Since first stepping on the catwalk more than a decade ago, Denise Bidot has been serving fly curvaceous looks that captured the entire world’s attention. But as an international model, shooting for brands like Forever 21, Target, Levi’s Jeans, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Old Navy and Lane Bryant, and becoming the first plus-size woman to walk for straight-size brands during New York Fashion Week, the Puerto Rican-Kuwaiti beauty delivered something greater to the fashion industry: a body revolution.
The Miami-born modelo, who currently splits her time between the “Magic City” and New York, has been a central figure in inserting ideas of the grassroots body positive and fat liberation movements into the mainstream world of glamour and vogue. By breaking barriers and refusing to stay quiet on body politics, Bidot, alongside a growing collective of model-activists, brought visible change to the industry, with big brands and media alike increasingly, albeit slowly, showcasing more diverse and inclusive representations of fashion and allure. With the trade shifting, the Latina veered her attention toward changing societal perspectives, creating the No Wrong Way Movement in 2016. For the last two years, the online space has been encouraging individuals everywhere to embrace their most authentic selves through a blog, speaking engagements and a YouTube channel.
But after years of working tirelessly to reshape dominant culture and industries into one that is accepting of, and empowering for, full-figured, vivacious Latina women like herself, Bidot this year decided to bring the body revolution to her own community as a host and mentor on Univision’s Nuestra Belleza Latina. In its 10th season, the revamped beauty contest ditched limiting size and age restrictions as well as took on a new tagline, one that resonated with Bidot: “Sin tallas, sin límites y sin excusas.”
(Courtesy of Univision)
“I think I live by those statements. Sin tallas: Who knew I would ever be a model? Who cares about my size, look at all I’ve done. Sin límites: These girls felt limited. As minorities as a whole, we don’t think we can make it because of where we come from, our color, our accent. But we are telling women none of that matters. If you dream big and work hard, those limitations no longer exist. We can climb through together. Sin excusas: With no more limits, there’s now no more excuses. All your dreams are waiting for you” Bidot, who was invited to join the show after participating as a consultant to improve the inclusivity of the program, told FIERCE.
The 32-year-old has called the experience of judging and mentoring for Nuestra Belleza Latina the “most rewarding project she’s ever worked on,” both because it is the first time in her career where she felt she was able to be her full, true spirited self and because she can identify with the girl contestants and audience battling insecurities, believing in themselves for the first time and seeking a change in the dominant representation of feminine Latinidad.
“I think it’s a dated mentality. For so many years, we needed to fit certain standards to be the perfect Latina. I don’t think it’s the case currently. Shows like NBL are changing that. It’s the beginning of a change we will see 40 or so years from now. Someone has to be the first. It was damaging for me growing up,” Bidot said. “… But the modern Latina woman doesn’t feel represented by that anymore, so while that may still predominantly be the case in most markets, we are working toward a different future, and I hope it’ll allow women to see themselves and feel empowered.”
(Courtesy of Denise Bidot)
But as Bidot, a mom to a 10-year-old daughter, knows well, media isn’t the only influencer in how girls and women view themselves. Parents play a critical role in raising youth to be strong, smart and confident, and each of these qualities, she says, helps make them formidable in a culture, society and industry that still largely hinge on women’s and girls’ insecurities.
Here, the curve model and self-love advocate shares lessons on raising an empowered, body-positive girl.
1. Resist The Urge To Baby Your Daughter.
Don’t baby them. Instead, talk to them. “I talk to my daughter like a loving equal. Now she is 10 years old and carries herself with maturity and a wonderful confidence, and I’m like, ‘oh girl, yes!’”
2. Stay On Top Of The Few Things You Can Actually Control.
While Bidot prides herself on being a cool mom, she’s the first to admit that she’s also a stringent mami. “I’m very strict on sugar, on hours sitting in front of the TV, on what games she’s playing and on which social media apps she has. We are navigating a different world, so learning as we go and listening is important, but don’t give them the kind of freedom where you no longer know what’s happening. Control what you have control over, what’s inside your house, because once they leave, you don’t have control over those outside influences.”
3. Have Her Repeat Affirmations To Herself.
Affirmations, Bidot says, are key. “Sometimes we are uncomfortable looking at ourselves in the mirror or hearing our voices. We just always put ourselves down. For me, it’s been important to have her in the mirror talking to herself, saying: ‘You are beautiful. You are strong. You are worthy.’ At first, she laughed and was like, ‘Mom, for real?’ And I get it. I laughed, too. But it matters because you’re putting these words out in the world, and you start understanding and believing them. Words are powerful. Listening to herself and looking at herself is self-development.”
4. Make Your Hija Your Plus-One.
Instead of looking for a babysitter so that you can go to Paris for the weekend to feel alive, Bidot says it’s more worthwhile, for you and her, to feel alive with your kid. “I’m single, so she is always my date, but when we travel, we learn about the world together. That has taught me as an adult, so I can’t imagine how she sees it. It’s crucial for her to know that the world is bigger than our town or our country. People have different cultural values. They have necessities. It’s an eye-opening experience that shapes their character. Don’t be afraid to take trips you are dreaming about with your kids. These moments and experiences will strengthen your bond. We talk about our trips with family. You don’t have to take them often, but when you can. I’m fortunate to travel for work and add her ticket on. I’m a single mom, so I have to bring her. But she adds more value, more love.”
5. Teach Them But Also Let Them Form Their Own Opinions.
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“Personally, as a mom, I see it as my duty that the one child I raise is equipped to take on the challenges life brings. I do this by teaching her, telling her to do affirmations and be kind to everyone, to make sure she is strong and confident. We know insecurities happen. It’s impossible to be strong and confident 100 percent of the time, but we have to allow them to build a core sense of self and empowerment. We need them to see things with their own perspective. With my daughter, people tell her things and it bounces off of her. She doesn’t let a comment someone makes ruin her life.”