Alysse Dalessandro Santiago (she/her/hers)
Meet Alysse (she/her/hers) a queer, bisexual plus size fashion model, LGBTQ+ blogger and advocate. As an influencer she shares personal stories that discuss fashion, gender, coming out, planning a wedding and advocate for LGBTQ+ friendly companies.
Question 1: When we first connected I was honestly drawn to the bright colorful style and the happiness in each image. When did you develop your fashion style and did you have any influences?
I’ve always felt like I have an innate ability to dress well and have a strong personal style. I have had a bold style since I was a kid. I come from an Italian American family so I grew up seeing gaudy, loud fashion worn by my mom and my aunts. I started shopping in my mother’s closet and wearing her jewelry when I was certainly too young to have any business in there. I was inspired by Fran Fine’s style from The Nanny growing up and I still find a lot of inspiration from her outfits.
Question 2: You have been writing and talking about body positivity for quite some time now. In your article in 2016 you talk about body positivity and fat activism. How much has changed or not changed since then? How has that affected your life?
I have been writing about body positivity and fat activism for many years. I think a lot has changed in that we have a bit more representation in mainstream. There are more brands making plus size clothing. At the same time, plus size people still face discrimination and are treated differently based on their size. At the end of the day, we need to focus on the treatment of those most marginalized.
Question 3: What are 3 tips you can give a plus size woman when shopping?
Don’t allow other people’s opinions about your body to dictate what you wear. If you like it, wear it!
If there’s something you like but you aren’t sure if you are comfortable wearing it, get it and wear it around the house first. Check yourself out in the mirror and build yourself up. Style only needs to feel good for you!
Don’t be afraid of color! You don’t need to wear black to hide your body!
Question 4: Share with us your coming out story and how being a part of the LGBTQ+ community plays into the work you do everyday.
My coming out story is a long one! You can read it here:
I had a platform before I came out and I feel very lucky that many of those folks who supported me and loved plus size fashion, have stuck around and now become LGBTQ+ allies.
Question 5: Many folks in the LGBTQ+ community lack support and love from their families when they come out. How did your family respond?
My coming out process was a journey and something that I did over the course of years. I came out to my mom by accident first and she was super accepting. My mom told my dad and his whole thing was just “as long as you’re happy that’s all that matters.” I know this is not the case for everyone. When I first met my now-husband who is transgender, my parents were accepting of him. When my Dad first met him he said “Gio is the type of person who is going to change people’s hearts and minds just by being himself” and I have certainly seen this to be true.
Question 6: Through your blog and social media you have become a strong voice for LGBTQ+ rights. What work are you currently doing to advocate for the community?
For me as an LGBTQ+ advocate, there’s always something to be done. A lot of the work that I do is listening and learning. I try to make sure I am educated on all of the laws, both statewide and national, that impact the LGBTQ+ community. I use my platform to share news about these laws as well as writing law makers. My husband not only runs his own non-profit for transgender youth here in Ohio but he also works for the statewide LGBTQ+ policy organization so I definitely learn the most from him. I admire the work that he does so much.
Question 7: Congratulations on getting married in 2019! Can you tell us a little bit about planning your wedding? When planning for your wedding was it important to have professionals who were either LGBTQ+ friendly or a part of the community? Did you face any challenges or discrimination when it came to planning? If so, how did you overcome them?
Planning our wedding was VERY STRESSFUL. I am generally a go with the flow person and when it comes to a wedding, a lot of people have opinions about how it should be. I definitely did not handle the pressure of all of it well and there are things I would do differently if I did it again.
For us, it was really important to not only find vendors that were LGBTQ+ friendly but that also had worked with people of color and plus size folks. If we looked at a photographer’s profile and saw only thin white straight cis couples then that was a sure sign that they didn’t want our business. We had some issues finding a caterer and we had some interactions with people who just really clearly did not want to work with us.
Our videographer, Stephen Burks from Good City Concepts, was actually someone we met when Gio was honored by Equality Ohio as their Advocate of the Year. Stephen’s son is trans and he just wanted to do anything he could to tell our story. He ended up creating a beautiful documentary about our journey and I am SO grateful for him. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/DC9ZkzoEJcA
Question 8: As part of your wedding you wore 3 different wedding dresses to share what shopping for a plus size dress was like. Can you share part of your story here and where our audience can find the full article?
I didn’t grow up dreaming of getting married because I really felt so unworthy of love for a long time but as someone who grew up loving fashion, I did think about what my dress might be like IF i ever got married. Working in plus size fashion, I was really lucky to have brands and designers want to work with me on a dress so I ended up taking three up on the offer. The process was emotional and it wasn’t easy to change 3 times but SO worth it! You can see all of the dresses here: https://www.readytostare.com/plus-size-wedding-dresses-2/
Question 9: On Instagram you have a great presence - what are your goals as an influencer on social media?
My goal as an influencer is to help someone feel empowered to be their most authentic self. Whether that be coming out as queer or not being afraid to wear a bikini at the beach, I hope my content inspires someone to live their best life and feel seen.
Question 10: What does Pride mean to you?
Pride to me is about being your authentic self while also being a part of a vibrant and diverse community. Pride means recognizing where we came from and how far we still have to go.
Question 11: What does it mean to be a part of the Dash of Pride Champions Community?
Being a part of the Dash of Pride Champions Community means that I am part of making the world more accepting and inclusive!
Check out more about Alysse Dalessandro Santiago: