Last week, plus-size model and body positive advocate Denise Bidot walked the runway for the last show of New York Fashion Week. The 32-year-old joined two-time Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, Beauty influencer and YouTuber Jackie Aina, comedian Lilly Singh, and fashion blogger, cancer survivor and model, Mama Cax in an Olay sponsored runway show. These influential ladies were all dressed in long red clocks, showing off completely bare, makeup free skin. The show included women of varies shapes, skin tones, and abilities and the mission behind it was to empower women and remind them that they are beautiful regardless of what society thinks. This is just one of the many diverse campaigns Bidot has been a part of and in many ways it’s reflective of the path she’s taken in her modeling career and in her activism. Not only has she become one of the most recognizable names in fashion—not just plus-size modeling—but Bidot has made it her goal to redefine the beauty standards that have been placed on women for centuries.
The first time most of us heard of Bidot was when she made history as the first plus-size Latina model to ever walk the runways at New York fashion Week in a “straight-size” show. But boy has she come a long way since then. She was the founder of #NoWrongWay, a self-love movement which raised awareness and reminded women that there is literally no wrong way to be a woman. Bidot has also worked with every top brand you could think of from Forever21, Levis, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Lane Bryant, Swimsuits For All, Good American, NYDJ, and more. She’s even recently partnered with Caress and Tresemmé for the Unilever Beauty and Personal Care #QueTeMueve campaign that celebrates diversity—specifically within the Latinx community.
“For me, Unilever’s always had the brands that I can relate to that I grew up with so being able to work on Caress or Tresemmé, those are all brands that were in my house growing up,” she tells HipLatina. So, to find and have this partnership with Unilever and to be part of the #QueTeMueve campaign just makes me so happy because it just feels like coming home. Que Te Mueve, like what moves you? We’re Latinos. We’re passionate, we love music, we love all these things. Avenues where you get to be creative and to have these brands support us and support our artistry, It’s just a combination of everything.”
Mainstream media and top notch beauty brands are finally recognizing the importance of diversity and representation. We saw that with the success of Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, that provided foundation shades for women of ALL skin tones and complexions. We’re seeing that in the diverse range of models that are being booked for campaigns and the rising WOC who are gracing the covers of magazines such as Jillian Mercado and Mama Cax who landed on Teen Vogue’s September issue. But the world is also finally understanding the importance of recognizing diversity within the Latinx community with artists and activists like Amara La Negra, Zoe Saldana, Rosario Dawson and Dascha Polanco putting Afro-Latinas on the forefront. We don’t just vary physically but we also vary racially and culturally and the world is finally paying attention to that.
“I think we are all different. I think as the Latino culture you know we come from different places, we have different heritage, and we have different beliefs and I think it’s really beautiful to be able to embrace all of them to know that we all stand united,” Bidot says. “And that at the end of the day you know one step forward for one is one step forward for all. Visibility and inclusivity is so essential in this day [and age] and so to be able to represent that and be part of that in this next wave, to show the next generation that they can also achieve anything is priceless. I mean its what we’ve all worked hard for, is that visibility.”
Bidot who is half Puerto Rican and half middle eastern has always been very proud of her heritage. She grew up mainly with her Puerto Rican side of the family in both Miami and Puerto Rico and as a result has kept her culture alive in both the language—she speaks Spanish—and in preserving her family’s recipes. Anytime she’s feeling down or away from home, she cooks up her family’s famous arroz con guandules recipe. Connecting with her culture, her people, and her family has always been important. What’s just as important to Bidot, is raising her daughter to be proud of her multicultural heritage and her Afro-Latina roots.
“So my daughter is cute because she is everything that I am—mixed. And then she is part Jamaican (on her father’s side), so I think it’s really interesting to raise a mixed child and to show them all of who they are and to have them love and accept it,” she says. “A big challenge for me has been her hair because I don’t have curly hair so I’ve had to show her other women in media who are Afro-Latina. Thankfully she is obsessed with Guardians of The Galaxy and Zoe Saldana, who is someone who she loves and so is able to show her representation and how successful she is.”
Bidot’s daughter even got to walk with her mama at fashion week’s Texture on the Runway show, a show dedicated to embracing naturally curly hair.
“I do think Afro-Latinas for so long weren’t represented. I remember even when I was going out for acting auditions, 12, 13 years ago, and they would ask for a Latina lead and it was always very specific. It was always you know the hourglass figure, the olive skin and the long dark hair,” says Bidot. “And there was very little room for anything else and as a Puerto Rican woman I can tell you firsthand that my cousins are redheads with freckles and my abuelita has blonde hair and green eyes. We don’t look any certain way and we’ve been misrepresented for as long as I can remember … I think it’s a beautiful thing as a mother of an Afro-Latina girl to be able to finally show women that look like her in TV and in music. And you know as an artist, I think it’s essential because we can’t really be comfortable with who we are until we have that sort of representation and silver lining, where we know we’re being accepted and represented.”
Bidot is bringing her passion for diversity and representation in her new role as judge on Nuestra Belleza Latina’s 11th season. The show’s new mission has been to diversify what Latina beauty really means and they are even doing away with a lot of old requirements that were once in place.
“It the first time ever that a curvy Latina woman has been put as a lead and I think that’s really important when we talk about diversity and when we talk about inclusivity and representation. While skin color and everything matters—size does too,” she says. “It’s a show that for so long has been very one sided. But also, it’s wonderful to think that all the progress and work that we’ve done in the fashion industry and in the film industry is now seeping into a network like Univision. I’m also proud of what we’re doing because they eliminated the size restriction, the age restriction and in doing so they have allowed talent to shine bright and they’ve allowed women to feel confident and fell beautiful and feel understood and I think that’s what we want for all women right [now] regardless of how old they are and so this season there’s going to be a lot of changes.”
When Bidot first got into the fashion industry, one of her goals was to inspire and empower women to accept and love themselves and she has stayed true to that mission, whether it’s through the modeling campaigns she’s signed on to, sharing her own personal self-love journey with followers on social, through the #nowrongway movement, or through some of her latest roles. She’s broken boundaries and has been such a huge influence in redefining the beauty standards women have been conditioned to believe and follow. Her own personal beauty philosophy has a lot to do with it.
“Beauty means a lot to me. It means happiness,” she says. “I think so many times you get stuck on the physical but you can’t get to a good place in the physical side if the inside is all screwed up. And so I think when we all find a glance [with] mental health and happiness, then you just flow, you just live and that to me is beautiful.”