If there's one model that's making moves in the fashion world, it's Denise Bidot. This secure and confident 29-year-old beauty has become one of the most recognizable names in plus-size modeling. She's done it all from working with top brands — including Nordstrom, Lane Bryant, Levi's, Kohl's and Forever21 — to making history as the first plus-size Latina model to ever walk the runways at New York Fashion Week in a “straight-size” show. Bidot recently told E! News that it’s time lingerie giant Victoria's Secret gives a curvy model a pair of angel wings and expands its sizing. We spoke to Bidot about how she got where she is today in her career, what she wants to see happen in the fashion industry, and how she's inspiring and empowering women to accept and love themselves more.
Born to a Puerto Rican mother and Kuwaiti father, Bidot grew up in Miami, Florida surrounded by her Puerto Rican side of the family. "I never met my dad so I feel like I'm 100 percent Latina," she tells Vivala. Bidot originally wanted to be an actress, but when she couldn't land acting gigs, she started doing hair and makeup for photoshoots. The last thing she imagined was that it would open up the doors to modeling. "I was working as a makeup artist on a shoot for a plus-size model and she approached me and asked if I had ever thought about modeling," she says. "Truth be told, I never did. It wasn't something I ever imagined for myself."
After a month or so of toying with the idea, Bidot finally agreed to have a photographer take her photos in 2006. The photos were posted to online message boards that triggered positive responses almost immediately. Shortly after, Bidot got a call from a company called Hips and Curves and worked for them as a model for almost two years before getting signed to a modeling agency in Los Angeles. The rest, as they say, is history.
She's been pushing boundaries ever since, while inspiring other young women to love and accept their bodies. But being so confident in a tough industry like fashion didn't always come easy. "As women, we all have moments of insecurities. When you're going out to auditions and everyone is telling you lose 10 or 15 pounds you start doubting who you are," she says. "When I started modeling I thought, ‘I hope this doesn't break me,’ and ironically, it didn't." Modeling became an empowering tool for Bidot, who used it to find her voice. "I feel like fashion almost saved me because I started seeing myself the way other people saw me. It's made me realize how important it is for me to speak on it not only for myself or for my daughter, but for the young generation of girls growing up."
Bidot's campaign with Swimsuits For All, "Beach Body. Not Sorry." is just one of the ways she's been fighting against body shaming and negativity. In the photos, a super sexy and glam Bidot is seen rocking a sexy two piece — cellulite and all. "It was so refreshing to be able to release those images unretouched and be like this is me and I'm not ashamed of that," she says. "I've struggled so much with my body, especially after I had my daughter. I had stretch marks and I thought, ‘Who's going to want me now? And then you realize it doesn't matter. The only person that matters if they like you is you.”
As for strutting down the runway for Serena William's show during New York Fashion Week, Bidot said it was one of the most pivotal moments not just in her career, but in her life. It was the moment she managed to catch the eye of Vogue Editor-In-Chief and fashion icon, Anna Wintour. "I was the only plus-size girl in the lineup, and when I came out all of the sudden one person starts clapping, and by the time I made it to the end of the runway the entire room was clapping, even Anna. And that was everything to me," she says.
The fashion industry has definitely started changing and seems to have finally begun to embrace diversity. "In the last eight years our industry has done a full 180," she says. "When I started out I was literally modeling moo-moos and old lady clothes. Now there are junior brands like Forever21 catering to plus-size women," she says. "I remember growing up my mom had no place to shop. It was Lane Bryant or Avenue, that's it." But as far as the industry has come, there's still something else Bidot would like to see happen. "It's important to have models of all types. Now we need to just get everything in between," she says. "When people start seeing different models in magazines and ads, they start feeling better about themselves."