Denise Bidot Shares Why She Loves the Stretch Marks On Her Stomach
"It's who I am, it's a part of me, and it's nice to finally come to terms with the fact that we're not meant to be perfect."
You may not know Denise Bidot by name just yet, but you'll likely recognize her from major ad campaigns she's appeared in this year for Target and Lane Bryant. Although Bidot has been modeling for decades, the body pos advocate (she founded the No Wrong Way movement, which "encourages everyone to embrace their most authentic self") has broken major boundaries in the plus-size modeling world during the past few years. Most notably? In 2014, she became the first plus-size model to walk multiple straight-size shows at New York Fashion Week. And earlier this year, her completely unretouched ad for Lane Bryant (featuring stretch marks on her stomach) went viral and was featured in an issue of Sports Illustrated.
As part of her latest campaign with Lane Bryant, #TheNewSkinny, celebrating the clothing brand's just-launched Super Stretch Skinny jeans, we talked to the model and body pos advocate about the struggle of shopping for skinny jeans as a curvy woman, the stretch mark revolution, and her trick for an instant self-esteem boost.
Photo credit: Lane Bryant exclusive for Shape
Why these skinny jeans are game-changers for curvy women.
"As a very curvy woman, jeans are always a hard find. I always have to tailor them to fit my body because they fit at the thighs and they don't fit at the waist, so I'm really excited about these jeans. It's a refreshing moment to find a pair of jeans that just fit my curves perfectly and keep their shape-I hate when they start getting baggy at the knees. It's the revolution we needed. Curvy women can be sexy and wear a really hot pair of jeans."
Why body positivity is *not* just an issue for larger women.
"I grew up in a generation when you really didn't see that much diversity and inclusivity within all facets of media, so to be on the front lines of this is really cool and I'm really proud to be a part of it. It's really about standing together. Body positivity is not just an issue for larger women, and I think that's important to acknowledge. It's about including everyone, whether you're transgender, or LGBTQ, it's really about embracing every person's uniqueness. There's such beauty in every individual and I think it's important to start breaking down those boundaries and stereotypical beauty standards that really don't serve any purpose. Most of us were pre-programmed to think one body type is more beautiful than another so it's important for the media to keep showing different body types and types of beauty, because we should all just be admired and accepted exactly as we are."
Why seeing stretch marks is so important.
"The reaction to the unretouched image was really a surprise to me-just the outpour of support and number of people that shared the image and how viral it went so quickly. It's in my nature to want every image of me to be authentic but at the end of the day as a model, I don't always get control over how someone decides to put forth my picture. So I do my best and try to encourage women to be loving of their bodies and to be supportive of one another, so I show that through my Instagram with a lot of unretouched images. I've been modeling now for over 20 years and for so long I thought I needed to change my body to get booked, and even the jobs I did get, so many times they retouched the imperfections out. So to actually have amazing brands such as Lane Bryant and Target stand behind me and release the images as-is is really empowering. It's 2017 and we're finally getting to see real bodies and have that narrative out there and it's been really helpful for women everywhere. It's really refreshing and really freeing." (Related: Target Promotes Body Diversity with Its Incredible New Swimsuit Line)
Why being a mom and being sexy are not mutually exclusive.
"Tess Holliday is a great friend and we have these conversations about motherhood constantly. As a mom, you should be allowed to be sexy and empowered and a boss all in one. After having kids, I was worried that my stretch marks would make me less beautiful, but you have to find your own beauty and you have to find your own sexiness. So even though I'm a mom, I wear sexy lingerie constantly because I think we should be allowed to be beautiful and sexy no matter how old you are, where you come from, whether or not you're a mom. It's just part of being a woman."
Why you'll never catch her in a string bikini.
"For a long time, I tried to hide behind a swimsuit. I've always been a fan of high-waisted swimsuits so when they started coming out with the plus sizes I was the happiest woman in the world and it became my swim uniform with a bralette top. I'm super comfortable in it and I don't feel like I'm going to fall out. As I've gotten more comfortable with my body, I've gone lower and lower with the swimsuit bottoms but you'll never catch me in anything way too sexy. I'm still never gonna be that girl in the string bikini. I grew up in Miami so a lot of my friends rock thong bikinis in the summertime. I'll be like, girl are you really wearing that? But it's what you feel sexy and confident in. You should be able to wear whatever you want."
Why she prefers heels to sneakers when she works out.
"I really enjoy taking ballroom dance classes. It's one of my favorite workouts-it's just fun and you feel like you're alive and I'm constantly learning new moves. Especially since I'm a Latin woman, to get to put on some heels and dance around and just have fun. I literally leave every class so sore and it's such a great workout, and I think it's sexy-you get to dance with a partner! It keeps me young."
Why surrounding yourself with positivity breeds happiness and confidence.
"I'm that person who will like Google, 'inspirational quotes' or look at the hashtags on Instagram and sit there and read them. I'm totally a sap when it comes to things like that. I think putting the right concept into your brain is so essential for your mental health and how you feel throughout the day and how you're going to approach the day and the situations that come at you. I constantly feed my brain inspirational quotes and positive mantras. You have to look for the positive all around you. I'm always looking for those moments. Being happy is what's so important for my confidence and self-esteem."
Why she loves the stretch marks on her stomach.
"I'm at that point in my life where I'm going to embrace all parts of my body. My stretch marks, my tummy-which I ran away from and hid for so many years-I've finally learned to love and embrace. It's who I am, it's a part of me, and it's nice to finally come to terms with the fact that we're not meant to be perfect. And so I love my stomach."