Emma Chapple’s interest in fashion began when she was in Grade 7. She recalls buying her first issue of Teen Vogue and later purchasing an issue of Vogue.
“I read the magazines and realized I wanted to do what those people were doing. I wanted to see fashion shows, meet influential people and talk about it,” Chapple said. “I knew I wasn’t alone, and I wanted to be there seeing and recording it all.”
Her passion began around the time she received her diagnosis for Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease that has caused her serious physical and mental health setbacks for the past five years. But the former The Aquinian fashion columnist, who started a Her Campus chapter at St. Thomas University during her second year and blogs on her experiences with the illness, attributes her drive to succeed to her struggles.
“In high school, I was in and out of the hospital,” the third-year journalism student said. “I’m surprised I passed Grade 11.”
She was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in middle school, undergoing major surgery three years later to improve her life with the condition.
Until last summer, she struggled to put her operation behind her. She sought and received counselling, and in 2013 Chapple started a blog, My Beautiful Messy Life, where she posts about her experiences with the disease, as well as food, fashion and fitness. She wants to offer support for young people living with Crohn’s and other inflammatory bowel conditions in the most graceful way possible.
“There are few resources for people my age with my condition,” she said. “It’s improving where people are younger when diagnosed, but it’s still seen to happen to people middle-aged or older.”
On the outside, Chapple seems unflappable. She arrived for the interview wearing a blue and white-striped top and with her blonde hair tied back, a look not typical for the fashion writer, but one that sometimes happens, she said, when you’re up late working the night before.
Chapple decided to leave Halifax in pursuit of her post-secondary education. This, along with the journalism program, brought her to STU.
“I wanted to prove I could live and learn away from home where I was sick for so long,” said Chapple. “I wanted to make it work without worrying about proximity to the nearest hospital or doctor.”
Last academic year, Chapple thought STU could handle a Her Campus chapter, and she was confident in her ability to oversee it.
Her Campus is an online magazine directed towards female college and university students and provides tips on surviving college life. It was founded in 2009 at Harvard University.
“I saw a Maclean’s magazine article that ranked STU high in Canada in female enrolment,” Chapple said. “Her Campus was on my mind since I heard about it in high school. I thought I could work with them somehow, whether it involved contributing nationally, working for a chapter or starting my own.”
Chapple felt Her Campus would fill a void for STU’s female students. Content ranges from fun subjects like regular campus cutie and fashion features to serious topics on women’s health.
Her Campus St. Thomas was reviewed over the summer based on its traffic, content and social media presence and received a gold ranking in its first year, two levels short of the top ranking. Chapple said her expectations for Her Campus St. Thomas were more modest.
“That motivated a lot of people for us to pull it off and succeed.”