Hayet Rida is the perfect example of someone who turned a dream into reality. “I literally went to bed one day and I had a dream. And in the dream I was a blogger,” the 29-year-old plus-size lifestyle blogger tells Yahoo Lifestyle. The next morning, she texted her co-worker about it, and the co-worker wrote back two simple yet powerful words: “Do it!”
Rida did it. Now, four years after launching her popular eponymous blog, she is joining the lineup of influencers at New York City’s theCURVYcon (Sept. 6-8) to talk about body positivity and size diversity in the fashion industry. (The event will be live-streamed by Yahoo Lifestyle; bookmark this link to watch).
To this day, Rida has saved her friend’s encouraging text message — which prompted her, in just 40 minutes, to make the decision to change the course of her life. And though it might seem rash, her journey had been years in the making. “I did not know I was beautiful until I was 25,” she says.
In college, Rida studied communications and photography, leading to an early career in advertising as a way to blend her interests. Still, she knew she had a personal story to tell, noting, “I just never found a way that felt right.”
Adding fuel to her fire was the experience of a toxic relationship a few years back — one with a lot of “unspoken ultimatums,” such as the now ex-boyfriend’s asking her to lose weight or else lose him. Rida says she “did every single thing” he asked. “I lost weight, [I did] everything and … my boyfriend still cheated on me.” This is when Rida realized that she could not change or “live for other people,” because it would never be enough. It was a eureka moment, at which she began to reevaluate her life, gain perspective, and start her journey toward body positivity. The relationship ended, and a few months later she started her blog.
Rida’s first major piece was called “Growing Up Fat in Ghana.” In her home country, she explains, “You are teased by people who are close to you.” Many of the people who teased her were her own family members, with comments such as, “Are you eating all of your sister’s food?” She recalls once being asked by someone if she was pregnant — when she was only 10 years old.
While comments were all disguised under the notion of “just kidding,” the words were powerful daggers to her self-confidence. Today Rida still recalls the hurtful moments with clarity. “I can tell you what I was wearing … I can describe the room to you perfectly,” she says, adding that the insults “broke my confidence throughout my entire life.”
The story has since garnered more than half a million views, quickly teaching its writer “the power of authenticity.” She received around-the-globe comments from readers who related to her story and shared their own similar accounts. From that, Rida realized, “We all have the same story; everybody’s just afraid to say it. So how are we all going to heal if everybody is so scared to say anything? It became a rallying cry for me.”
It’s this candid approach that Rida credits to her success, noting, “I think a lot of people who follow me [and] who are attracted to me are here for my unapologetic approach to life.” Two other personal stories she wrote, “The Plus Side of Dating” and “That One Time I Almost Went Bankrupt,” were pivotal to her blogging career. “My best moments as a blogger have been, ‘This is me.’ This is what I’m going through, this is my story,” she says.
Rida writes about everything from fashion and beauty to travel and home decor. It’s obvious through the photos that she has impeccable style, but still, Rida can’t remember the last time she went to a store. “I hate shopping,” she says. “I sort of have PTSD from never being able to shop.”
Her lifelong disappointment with retail has conditioned her to think, upon entering a store, “They probably don’t have my size.” And while there are many plus-size labels, she asks, “how many of them actually have a physical footprint?” Although some labels like Loft and J.Crew have recently expanded into plus, many retailers still do not stock larger sizes in stores — and if they do, they’re in limited quantities.
This is why Rida now turns to her No. 1 favorite online store: ASOS. It has become part of her nightly routine to check the site’s “New Arrivals” section and filter by her size, ensuring she’s always the first to snag the best new styles. “It’s almost like Hunger Games for me,” she says. Other brands she enjoys include Eloquii and Lane Bryant, because she knows everything will be available in her size.
So when it comes to Rida’s own personal style, comfort is key. “Style comes through with how you feel in what you’re wearing,” says the blogger. “Your confidence isn’t about just showing up in something that fits. Your fit is your confidence.” She doesn’t follow trends or fashion rules and wears what she feels her best in — which is most often a basic T-shirt and a pair of heels.
Despite her glowing confidence, Rida still gives herself permission to have bad days — a lesson she has had to learn over the years. “A lot of times, people confuse body positivity with ‘never ever change.’ That’s not what’s it’s about,” she says. “If one day you wake up and you want to lose 10 pounds, do it. But I’m saying, along the way, just love you.”
Read More from Yahoo Lifestyle:
• It’s not your fault that you don’t love your body’: Model Alexa LaRosa on fashion’s dirty little secret
• ‘Dietland’ actress Jen Ponton shares why fat women are more than just ‘the funny sidekick’
• WWE star Nia Jax on how sports gave her confidence: ‘My body had its purpose’