Being a woman today means being constantly bombarded with magazines telling us how to be better, according to their standards. Cosmopolitan wants us to get "great legs in 5 minutes." Vogue wants us to achieve the perfect tan. There is a persistent pressure on us to conform to society's ideals of being thinner and taller, with better makeup and better clothes, in order to achieve a sense of perfection. The takeaway being if we can't achieve these ideals, as women, then we have somehow failed.
Over the past few years as a successful plus-size model, Denise Bidot has come to realize that that's entirely untrue. There is no one beauty standard we all must aspire to. There is no one way for women to be considered worthy. So, to ensure that women everywhere know this, Bidot has launched a new campaign, called "There Is No Wrong Way to Be a Woman," that's spreading this message as far as possible.
"To be honest, I've been saying this slogan without really knowing it," Bidot said in an interview. "The message was embracing your individuality and allowing yourself to be yourself. It's just a culmination of everything I've worked for and stood for. It's about culture and religion and realizing that this is a moment where we all need to stand together."
As a half Puerto Rican and half Middle Eastern size 14 model in an industry full of white size 0s and 2s, Bidot knows this all too well. After modeling for the past 10 years, she's seen a recent shift in the industry with more opportunities opening up, with her most recently walking at New York Fashion Week for Chromat and starring in a number of campaigns for Lane Bryant.
"We've come so far as an industry," Bidot, 30, said of modeling. "When I started 10 years ago, we weren't as diverse. I'm really thankful to not only have a role but now to help encourage other women to continue the conversation. It's a really good day to be a woman, so this movement is part of a conversation that should have been addressed years ago."
As she's ascending to fame, she wanted to make sure that as many women in this world knew that they could too, regardless of what they look like. So to celebrate the launch of her campaign, she gathered a group of 10 women who embodied her point exactly. She calls them her Class of '16.
There's plus-size actress Donielle. There's Jennifer, who uses a wheelchair. There's Joan, who's 65. What they all have in common is that they were able to achieve their dreams and success without conforming to one beauty standard.
"I wanted to listen," Bidot said of selecting the model for her first "class." "I was so inspired by all the messages. It's so many women who constantly inspire me. Seeing them all together in the photoshoot really nailed down this idea that women are allowed to live their lives on their own terms. There is no wrong, or right way, to exist in this world as a woman."
In addition, Bidot is selling T-shirts with the campaign slogan across the front, as well as encouraging women to share their stories via her website or on social media with the hashtag #NoWrongWay. Over the next few weeks and months, she's hoping to share new stories on the campaign's Instagram, as well as her own, which has 256,000 followers.
Along with the social media campaign, which is meant to highlight women achieving their dreams and then some, she hopes to turn the campaign into a scholarship fund for young women, as well as a leadership series in which she'd give speeches across the country.
"This is just the beginning," Bidot said. "It's about women coming together and embracing one another. I'm in a part of my life when I want to encourage other women to rise up."
In the end, Bidot said, what she hopes this campaign does above all else is spark a conversation among women about how capable and powerful they are, regardless of where they've come from.
"There's no way in the world I would have thought about opening New York Fashion Week or walking in London," Bidot said. "Because of that realization is why I needed to go back and go to that young girl and let her see that she is exactly as she should be. I want as many women as possible to see that they are capable. We can do anything."