NBC Latino

Latina Leaders: Plus size model says she loves encouraging women to love their bodies

Denise Bidot (Courtesy Muse Management, Inc.)

Denise Bidot always wanted to be an actress, but when she moved to Los Angeles from Miami at 18 to pursue her dream, she was told that her 10 to 12 clothing size was more of  “the best friend body type,” and so she had trouble finding acting roles. Instead, she studied to be a makeup artist. As luck would have it, soon after, she was discovered by a photographer who asked her to partake in a photo shoot for plus size models, and that was the start of her career.

The half Puerto Rican, half Kuwaiti 26-year-old has been an international plus size model for the past seven years. Besides traveling the world to work with top fashion giants like Forever 21, she is also a single mom starring on NuvoTV’s “Curvy Girls,” and will be seen on HBO Latino’s “Habla” — a show featuring different Hispanic voices in the U.S. debuting on April 18.

“I originally thought that modeling was not my cup of tea, but when I realized how many women I’m affecting, I realized how important my job is,” says Bidot. “You don’t realize you are a trendsetter, but you are…I think ‘Curvy Girls’ opened that door more — women now feel beautiful internally and on the outside.”

She says she’s seen drastic changes in the past seven years — mainly, fashion editors now know what plus size fashion is.

“I really had no idea plus size modeling even existed,” says Bidot, recalling the time before she was approached for her job and had no luck with her acting career. “I didn’t know what else there was to do except makeup. Ironically, deciding to be on the back end put me in front of the camera. It’s just remarkable what has happened. It was totally unexpected.”

She says she took the opportunity that was handed to her with open arms.

“I was kind of intrigued but afraid to put myself in the plus size category, but I said, ‘Let’s see how this goes,’” says Bidot. “I was in a place that I didn’t know where I was going to go, and it ended up being perfection.”

Although her career often takes her across the world, traveling as far as Denmark a few times a year, she says it is her 4-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, who keeps her grounded.

“She’s the joy of my life,” says Bidot. “She’s number one, and that’s never going to change. Everything gets done around her.”

Because she likes to spend as much time as possible with her daughter, Bidot says she tries to limit her travel to one week a month, and when she does, she sleeps on the plane in her snuggie.

“It’s amazing — you don’t get a second chance to do these things,” says Bidot. “My grandmother says, ‘Esto es tu momento!’ I feel like I represent the curvy girls. I need to do it when the doors are open. It could be different next year.”

And she says she’s all smiles these days.

“It’s wonderful to get glam…and to be all-woman all-day, and have people care about what you look like,” says Bidot. “I also get to empower women to love their bodies…Women from all over the world write me on social media that I have shown them confidence.”

 In return, she says she’s also gotten a lot of support from women herself.

“The whole world is really starting to understand,” says Bidot. “In my mom’s generation, you were beautiful if you were skinny. Now it’s more about being healthy, and that means different things for different women. Be happy with the way you were built.”

Even when Bidot first started modeling a few years ago, she says there weren’t really any Latina plus size models, and she was one of the very few who paved the way.

 “In the last year, there has been a huge boom in Latina models,” she says. “It’s really empowering to see them, because a step for one, is one step for all of us.”

She says right now she’s having so much fun being on a cast with all curvy women.

 “When the camera stops rolling, we are really friends,” says Bidot. “There’s something insanely amazing [that] will come up this season — probably the biggest thing in my entire life. That will be my milestone on the show. The next season starts in June, and you’ll really get to know me.”

Being a fan of Jennifer Lopez since she was 12, she says the fact that she’s one of her bosses on the show is icing on the cake. Eventually, she says she would like to be like the multi-tasking Lopez, and also become a fashion designer and film actress.

“I’m setting myself up for that,” says Bidot. “But this is the year of the curves. We’ve been working really hard at this.”