Denise has been modeling for more than 10 years. She started modeling in 2001, when she was offered the chance to walk in the first ever Plus Size Fashion Show for Malanay Inc. at Toronto Fashion Week. This paved the way for Denise to enter into pageantry, granting her the title of the 1st Ever Miss Canada Plus, 2003. Since then, Denise has gone on to model for some very prestigious fashion shows, such as the Fuller Woman Expo, and most recently Montreal Fashion Week+. Denise was also the first Canadian model to grace the catwalk at the highly acclaimed FFF Week in New York City in 2009. Denise is currently signed to Carolyn’s Model and Talent Agency and has be seen in a number of publications, including Lou Lou Magazine, Chatalaine, and The Share, to name a few.
Denise has also been featured on Cityline, Breakfast Television and The Shopping Channel. As a full-time employee for The City of Toronto, Denise balances full-time work life and the life of a working model with ease.
Congratulations on all of your success as a Plus Size Model. How did you get started modeling?
I got started modeling by fluke. I was discovered in a nightclub with friends and asked to model for a new plus fashion line called Malanay Inc.
What has been your favourite experience thus far – the one you are most proud of?
My favourite experience thus far was being the 1st Canadian Model chosen to walk at FFF Week in New York City.
Just like any craft there is a learning curve – how did you learn how to model – both print and runway if applicable?
I learned to model by studying other models in the industry, attending catwalk lessons taught by Plus Supermodel Liis Windischmann, and following the advice of industry heads like Ben Berry (of the Ben Barry Agency) and Akelia Ellington (CEO of Emerald Model Management), to name a few. Their advice over the years really helped me perfect my craft, establish my brand and understand that modeling is a tough business.
Did you have mentors or role models who helped and inspired you along the way?
Some of my models/mentors have been Akelia Ellington of Emerald Model Management, Annika Reid of Candi Apple Couture and Ava Jones of Pheline Couture. These ladies gave me a chance when it seemed hopeless that a plus size black woman would get lost in the pictures and portfolios of the hundreds of others models trying to make a name for themselves. They let me shoot for them, in their garments, allowed me the chance to walk runways for them and believed in me when at times I didn’t believe in myself.
The Plus Size Industry has changed and continues to evolve – how do you think as a model you are able to help make an impact in how the world sees plus size women?
I think as a model, I am able to help make an impact by not backing out of this industry. The more time I spend as part of the industry, be it in front of the camera, behind the lens editing, or giving advice to other aspiring models, I continue to believe that plus models are worthy of the same attention and work as other models.
You exude confidence with every step you take, were you always this confident? Tell us a little bit about the journey to confidence.
I was not always this confident. I was always outgoing, but as the only plus girl in my elementary school and high school, it was difficult for me to accept my body the way it was. My journey was helped along the way by having a strong family support system. My mother and sisters always supported me and allowed me to showcase myself. They helped give me the confidence to know that at any size, I was beautiful.
For our readers who are interested in starting a plus model career, what would you suggest are some top tips to get started?
For models interested in starting a career, I would suggest they use an agency. Many people think that agents take your money, make you pay ridiculous prices for pictures and never get you any work. This is 100% not the case. I have been with my agency for 7 years and they have been a tremendous help along the way. Guiding me, nurturing my talent and offering workshops and seminars to guide me along my journey. Many models think that freelance modeling is the way to go, so they can chose what shows to walk in and who to work with. And while having that freedom has its advantages, an agency can really help guide models in the right direction, sending them to reputable castings.
As a model you’ve had the opportunity to wear a variety of different styles, but what would we catch you in on an ‘off duty’ day? What would you call your fashion sense and how has this evolved through your modeling career?
In an off-duty day, you could catch me looking business casual. I wouldn’t call myself trendy, as I don’t typically follow trends. I prefer to set my own fashion sense and style. You could find me in the fall wearing fitted jeans, a great pair of boots and jacket with a scarf. In the summer, you’d catch me wearing a variety of styles, from sundresses to maxi dresses, bright colours and all over prints.
What are some of your favourite places to shop your style?
Locally, some of my favourite places to shop at Addition-Elle, Penningtons, Reitmans, Old Navy, Voluptuous and Winners.
Internationally, I can spend money at Rainbow Shops, Forever 21, Thick Chic Boutique, Charlotte Russe Plus, and Torrid.
What does life look for you outside of the modeling world?
For me, life outside the modeling world is beautiful chaos! I have 2 jobs, working full time for the City of Toronto as a Social Services Caseworker, and part time for Dixon Hall, as a Meals on Wheels Weekend Coordinator. I am an active Aunty to 4 nephews and 1 niece and just a girl looking for love…in all the right places! LOL
Thank you for taking time to chat with us today! What is one message you would like to leave with our readers today?
One message I would like to leave with your readers is: NEVER GIVE UP! What’s meant for you will never pass you. Many times women who want to model get discouraged if they are not signed to the first agency they visit or get turned down for modeling gigs and fashion shows. Don’t give up. Anything worth having takes hard work and some sacrifice. But work hard and give it 110% all the time and in the end, you will find success!!