Sudzy Nixon, of Sudzy’s Pin-up Palace in Portsmouth, has spent much of her life feeling like she was less than everyone else around her. It was not until she was an adult that she realized beauty is an opinion, and not everyone shares in its definition.
As a child, she remembers seeing cards in stores of fat women in bikinis or naked. She remembers thinking that the woman on the cards looked like her mom and the women in her family.
“Our sexuality is a joke,” is the message she remembers it conveying to her.
Growing up as a plus size woman was hard for Nixon.
“I used to be the kind of person that drowned myself in T-shirts and basketball shorts,” she explained.
She remembers her mom would try to put make-up on her or curl her hair, and she hated it.
“I remember trying to brush out a tease,” she explained.
As Nixon started to reach teenage years, she discovered that there were sides of fashion that she like and was interested in.
“I was always into pin-up fashion,” the plus-size model and shop owner stated.
She remembers first seeing the fashion watching the 1990 John Waters film Crybaby and being attracted to the big hair and sharp eyeliner. She saw these women using fashion to look tough instead of pretty.
“That was the first interest in fashion, and it wasn’t to look pretty,” she explained. “It was to look tough.”
To Nixon, these women were the equivalent of a “human switchblade.”
As a teen, Nixon was torn between wanting to keep up with fashion and wanting to hide all the things that kept her from being the ideal image of a teenage girl. When she would try to find clothes that would fit her and look cool, she would get discouraged by the lack of options with many cool items stopping at a size 14. Listening to grunge music and picking up the DIY fashion helped her fit in.
“It was a real struggle to dress cool as a plus size teenager in the mid to late 90s,” she explained.
By the time Nixon was an adult, she had started to slip into the mindset that she was not as good as people who were thin and fit the mainstream image of attractiveness. She was not aware that not everyone shared in the ideal.
“It was hard to participate in nearly every facet of life,” she stated as she remembers feeling self conscious in all she did.
She even considered gastric bypass and went through the process of having the surgery. However, after putting it off for school and then losing her medical coverage, that was not even an option. Then, she started to notice that her mom, who had the surgery still was not happy with herself. She still had not changed her opinion of herself in her mind. The she watched the trailer for the film Fatitude, which started to open her eyes to many valid points of body image, such as the concept that as children there is not default setting for what is attractive. She also found out that only five percent of the population fit into that image.
“The other 95 percent of us walk around in this sea of self-doubt,” Nixon stated.
When Nixon first started seeing plus size woman modeling in bikinis or in pin-up or sexy photography, it become even more personal.
“I remember thinking, ‘Put your clothes back on before everyone sees me,’” she commented. “I was almost afraid to read the comments on the pictures because I was afraid I take them personally.”
What she soon saw is that people were not all being mean. People found these models attractive.
“You get so convinced that everyone is attracted to the mainstream idea,” she explained.
Seeing that was not always true was a real eye opener for Nixon.
“You live life thinking there is some disqualifier that keeps people from finding you sexy,” she stated. “There are people who would rather.”
Nixon explained that there are people who would rather date plus-size woman, women who let their facial and body hair grow, women with broad shoulders, women who are tall or whatever it is that separates a person from the accepted standard.
“There’s not some qualifier that is going to take your beauty away,” Nixon said.
After seeing this, Nixon submerged herself in body image and worked to break free from her own constrictive thinking. She also started exploring pin-up and ordering dresses to explore the sizing.
At almost the same time, Nixon started doing photo shoots. Soon, she had people messaging her about everything from fashion and sizing to how they can get their own shoots set up. They even started asking her to go with them and help. Before long, Nixon had gained this vast knowledge of all inclusive fashion and was helping others. She not only helped people find the confidence to dress how they wanted and even take photos but to know they should be loved and celebrated as they are.
She also started seeing that even in plus size fashion, plus size women were left out, which further enforced the concept that some people should not be seen.
“I have held five catalogs in my hand that carry exclusively plus size clothing but show not plus size models,” she explained.
This furthers that message of worthlessness by suggesting that the company would rather make the items in sizes they don’t carry than feature the women they cater to, Nixon explained.
Three years ago, Nixon started thinking about opening her own shop to carry items for people coming to her rather than trying to hunt down items for people as they asked for her help. At they same time, she wanted to help people feel good about themselves in whatever makes them comfortable. Though the shop is pin-up based, Nixon works to make people aware that they should love themselves and be loved for who they are as they are.
She is now celebrating her one year anniversary in her new venue, signing her lease on July 15, 2017. She will have been open one year in August. She also now shares the space with he friends at The Stache and Georgian Portraits.
In that time, Nixon has started to pop-up sales at other locations and venues and has found a way to make fashion no longer limiting but freeing and expressive for all.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.