We all have things we wish we’d known when we were younger. Denise Bidot is a model who you’ve probably seen in ads for Levi’s, Nordstrom, and Forever 21. But she’s also an activist who’s using her platform—nearly half a million followers on Instagram—to champion inclusivity both on and off the runway. Below, Denise shares the life lessons she’d tell her teenage self.
I’m writing this letter to you on an airplane from LA, currently circling over the NYC skyline. Where I’ve come from in life—where you’re going—is an amazing road of discovery and I want you to know that you won’t be alone. I will give you a voice by sharing those experiences that keep girls like us motivated every day.
You will not see yourself, so you will make them see you. You won’t see yourself in magazines or on MTV. You will not see other beautiful women with a curvy body like yours represented in the media. Instead, your mother will be your role model. You will watch her struggle and watch her thrive.
You will watch Latina entertainers fight to be seen, and in turn inspire your fight for representation. Not only will you see yourself, you will help others see themselves. You’ll have an inclusive social media platform where everyone feels welcome, including women, girls, and those in the LGBTQ community. Lastly, you will see yourself in your daughter and the natural confidence within her.
You will be told you can’t, but that doesn’t mean you should listen. You will be told you can’t model unless you lose 10 or 15 pounds. You will be told you’re too Latina, too short, too curvy—too everything—and that is why you can’t book that gig or role. Most heartbreaking, you will start to believe it and doubt yourself.
It’s so easy to feel like you need to change yourself to fit in and to achieve your dreams. You are not alone, even today. According to Dove research, 7 in 10 girls with low body confidence won’t lift their voices, assert their opinions or stick to their decisions. You know that deep down, you don’t need to change your body to get booked. Don’t be scared by the “no’s.” Defy them.
You will be told it will never be done, but you will prove them wrong. Plus-size, feminist role models didn’t exist years ago. People said you couldn’t do it. But you will show them otherwise. Who would have known that after you took a step back from acting, you’d be discovered by a photographer and subsequently land your first modeling contract? And who would have imagined that only a few short years later, Serena Williams would trust you to model her first collection on the runway?
Along your journey, you will be mentored by amazing women, and in turn you will become a role model. Because you were told it couldn’t be done, you’ll go on to found the #NoWrongWay Movement, a platform for those who believe there is no wrong way to be a woman and those brave enough to share their amazing stories. When you get older, you’ll be able to talk to your daughter about important issues like bullying and body confidence.
You will call yourself a sap and it’s a beautiful thing. Be the sap you were meant to me, and when something called Instagram is invented, look up all of the positivity hashtags you want and read every single one. It will be so important for you to be inspired by the words of others to help you visualize your life and your own truth. By filling your mind with self-love, positivity, and hope, you will drown out the negativity and self-doubt.
Originally published via the amazing Clover Letter. Thank you for your phenomenal work. Cover image via