How Shopping With Plus-Size Model Denise Bidot Made Me Face My Own Body Issues

·News Editor

It’s 9:50 AM, I’m supposed to meet a model at Bloomingdale’s in 10 minutes, and I have nothing to wear. I feel like a teenager again, putting on outfit after outfit trying to figure out the perfect look for school, but nothing works. The pressure is on because I’m about to go shopping with the face of Levi’s, Kohl’s, Macy’s, and more.

Unlike the mean girls that I was trying to impress, when I encounter Denise Bidot she immediately compliments my clothing and we embrace by way of introduction. The 26-year-old is dressed in curve-hugging jeans (Side note: the denim pants fit her so perfectly they look tailor-made and much more expensive than the $13 she dropped at Forever21 for them.), simple black heels, and a spaghetti strap tank top. Her hair has air dried in that perfect bedhead way and her minimal makeup screams #iwokeuplikethis. But considering she drove to Manhattan from her home in Queens after dropping her 6-year-old daughter off at school, Bidot isn’t trying to be trendy, rather she’s a working mother who cares more about making sure daughter is on time than what labels she’s wearing. Plus, her beauty is effortless which makes it all the more intimidating. “I love fashion and if there is anything that I have learned through being in this business, it’s that not everyone can pull off every style,” she says. “I love that I’ve learned what works best for my body and I get to blend high-end pieces with everyday affordable.”

Bidot and I are decompressing after New York Fashion Week with some retail therapy and talking about her runway experience. Despite being in the industry for years and modeling for big commercial brands, this was the first time Bidot walked at Lincoln Center. She closed Serena Williams’ runway show where tennis star Caroline Wozniacki and Vogue’s Anna Wintour sat in the front row. Admittedly, she had a hard time looking forward and not gawking at the presence of a big time editor and famous athlete watching her. “It was so hard to keep looking straight ahead! It was the only time — other than seeing my daughter in the front row — that I was tempted to turn my head,” she tells me while we’re shopping in the denim department of the downtown department store and perusing the latest selection of JBrand products, one her favorite brands. “The clothes just make you feel like such a badass.” Until recently, plus-size models were only seen in catalogs and advertisements. Having the most important editor-in-chief in American fashion sitting front row to see a parade of girls size 8 and up is pretty big news. The US has been slow to embrace the plus size world. Bidot, who is a size 14, does a lot of modeling in Copenhagen and she was about to take off to London Fashion Week a few days after we met. “It was such an honor to be a part of such a huge moment for my industry and to have been able to walk in three different fashion weeks this season is definitely what dreams are made of,” she says. “I’m just happy I can be an example to women everywhere that anything is possible.”

The Miami-native who has Puerto Rican and Kuwaiti roots also walked in Chromat, a futuristic line that launched in 2010. In just a one-piece bodysuit and covered in head-to-toe caging, Bidot opened the show and was joined by a group of diverse and shapely women. “It’s so amazing that she’s including us,” she said, referring to designer Becca McCharen, as she picks up a Rag & Bone bomber jacket. “It’s an occupational hazard walking in a show like Chromat. Your style completely changes after you get to wear different types of amazing clothes.” Bidot embraces not only the classification as a plus size model, but her body as well. She’s more comfortable in her skin than many women I know that are much smaller than she. Walking into lingerie store Journelle, she’s drawn to sexy bodysuits and lacy lingerie and without apprehension she stripped down in front of the store’s employee, the male photographer, and me. “I feel like Selena!” she exclaimed.

Bidot’s self-awareness and body confidence is so infectious that as I watch her transform in front of the camera I regret my skittishness this morning. I’m tall and thin and yet still incredibly insecure and she lets someone she barely knows document her curves and stretch marks. Her attitude makes me want to hop in the dressing room next to her and ask for some shots of my own. She’s the kind of woman I needed as a role model in high school to tell me that no matter what I’m wearing — be it Forever 21 jeans and a plain old tank or the latest designer fashion — it’s all about your attitude not your dress size.