When Denise Bidot was 18, she packed a suitcase and left Miami for L.A., where she was determined to make it big as a movie star.
"I kept being told I had a leading lady personality but a best friend body type," she says. "I kept hearing, 'Oh, you're beautiful—but what if you lost 15 pounds?' It's like, 'You're perfect, but not really.'"
So Bidot switched gears and went to school to study makeup, after which she worked briefly as a makeup artist. One day while working on a client, a photographer who happened to be there asked her if she'd ever thought of modeling. And that, as they say, was that. Now Bidot, 26, is the face of big brands like Levi's, Forever21 Plus, Target Plus, Kohls, Macy's, and more.
"It was definitely a case of being in the right place at the right time," Bidot says. "It's funny—it was a dream I never knew I had."
We sat down with Bidot to talk more about what the modeling industry is really like, walking in NY Fashion Week, and what she tells her daughter about body confidence.
Shape: How is the modling industry different from TV or Hollywood?
Denise Bidot (DB): Everyone assumes the modeling industry is much more superficial, but I love it. When I got into modeling, all I'd hear is "You look amazing," or "These photos look beautiful." I started to see myself the way people did through the camera. Obviously, plus-size modeling is different than straight-size modeling, but I'm so blessed to be in this industry. I'm Latina and Middle Eastern, and ethnically ambiguous, and for so long, I didn't see anyone who looked like me in the media.
Shape: The term "plus-size model" seems to be a hot buzzword being thrown around right now. What does it mean to you?
DB: It's so interesting—I see myself as normal. You know, the average American woman is a size 14, and I've always been comfortable at a size 14. Girls today are so confident, and they know what they want. Hopefully, the industry continues to change.
Shape: You have a young daughter. How do you talk to her about topics like body confidence and self-esteem?
DB: She's so brilliant! She's been coming to set with me since she was a baby. She knows that modeling is just a business—all the hair extensions, the fake eyelashes, the makeup, it's all strategic, not authentic. She knows that no one, not even the models, look like that in real life. She's so cute. When I come home at night in my fake eyelashes, she'll tell me, "Mami, you don't need those!"
Shape: What kind of advice would you give young women who want to break into the modeling industry?
DB: Always be ready for the next one. This is an industry where you're going to get told 'no' a lot (even some of my favorite clients turned me down at first!), so you have to have very thick skin. Try to stay true to who you are throughout the process, and that way, even when you're being told no, you'll be more content.
Shape: What would you say to young girls who are struggling with their weight or body confidence?
DB: Tell yourself out loud: I love you. You have to build confidence from the inside out. You have to be able to love yourself when you're home alone in front of the mirror.
Shape: What makes you feel your healthiest?
DB: I'm learning! When I'm at my healthiest, I feel great in my skin, body, and mind. I'm always running after my six-year-old, which keeps me pretty busy, but I've been doing a lot of cooking at home, and I try to take to walk every day for at least 30 to 40 minutes.
Shape: Let's talk about NY Fashion Week! Are you going to be walking in any shows?
DB: Yes! I'm going to be opening Chromat and closing Serena Williams' HSN line as they introduce their first plus-size lines. It'll be really cool, especially because the emphasis is it really on being high-fashion couture. It's not straight-size vs. plus-size, it's all just fashion.