Just 36 percent of grade-six Canadian girls consider themselves confident, according to a Public Health Agency of Canada report. By grade 10, that number drops to 14 percent. Yes, we now live in a world where plus-size models like Ashley Graham appear in Vogue. But the pleasingly proportionate, plump-lipped size-14 model still represents many archaic beauty standards: an hourglass figure, no bulging belly, a conventionally pretty face and big breasts. So what of the pear-shaped ladies who don’t fit the Kardashian model for socially acceptable curves? FLARE is interviewing diverse women in the fashion industry, who challenge these traditional beauty standards, about their personal experiences with body discrimination. First up was Calgary-based fashion and lifestyle blogger, Inemesit Etokudo and Instagram star, Diana Veras. Now, we have Halifax-based fashion blogger Musemo Handahu chatting about her journey as a plus-size blogger on the East Coast.
Musemo Handahu goes by many names: Lion Hunter (the name of her blog and her Instagram handle), or simply Mo. By day, Handahu works as a digital content strategist for a Halifax-based branding company, contributes to Huffington Post Canada Style and works as a style ambassador for Le Château. By night, she runs a fashion and lifestyle blog with her brother, Tendai Handahu, where they post content that encourages readers to travel in style, celebrate natural hair and fall in love with some unique African prints. The name Lion Hunter is a literal translation of the duo’s last name, but it also encapsulates their spirit, which is authentically bold and unapologetic. Here, we talk to Handahu about her signature style and why sizing doesn’t dictate the clothing she buys.
When did you start blogging? Why?
I started blogging in 2010. At the time, I had a small line of clutches, and I my focus was to make the models I’d dress and photograph feel beautiful. I started to yearn for something like that for myself and decided I’d start a style blog.
Tell us about the meaning behind Lion Hunter.
It’s a stand for constantly hunting for the majestic in myself and the world around me.
What is it like working with your brother?
A lot of fun. We both love experimenting with our style and being able to do that together makes for some super-fun photo shoots!
Were you always interested in fashion?
My love of fashion started in my late twenties. I do remember always tagging along with my mom when I was younger, when she went to her favourite boutiques, but the desire to really figure out what my aesthetic was didn’t come until much later on.
What is your aesthetic?
My aesthetic developed over time through trusting my instinct when I shop. If I see a piece, no matter how bizarre it looks, if I’m genuinely excited about it, I’ll find a way of incorporating it into my style. My aesthetic is bold, unafraid, fun and evolving.
One thing that sets you apart online is your humour and honesty (see post above) and that’s so refreshing. Why is it important for you to set this tone?
Finding a beautiful coat that doesn’t close, yet I still take it home with me, is a testament to looking beyond the size on the tag. When I shop my mind is constantly thinking of the bigger picture. I’ll try something that’s not my size, that may stretch enough to fit or just need a little tweaking to rock it! Adding humour to my posts is important because I don’t take myself seriously and I’m just a big goofball.
Were you always this confident?
My confidence has had its highs and lows but even in the lows, I’m thankful it has always lingered. Growing up I always saw strength around me in my mom and grandmother and it was subconsciously instilled in me. I really started to believe in myself when I started playing sports. I was really athletic and being able to express myself in that way and be completely certain of my talent made me know my worth from about the age of 11.
You definitely need thick skin to run an online platform. Have you ever received negative comments?
When the whole fiasco about the dentist killing a lion in Zimbabwe happened I had a few people tell me I need to change my name, because it’s insensitive and blah, blah, blah. Of course, I put them in their place, because there’s nothing literal about Lion Hunter, and if you got to know me and my brand you’d end up wanting to be a Lion Hunter yourself! Apart from that, I’ve been lucky to not have any trolls on my Instagram and I hope that people keep respecting my positive online space the way they always have been.
What has the positive feedback been like?
Unbelievable! I’ve had unexpected emails from people inspired by how boldly I live my life and short, yet very needed, ones that simply told me to keep pushing. They always come at a time when I wonder if one more outfit on my blog will really make a difference. But I’ve come to realize that it’s more than just how I put clothes together; it’s the way I carry myself, the way I live my life and let my light shine that touches people. I have to keep that going for my own little section of the blogosphere.
How diverse is the blogging community in Halifax?
It’s not as diverse as I’d hoped it would be by now, however there is some movement happening. I’ve noticed a few new faces on the blogging scene in Halifax and I’m hoping they don’t give up because we need diversity to be part of the narrative in our city.
You’re currently in South Africa for fashion week. Can you share with us some things you’ve learned so far?
I’m just having fun exploring the style scene here, attending fashion weeks, meeting new people and spending time with family. My trip so far has just solidified what I’ve always known: it’s imperative for the search of the future of fashion to not sleep on Africa. Over the last two weeks, the talent I have seen in just two cities—Johannesburg and Cape Town—has blown my mind. It’s truly exciting to imagine what Africa as a whole has to offer.