Jane Yu: What were your thoughts on the fashion industry before you began modeling and were doing freelance makeup for photo shoots? How have your thoughts on the industry changed?
Denise Bidot: Well, it’s been almost a decade. I just feel like growing up it’s very easy to interpret the fashion industry as just being one-sided and being petite. So when I was doing make-up, and I was approached to go into modeling, and I was asked, “Have you ever thought of being a model?” obviously the natural response was, “Absolutely not.” I’m not necessarily extremely tall. I’m not petite in frame. So I just couldn’t believe that there was a place for me. Like, I never knew about plus-size modeling. I had no idea it existed. I had no clue that it could be something that I would fit into, and so it worked out amazingly. It’s been eight years. It is a great industry, and it’s changed so much in the time I’ve been in it. I remember when I first started it was all kind of, like, you got older and you got bigger. That was almost the interpretation. But so much, you know, the average American woman being a size 14 has showed people that you’re not only bigger when you’re older. There are young girls… and we want to be trendy, and we want to be fashionable, and we want to be able to look and feel good. So, I ‘ve seen such a huge change in the eight years that I’ve been a part of it. There are cool, trendy options for us, and high-end designers are now starting to design for plus sizes. I had the opportunity to walk in the New York Fashion Week. Also, I travel the world living a dream that I had no idea I have ever wanted. So, it’s been a complete blessing. The fashion industry totally shocked me because as superficial as I’d originally thought it might have been growing up, it’s the complete opposite. I found myself through fashion, and I learned to be confident through it. You know, I saw pictures that people saw, and it made sense, and so I’m very thankful to my fashion industry.
JY: You’re a pioneer.
DB: It’s like, it molded me into the woman I am. I don’t know who I would be without it. It’s crazy.
JY: How would you define fashion then?
DB: Well, it’s hard to define fashion because fashion is ever changing. I don’t think there’s ever, like, a real, proper way to define it. I feel like style is something different, though. Style is like the way you carry yourself, and the way you feel in your clothes. Part of being a powerful woman is finding your own personal style and really, just, owning it and being confident within it.
JY: I do see that people’s styles evolve as their personalities change. Do you also see a transition in the clothing you wore prior to your being a model?
DB: Oh my god, yeah. I’m from Miami and so it’s… Miami people, like, match everything, from their shoes to their purses and their belts and you know, I definitely grew up with that full Spanish mentality. Moving from Miami to LA, I learned a lot about being more minimal and finding things that suited my frame better. And then moving to New York it’s all, like, cool and stylish and classy but edgy, and so I like the fact that I’ve gotten to travel the world because I’ve gotten to see the world’s fashion style, if that makes sense. I’ve definitely gotten cooler through being in this industry. I was not so cool before. [laughs]
JY: Clothing as transformation?
DB: You know, I feel like, I’m a woman. I found, you know, my voice and my confidence throughout fashion, and so of course now, I feel a little bit different in my own skin which changes the way you feel about fashion and style as well.
JY: How would you describe the difference between a girl versus a woman?
DB: Well, you know, girls are… I feel like there’s always a constant growth process, and you’re always ever-changing as a woman. Even when you think you’re a grown woman you’re not really ever grown or fully matured. There’s always something to learn or adventures to be had, and lessons to be learned. But, I truly believe that transition happens, and you don’t even notice it. I remember that recently I was just talking to my friend about it, and I looked in the mirror, and I felt like a woman. You know, I don’t know what it is. At some point you lose your baby fat and you start…
JY: What age was this?
DB: Like, a few months ago.
DB: Like, recently, girl. And I remember telling my mom, “Oh my god. I feel like a woman.” Like, it’s the first time I looked at myself, and I didn’t see like, a growing little girl, or someone who was just kind of like, insecure or not sure about what her actions should be. I felt like for the first time I was like, fully aware of who I am, what I wanted and how to do it. I think that’s kind of where it starts. And then you go through that, and you grow within that, and all of a sudden you are a powerful…
DB: Lady. [laughs] And I think there’s something really special about discovering your potential because we’re powerful as women.
JY: Any role models you look up to?
DB: I’m really biased. I love Jennifer Lopez. But I think that’s just a part of my upbringing. I’m really happy to have that many role models who I felt like not only represented the Latina women but also like, the curvy Latina woman. So people like her and Penelope Cruz and you know I love Drew Barrymore. I think there are just so many women who are awesome ambassadors for just being yourself and being cool and doing just all sort of different things. I just admire a funny, confident, sassy woman and hopefully I’m that person. [laughs]
JY: You embody all that, definitely.
DB: I think there’s something really sexy about being funny and being quirky and weird. I think we’re in a generation where we’re accepting weirdness and individuality, and I think that’s the most important part.
JY: Have you seen the step away from conventional beauty?
