It’s no secret that fashion is one hell of a merciless industry. I mean, how many times have we heard how unrealistic standards and high expectations have pushed girls to the brink of insanity? And although the stigma around plus-size models is fading away, the steps are so tiny, it’s barely visible.
Luckily, more and more women are willing to take matters into their own hands and rewrite the rules altogether. One plus-size model, Denise Mercedes, is doing just that. The size 14 Dominican model has launched a TikTok challenge titled “Style Not Size” with her friend Maria Castellanos. The two friends of different sizes are putting on the same outfits, sharing the snack-sized videos to 1.7M followers, and showing that beauty comes in all shapes and forms. Their videos have now been liked a whopping 30.6M times, proving that healthy and happy women rule the world!
When Denise was 16 and a petite size 8, she started submitting her pictures to modeling agencies, but her height was too short for industry standards. She kept on posing for the camera as a side hobby until she turned 21 and had gone up to a size 14.
According to a statement on her website, Denise started putting outfits together and posting the images on social media. She is an avid advocate of body positivity and runs a campaign #becauseitsmybody dedicated to women of all shapes and sizes. She now has collaborated with many fashion brands and boutiques like Forever21, Target, and JCPenney.
There’s a huge gap between fashion industry standards and real-life women, who measure a size 16 around the waist on average in America. Moreover, plus-size women represent 68% of fashion shoppers, according to Glamour, and yet a very small percentage of them actually work in the fashion industry.
Only in 2016, Ashley Graham became the first plus-size model on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit edition and paved the way for models with curves. But the model herself told CBS Sunday Morning that she doesn’t like the word “plus-size” because it’s “so divisive to women” and puts them into categories.
Many women find the representation of diverse body types in media more assuring. In fact, this study by Florida State University found that women tend to experience deeper body satisfaction and retain a memory of plus-size models better than that of the thinner ones. It also pointed out that exposure to “unrealistic-sized media models” has a negative effect on the consumer’s “mental and physical health, including experiencing lower body satisfaction.”