Melissa from The Sista Code

Photographer Melissa Histon has created an online platform for women to celebrate each others' successes, and provide support for women around the world. The Sista Code is about uplifting, inspiring and spreading the love between women.

After a tough year of battling and surviving breast cancer, Melissa Histon travelled to Nepal with 3 Angels, with a friend who was making a documentary about sex trafficking. The trip inspired Mel in more ways than one. She came home and thought, ‘We need to start celebrating positivity and support women and share their stories, not bring them down.’ And that's how The Sista Code was born. Mel is particularly passionate about supporting women who are doing good things for not-for-profits and charities; she believes that everyone has the capacity to help others, and to make a difference in this world.

Find @sistacode on Instagram x

Find @sistacode on Instagram x

"We should be sharing those stories, not talking about Kim Kardashian’s butt. I understand when you’re a bit brain dead and it’s easy reading. But let’s not get caught up in it and let’s celebrate women doing everyday things. The more we do that and celebrate everyone’s unique way of making a difference, the better."

As women, we’ve all experienced that underlying competitiveness that comes with success, and I’m sure most of us have had the power to bring other women down using just a few words. But I also believe there’s a new movement emerging, of women joining hands, joining forces, and lifting each other up, rather than tearing each other down. As I always like to say, there’s enough cool to go around. “What I’ve found is that when a woman has success, and people start bringing her down, it’s more about them. They’re threatened or thinking they’re not big enough or good enough. If they flipped it and thought ‘Wow, look at what she’s doing, I could do that too’, things would change.”

Mel is one of those inspiring women at the forefront of change. She’s hoping that by sharing stories and talking about supporting women through The Sista Code, people will start to look at things in a different way and be inspired to become agents of change as well. “We all strive to want more and be a better person. I would say that for every woman. Every woman has knocked another woman down. We live in hope and strive to be better, strive for more. And live better lives.”

What started as a Facebook page called The Sista Code, on which Mel posted inspirational quotes and sayings, quickly went viral and evolved into a full-blown website and active blog, with Mel hosting events and supporting local (and global) charities and inspiring others to do the same.

Mel and I had a lot to talk about when we sat down for coffee last month. We’re both equally as passionate as the other about the need for more good news in the world, and tell the stories that need to be heard, in order to uplift, inspire and share the love. Stumbling across The Sista Code on Instagram was one of the best moments ever, and I’m so happy and excited to have another like-minded lady like Mel in my life.

"I’m just creating that platform for women to come and do their part. Every little bit counts."

Mel and Amy from @coolpeople__coolthings

Mel and Amy from @coolpeople__coolthings

What does a day in the life of Mel look like?

I get up at 6.30am, feed the puppies, walk down the road for a coffee, I usually try and preschedule Facebook posts but if I haven’t yet, I’ll jump on social media for a bit. Then I start taking people to school. I come back, do some writing, meet with people or have a photoshoot. Then it’s picking up kids again. Last year I was working into the night but this year I thought, ‘no’. It’s so easy to jump on the computer into the night. After dinner I go for walks up to the beach with my sister, who’s just moved in down the road. So that was a conscious decision. I thought, you know what, I need to be living a life as well as stuck in front of the computer.

Who’s the coolest person you know?

My husband. He’s really cool. That sounds so dorky, doesn’t it? It really does. He doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks, he’s successful, funny, handsome, and he’s just a bit of a dork in a funny way. He’s really calm. He’s cool within himself. That’s what it’s about at the end of the day, being cool within yourself and now worrying about how you look or fashion. Though fashion is great. That sounds so dorky!

By Amy Lovat

 

How did the idea for The Sista Code come about?

I actually came up with the name four or five years ago. I saw a book called The Bro Code, and I thought, ‘there needs to be a sister code. Note to self: one day I’ll do something.’ Then I came back from Nepal and I was meditating and thinking, ‘I need to do something. I need to do something to help make the world a better place.’ After experiencing the tragedy of sex trafficking, I needed to do something that’s good in the world.

"It feels really great to be of service and help other people. You’re helping them but also helping yourself. It’s about providing channels to reach people in a way that’s suitable for them, and avenues and ways for women to support other women around the world."

How did it all start?

It’s been really organic. There was no big, sit down and plan this. It started with a Facebook page, with positive uplifting quotes. People were liking it, joining, sharing. It caught on straight away. I wrote the values of The Sista Code and women really resonated with it. When I started The Sista Code website, I just thought, ‘I’m going to try this and the worst thing that happens is it doesn’t work.’ There’s some things that haven’t worked.

So you’ve had no traditional marketing?

Nope. Since May 2014, it’s just grown. I actually contacted a PR agency in Sydney and wanted to talk to someone but they weren’t interested. They said journalists aren’t interested in blogs, because apparently they see them as competition. But now it’s grown exponentially.

Some of the gorgeous women Mel met through the Habitat for Humanity build in Nepal.

Some of the gorgeous women Mel met through the Habitat for Humanity build in Nepal.

Is The Sista Code just you?

Yes, with some really great women in my circle who support and inspire me and uplift me. Woman is not an island! I have a beautiful support network; I’m very lucky. In 2015 I’m actually having some regular guest contributors. Because there are some things I’m not an expert in and I’d feel fraudulent talking about those things. I can share my experiences and things I believe in and interview people. Like Lisa Mills, who is a local health and wellness expert. She really touches women and talks about body image and self-esteem, and she can talk about it from an expert point of view. I don’t want it to be all about me, but about women.

Is it just online?

We have the online space and also events. I held two last year, which were fundraisers, and it was really great. One was to support a local women’s charity and we had a Sista Code Supper Club. Women came and brought bags of suitcases of clothes that we donated to Jenny’s Place. Then we did one at Christmas and fundraised for the Samaritans. They have a big Christmas lunch in the park and a lot of mums and families don’t have the means to give presents, so everyone brought presents and clothes and donations.

How did you spread the word about the events?

Pretty much just online. I’ll continue to do that as well. The beautiful thing is women have said to me, they don’t always have the means, ability and time to donate in other ways,  but they can come to an event and make a donation and bring clothes or buy raffle tickets. I’m just creating that platform for women to come and do their part. Every little bit counts.

What’s coming up next?

I’m heading over to the US in July and holding a joint event in New York with Heidi Alexandra Pollard from Leading Ladies – she has a big network over there. Of 10,500 odd followers of The Sista Code, over half are in The States, so I want to connect with some of them over there.

Do you have a background in PR and marketing?

Yes. Good guess! I hadn’t thought about it, but in my business degree I majored in marketing and worked in marketing and communications for years. I’ve done a lot of writing just through PR, in public affairs and media, which was interesting but highly technical. It’s lovely to be able to write in a more human way and it’s about connecting with people.

What’s your perfect future?

That it continues to grow a following globally. This year I’ll have some social media campaigns that are about being the best you can be and making a difference in the world. And encouraging people to have a global focus. You need to look after your own backyard, of course, but sometimes it’s good to expand your horizons to things that affect us all on a global level. Myself and Belinda Smith went to Nepal with Habitat for Humanity so we’re organising another build over there. And just more events about supporting women.

Would you say that’s the most rewarding part of this?

Absolutely. Being of service. I feel really strongly about that.

On 6 May, 2015, Mel is holding her first Sydney-based event in partnership with The Everyday Adventure to fundraise for a women's refuge - The Marian Centre. Find out more at thesistacode.com.