As a plus size fashion writer, designer, model, and social influencer, Alysse Dalessandro has quite the resume! She’s the founder of her own body positive fashion brand and style blog, Ready to Stare, and has also written for BUSTLE, On The Plus Side, The Curvy Fashionista and others. Alysse is a bold voice in the plus size industry, being featured on Allure, Glamour, People, VICE, Good Morning America and more! We had the honor of welcoming Alysse to Omaha Fashion Week to walk for OFW designers Zaftig Kitty and Audio Helkuik, as part of our in our FW18 Fashion for Good season!

Alysse with  Zaftig Kitty  designer, Korinne Zimmerman  |   PHOTO  by  Michael Pysh

Alysse with Zaftig Kitty designer, Korinne Zimmerman  |  PHOTO by Michael Pysh

How do you describe your brand, Ready to Stare?

Ready to Stare is all about the idea that if you are true to who you are, people will stare at you because they’re curious, they’re in awe, there’s something to stare at. As they stare, it’s all about changing their minds about who should be included in fashion. People can have a narrow scope of what fashion should be like, and Ready to Stare strives to make fashion more inclusive.

How did Ready to Stare get started?

I was living in Chicago, just graduated college, and had to decide what my next move was. So I decided to start my own jewelry brand. I actually went to school for journalism but was always intrigued by jewelry. I started Ready to Stare out of my tiny apartment and began designing. Over the years it’s continually grown and transformed into what it is now.

What advice would you give to someone looking to become an entrepreneur?

I would say start by trying many different things, and talking to people who’ve already done what you’re trying to do. When I first started, I took time to talk with other jewelry designers and went to the career-counseling center at my school. At some point, however, you can only ask so many questions before you just have to go out and do it. I tried a lot of new things and I failed a lot, but I also learned a lot. I always say I have a master's degree in mistakes. I’ve learned so much along the way, things I wouldn’t have learned if I didn’t make mistakes.

Regarding your “master's degree in mistakes”, how do you overcome mistakes and failure?

I see mistakes as a learning experience. It’s so important to stay really positive. Failure is all part of the game, everybody has setbacks. You’re going to get told "no" more than "yes". All you can do is learn from your mistakes and not dwell on them. Mourn the loss and move on. But also, don’t let the fear of failure keep you from trying. Don’t let yourself have all of these “what if” moments. I don’t have any “what if” moments because I’ve tried what I’ve wanted to try. I’ve had a lot of failures but I have absolutely no regrets.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an influencer for body positivity?

When I first started out in fashion, I still wasn’t sure if I belonged there. A friend told me that if I wanted people to identify with my brand, I had to fuse myself into it. You are your brand. So I started posting myself on Ready to Stare social media. Once I put myself out there, it was almost like body positivity found me. People from the fashion community started reposting my photos with great responses.

What challenges have come with being a voice for body positivity?

The bullying that comes with being in this sphere. I’ve had my image stolen and posted on fat shaming sites. I’ve spent hours crying over the things that people have said and done. I put myself out there to help others, and some people have really taken advantage of that in a sad way. It’s challenging because if I stop putting myself out there, they win. And I don’t want bullies to win. I will continue to put myself out there and fight for what I believe in.

What has been your proudest moment as a designer?

Nylon Magazine asked me to make jewelry for their April shoot with Gabourey Sidibe, and it was such a shock. My work had spoken for itself at this point, and the opportunity just found me. It was such a proud crazy moment because I never thought it would happen. She’s definitely one of my top celebrities that I wanted to wear my work.

Your personal mission is to make fashion more inclusive. What are some of the ways you’ve accomplished this?

When I first started in the fashion industry, I remember how hard it was to find clothing that I wanted. It just didn’t exist. More recently, brands are coming out with plus size lines and options. They've begun to realize that the market is out there for plus size clothing, and part of that is due to people like myself who put themselves out there, who show brands that they can sell plus size clothing. Omaha Fashion Week is the second major fashion week that I’ve walked in, and it proves that you don’t have to look a certain way anymore to be a model.

What’s most validating is when people come up to me and say, “Because of you I wore a bikini on vacation with my girlfriend” or “Because of you I showed my arms for the first time in years." I’ve made fashion more inclusive for people on an individual level. I don’t want the way people feel about their bodies to affect the way they dress. Those should be two separate things. I feel like I’ve helped people to make peace with their bodies and to love where they’re at.

How would you like to see the fashion industry grow in terms of body positivity?

We’re seeing a lot of brands who are getting praise for being “size inclusive” when they really only have one size 12 model. Or they’re a plus size company but only go up to a size 24. I want to see companies become more size inclusive and make products truly for all sizes. It’s not enough to just have one plus size model. I want brands to realize that, in order to call themselves “size inclusive”, they really do need to be inclusive to all sizes. Also, people need to be supportive of brands that are working to achieve this. Like the social media photos of brands that are being truly size inclusive, retweet their tweets, applaud the brands.

What would you say to any person who is struggling to accept and love the reflection they see in the mirror?

Take your time. I think people see a picture of someone who looks confident and think, “Oh I want that." But you don’t realize what goes into that. You don’t know all the nights that person has spent looking in the mirror, crying. Loving your body is something you have to choose to work at every single day. Figure out the baby steps you can take to get to where you want to be. Say nice things to yourself in the mirror, don’t pick yourself apart. Tell your friends, "We’re not going to talk poorly about our bodies." Ask people to hold you accountable, and hold them accountable as well. Say, "We’re not going to rip ourselves apart. We’re not going to talk that way." Change the conversation with yourself in the mirror, but also with the people around you. If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, then you absolutely should not be saying it to yourself.

PHOTOS  by  Heather and Jameson   |   LEFT :  Audio Helkuik  styled by Whitney Grubbs & Cheyenne Graber  |   RIGHT :  Zaftig Kitty  styled by Teresa Champion & Whitney Wilson

PHOTOS by Heather and Jameson  |  LEFT: Audio Helkuik styled by Whitney Grubbs & Cheyenne Graber  |  RIGHT: Zaftig Kitty styled by Teresa Champion & Whitney Wilson

See more of Alysse and browse the Ready to Stare shop on her website, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram!

[Featured photo courtesy of Kathy Rae Photography]