Model Denise Bidot has never let stretchmarks or cellulite mess with her bikini body chi. They’re attributes to be embraced, not negatives to be concealed or lamented. “It’s nice to take your power back and say, ‘You know what, I am beautiful just as I am and I want to show the world how I feel.’”
It’s the kind of response you’d expect from the outspoken model who made history last year as the first plus-size model to walk in New York Fashion Week (for CHROMAT and Serena Williams’ HSN line, which was attended by tennis-lover Anna Wintour). Bidot is again marking her territory as a trailblazer by starring in Swimsuits for All’s new ‘Beach Body. Not Sorry’ campaign, which eschews Photoshop for the real deal, i.e. photos that haven’t been digitally manipulated.
We talked to Bidot about how it feels to go naked (digitally speaking), her beach body secrets and bikini-buying tips.
How did you feel about going Photoshop-free?
The campaign wasn’t originally intended to be unretouched. I got a phone call from my agency after [the campaign was shot] asking if I would be OK with them releasing the images unretouched based on the fact that they were so beautiful and the message would be something women would really like to see. I’m such an avid advocate about beauty and size diversity, loving your body and being positive so I thought, ‘You know, if I can talk the talk I better be able to walk the walk,’ and it kind of worked out.
It was so freeing in my own right as well. As a model it’s so easy to get sucked into these beautiful Photoshopped campaigns and to look at those and get lost and think ‘Oh my god, I look like that,’ or deceive the same audience that you want to empower.
I feel empowered releasing them and I’ve gotten so much positive feedback about the way it’s made other people feel.
How was it empowering?
For so long we’ve been told that only one specific thing is beautiful and put into a box of cellulite-free or stretch mark-free, or the perfect feet or the perfect eyebrows, and [the campaign was a way of saying] ‘Here I am. This is how I was made. I feel beautiful.’ I wanted to share that message with the world: That you can be imperfect and still be perfect.
‘Beach Body Not Sorry’ is the campaign’s slogan. What does it mean to you?
It’s so cool because it’s true. Every summer we see those ‘Get Your Bikini Body’ or ‘Get Your Beach Body’ ads and it’s so silly because all you’ve got to do is put on a bikini, go out to the beach, and you are beach ready.
I keep saying it, but I think confidence is so important. If you feel beautiful, you look beautiful. When women put on a bathing suit they should live in the moment and be happy and stop thinking that something is jiggling or that something is showing. Have a great time. You only live once and this is our only moment to do this. My mother yo-yo dieted her whole life. I always saw her constantly trying to be something else and I remember how that affected me. I thought, the most beautiful woman in the world doesn’t realize how beautiful she is! I want women to realize that they’re absolutely beautiful and their bodies are ready for the beach.
Bathing suit shopping is hell. How do you make it less so?
Listen to music, rock out, make sure you know where you’re going when you swimsuit shop…and be realistic about your expectations. So many times we go for the pretty-looking one, but then you’re super uncomfortable. You need to find what makes you feel comfortable because when you’re comfortable on the beach you’re going to look amazing and you’re going to radiate confidence and power.
When I was a teenager I used to wear a white T-shirt over my bathing suit thinking that no one would notice me. Now I see I made myself stand out so much harder.
It’s so true. You just have to have fun. That’s ultimately the goal. It’s summertime; you’re in a bathing suit, stop apologizing for your curves. Live in the moment.
What do you say to women who think they can’t wear bikinis because they don’t have bikini bodies?
Oh my god, I hope that they start listening to the messages that we’re putting out there because I think it’s important for them to know that the [perfect] woman doesn’t exist. If you’re out there and you feel like you can’t wear a bikini, you can. Put on a sheer caftan or cover-up to help you ease into it. But I promise you, when you let yourself feel free it will feel so good.
What does it feel like to be a plus-sized model now as opposed to five years ago?
I think it has a lot to do with social media and people getting the opportunity to express what they like, what they feel, what they want to see. The customers, consumers and brands are really listening to what’s being tossed around. I feel like women have gotten their power back and they’re being very expressive and vocal about what they’re looking for and it’s opened the door for us as models to do more because there’s demand for us.
What I love about the current climate is that plus-size models used to be so demure and now they’re permitted to be sexy.
It’s finally becoming really fashionable and sexy and cool and edgy. We are seeing a different age where women are just confident.