DB: Absolutely. I mean, I remember you know, you have… it was very black and white. And you’ve seen so many models like Kara Develingne who’s like a straight size model. She’s got the big, bushy eyebrows, and you’ve got the girl who’s got the gap in between her teeth. I think people are really starting to embrace things that wouldn’t normally have been thought of as beautiful and realizing that those things are exactly the things that make you beautiful. The imperfections are perfect. Yeah, and so…
JY: Cool. If you could fill this out, what would you say: People think I’m ‘blank,’ but I’m actually ‘blank.’
DB: People think I’m cool, but I’m actually a nerd.
JY: What are you nerdy about?
DB: I’m just really goofy and silly, and I think like a boy and so, I’m kind of like the girl who likes to watch, like, ‘Family Guy’ and basketball games but still really loves heels.
JY: Speaking of… I overheard you saying earlier that you have a high arch so you prefer walking around in really tall heels.
DB: Yeah. I really have a high arch, so I think I was meant for fashion. My feet hurt when I wear flats. It’s terrible.
JY: So I looked at your past, and it looks like you were initially more interested in acting. And now that you’re modeling… how are you able to translate that perspective into modeling?
DB: Well, I think you couldn’t really be a great model unless you were a good actress because so much of modeling is really you bringing out whatever character or dimension the client wants. And if you don’t really have a personality, or you don’t have a way to get into character, you’re not really going to do a good job on that.
JY: Were you shy at first?
DB: I wasn’t necessarily shy, but I was kind of in a transition period where I had wanted to act, and I was told no because of my size. Then I went into make-up, and so I was kind of trying to find myself. So when I started modeling I had no clue what I was doing. I just used to play music, and I danced around, and I initially was just… trial and error. Yeah, I saw pictures that didn’t look good, and I realized why, and I never did that again. And I just continued to grow and learn like the women who were out there doing it. Yeah, I’m always… and you know, I’m really sassy and confident when I’m in front of a camera but in the real world, I’m quite shy.
JY: Really? How about this setting we’re in?
DB: I’m really quirky and shy. No, we’re on set. It’s a different dynamic. I know I’m here to do something, and these are people that I also know. When first coming and meeting someone without all of this it’s totally different. I’m a mom. You know, I’m realistic, and I’m running around and content in my own bubble. Especially when I meet a cute boy, I’m the shyest person in the world. Look, I have like, zero game.
JY: I don’t know if we believe that.
DB: Zero game. Tell that to my four-year long single streak. When have you ever seen me have a boyfriend?
JY: But then I feel like you’re… you just don’t want a boyfriend.
DB: I’m just shy and awkward. I have no game. Like, you know that game thing? Like, I don’t have that. Yeah, this is it. This is a set ‘cause it’s an act. You know, it’s acting. I enjoy it but…
JY: I know your daughter is still budding but what parallels do you see between her and you already?
DB: Oh my god, she’s as sassy as I am now but at her age. I was really weird then, you know, at, six years old… I was like, super awkward. And so she’s not. She gets to travel the world with me, and she gets to meet all the people, and she’s been coming to set since she was like, a month old. That’s when I started working again. She’s gotten so much ability to grow and see life in a different way that’s so exciting to me to witness. Um, but yeah, she wants to be a pop star, so I’m pretty sure I’m screwed when she’s… when I’m…
JY: She wants to be a pop star?
DB: Yup. And she wants to be a “model-er.” A modeler. A six-year old model. That’s just her thing. She’s going to become a model-er. So I love it. She’s learning a lot and if anything, like more than her at all wanting to be in the business
or allowing her to be in the business, I feel like she’s got the opportunity to really learn about beauty and size diversity and how…
JY: What kind of things do you say to her about beauty? Do you feel conflicted?
DB: Well, she gets to be around me. She gets to see things like this go on and my line of work, and she goes to all the castings and sees the models and sees them, you know, on the billboards and the magazines, and I think it’s really opened her eyes to see, you know, how much of a piece of art it is. Because it’s not one person, it’s a collaborative effort. She sees, you know, the lashes and the hair extensions and the make-up, you know, and she sees that it’s a façade. You know, it’s a look. It’s not real. Where I think so many people are looking at magazines and believing that these women really look like that when there’s a team of people to make them look like that. So I think for that sake she’s learned a lot. Like, I’ll come home from work and she’ll go, like, “Mom, you’re beautiful just the way you are. Take your lashes off.” And I’m dying ‘cause, like, how do you get it at six years old?
JY: Yeah, kids are precocious.
DB: And so for what it’s worth it’s amazing to see that. I think it’s the best industry that I could possibly be in having a little girl.
JY: Interesting. What artistic medium best expresses yourself? Do you think it’s modeling or do you still want to get into acting later on?
DB: Well, I have a… Oh my god, I’m a jack-of-all-trades. I’m the type of girl who has a million and one ideas and goals and plans in the works. Like, I’ve planted my seeds everywhere, so there’s not a single creative outlet that is better than the other. It’s just… all of them are pretty awesome. I’d love to direct. I’m in the process of possibly writing a children’s book, and so there’s just so many things that I’d like to do, and I’m in a wonderful position to be able to explore those pretty soon. So I’m just working on it. Life is a growth process. I’m just kind of growing as it happens.