When the smoldering Denise Bidot, a size 14, opened the Chromat show in a body cage at New York Fashion Week this month, women around the world felt beautiful. Seeing so much of a babeablicious woman’s body on a runway jolted our focus onto a person who is every bit a model, but not the kind we’re used to. We’ve been trained to think — via an endless procession of ultra thin women — that bigger was unwelcome on this stage, that there could be no model with thighs working it on a runway, let alone revealing skin in leather bondage. And this wasn’t a show specifically for “full-figured” customers either.
The moment resonated, and it’s still resonating. Just before jetting to London for Fashion Week, where she earned an applause as the only plus-size model in Serena Williams‘ runway show and modeled for Evans, we spoke to the palpably excited model who’s now a symbol, a feel-sexy pass for women who previously never saw themselves as runway material, let alone in Chromat. “Are you going to sing to me?” she asks me on the phone, still on a breathless high from the barrage of calls she was getting. She shared her memory of walking on the runway. “They kept saying, ‘walk strong!’ and I just thought, “don’t fall back or you’ll set us back twenty years!”
Here she ruminates on the reactions, and how it feels to be changing the game of the fashion industry.
So how did the Chromat show come about for you?
I was connected to Chromat through a good friend of mine who, while talking with Becca [McCharen] one day about her Curve collection, suggested they use me. We met and it was a match made in Chromat heaven. She immediately got to work on the line based on my body’s measurements. It was so great to see her sketches and vision for it before it was made, and then to see the final product in the end was amazing.
How cool that the armor you wore in the Chromat show was modeled off of your body. How did that stuff actually feel on?
The piece I got to wear in the show was so crazy and cool. I couldn’t help feel like a powerful woman.
Those were serious platform shoes. How were they to walk in?
Those shoes were super high and really fun. Truth is, I kept having to tell myself, “don’t fall!”
So this kind of visibility is rare. How did people backstage react?
Everyone backstage was so supportive. It’s as though everyone had been waiting for the moment when fashion integrated curvy models.
When did you start sensing a shift in terms of representing women’s bodies?
I have been seeing the changes happening a lot, and quickly lately. Before this, I just guess people were more afraid of taking chances, but consumers have been very outspoken and demanded to see different bodies on the runways and in magazines.
People have really responded to this milestone around the world. What specific feedback did you get from the mother who showed her daughter? (Bidot previously told me a mother revealed to her that after the show, her daughter finally felt beautiful.)
She was so happy to have me as an example for her daughter. Really put things in perspective. I am honored that I can make women feel beautiful through my confidence, it’s such a blessing.
You were the only plus model at the Serena Williams show. How did the crowd react?
I was in shock at the reaction during the Serena Williams show. People actually began to clap. It was definitely surreal to get such an outpour of support from my peers.
What does this mean for the industry?
It means that change is finally here, and I’m so happy to have been standing in the front lines when it happened.
What does it mean for you personally?
I love the industry I am in, and I’m proud of how far we have come. For me personally, this was everything. I have worked so hard for the past seven years and I’m living proof that if you work hard, you can accomplish anything. I got to where I am at without needing to change who I am, and that makes me so happy.
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