not have happened to you! We need to look at a persons health numbers like cholesterol, sugar, heart etc. not weight! 30% of people with a ‘normal’ BMI are unhealthy. Conversely those with high BMI may be healthy. Thank you for your efforts on this issue.
Definitely feats of strength! Thank you thank you thank you for being so real!
Paula Morton says
I just love your blog. Thank you for the honesty and putting your feelings out there. Many of us feel that same way, but neglect to mention that because we feel we will be judged for feeling that way. Forget that! Life is real, especially now, and we could all use as much honesty as possible. Thank you for being so brave and strong.
It took courage to walk into something that you were pretty sure (okay, very sure) was going to be a not-so-hot experience but you did it anyway for the right reasons. Thank you for sharing what happened – it’s a good reminder that even a “bad ass” can be hesitant about getting out there / putting themselves out there!
This reminds me that while we do need to do challenging things to grow, we can choose what we suffer over.
So many flags going off here and you persisted.
Next time just buy the shoes yourself! They weren’t free, that’s for sure.
I’ve got no idea what brand this is, but at least I know it’s not one that I purchase from frequently because the brands I frequent are doing a great job of being size inclusive.
Wow, Allison, what a powerful post! I wanted to cry through half of it because it’s just so relatable & it’s so incredibly sad when women are snobby & mean to one another (not to mention the crappy clothes you had to deal with & just the whole event). But, you were strong & brave & have set a good example for the rest of us. Thank you!
Just a few more personal thoughts: getting back out & socializing during this continuing Pandemic is hard. In addition to being concerned about people who won’t get vaccinated & won’t wear masks, I’m so rusty in social situations (I’ve been back working in-person since August 2020, & that’s got it’s own set of challenges!). As someone who’s never been overly fond of big group events anyway, it’s not been hard for me to stay home. Going to things again & being around people—that’s what’s harder. Setting some boundaries for myself has helped though—limiting what I’ll go to, trying to attend things with a small group & outdoors, & leaving when I need to go. It’s working ok, but I’m definitely still a homebody! Thank you for your blog & the way you’ve been a source of comfort, entertainment, information, ideas, and relief to me for many years but especially through this Pandemic.
Thank you for sharing this. The honesty is really appreciated. I know it wouldn’t be good for your business, but that brand 100% deserves to be named and shamed. Not only for their crappy, uninclusive business model and truly *abysmal*-sounding clothing, but also for putting on an event so disrespectful of their “guests.”
Annie Shaw says
I read your blog Allison, because you are real. And today’s writing is sheer inspiration for those times when we must put ourselves “out there”. I’m in tears at your genuineness. May I be as bold, and honest, and as compassionate.
I read this twice to be sure I hadn’t missed it — I guess you are far more professional than I, in that I would have named and blasted the company in this post. Further, I’d have asked WTH happened and gotten a sincere explanation and apology from the company. This is inexcusable! Yes, you’re a gorgeous badass and this could be viewed as a test of your confidence, but you deserve to be treated far better than this event and those people did.
Marsha Banks says
You are a better person than me! I would have screamed the brand name from the rooftops and let the world know how they treat invited guests. But, then they would have gotten what they wanted in the first place. Inclusivity just isn’t in some brand’s and people’s toolbox. Thanks for sharing this experience with us (I still think we should all turn up at one of their b/m stores). I have a pretty good idea what brand this is anyway. Thanks for being a warrior badass!
Amy Kargus says
I love your style and shopping advice but this is one of the best, most honest, wonderful thing I’ve read in a long time! Thank you! Thank You! Thank you!
Maria Newman says
I am a woman whose birth year is 1962. I am likely not your target demographic/audience, but your blog is one of the best things I’ve read since I discovered it about a year ago. Thank you for all you are doing.
What is that thing around your neck in the 1st picture ? It looks like the collars they wore in that Star Trek episode.
And is that “clothing” made from the same knit as kids’ PJs? It sure looks like it. How does that even work. I hope the sneakers were OK.
This is a super example of one of your mantras “It’s not you, it’s the clothing.” Compare this to the Universal Standard Next-to-Naked bodysuit you recently wore on vacation in NYC.
Alison, I am 54 years old, and on the fit (ish)/curvy side. Well, I work out. LOL
ALL I can say is d*mn, I am sorry you had to go through that. I
WANT to say that when the clothes were poor quality and didn’t fit me , I would have emailed the brand to let them know about their lack of size inclusiveness and to say I wouldn’t be there. (But then I probably would’ve thought I was missing in opportunity or experience and I would’ve gone anyway.) You did the badass thing by actually going….. because now that brand will never get the value of your influence. (With their see-through baggy leggings they hopefully won’t be around much longer anyway!)
You are inspirational, Alison! Thank you for being vulnerable and challenging us!
You are FABULOUS!!!
Thank you for sharing this and (as always) being genuine. Events like this are hard under the best circumstances. Clearly, these were not the best circumstances. You are a badass. We all are.
Those last two paragraphs are pure gold, Alison. Thank you for putting to paper these words, because we need to hear them. Challenges bring growth, and the older I get, the harder it is to push myself out of my comfort zone, but I so need to in order to keep growing. I am usually the one at the table by myself, or off in a corner looking for the nearest escape route, and the only people I like talking to in situations like this are those who do likewise. The rest of the people at that event missed a great opportunity to talk to a real life badass.
Lisa Blythe says
You are amazing. Thank you for sharing this with us.