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Breaking Barriers with Denise Mercedes
Crediting Photographer: Jose Pagan
Crediting hair & makeup: Melanie Santos
Crediting apparel sponsor: Rainbeau Curves
Denise Mercedes is a size 14, Dominican, plus size model who was born and raised in New Jersey. She started her modeling career when she was 13 when she worked for a photography studio as a receptionist. She was inspired to become a model by all of the models that came in the studio to shoot. On her days off, her boss would allow Denise and her friend take photos in the studio for fun. It became a hobby for Denise to pose for the camera.
Around the age of 16, Denise started to submit her photos to agencies in hopes that she could find one willing to represent her, but at the time Denise was not QUITE big enough to qualify as a plus model, and she was shorter than the height requirement. Denise kept doing shoots anyway “just for fun.”
By the age of 21, Denise was a full-time college student and decided to start fashion blogging for plus size women. She liked the idea of putting outfits together and taking photos with the outfit on, then posting it on her social media. As she continued blogging, her following on social media increased dramatically, and she started to collaborate with different plus size boutiques. This helped Denise break into the modeling industry and she started to model for smaller brands while being a fashion blogger simultaneously.
By 2016, Denise was 25 years old and she was a signed model with MSA models NYC (now known as State Model Management). She has collaborated with brands like Forever21, Target, JCPenney, and many more. Denise says of plus modeling, “I believe that the more models continue to be ourselves and inspire other women to love themselves, the better the industry will get because then other brands will start including all types of models in their campaigns.”
Denise looks super-confident on the outside, but she’s had her own sometimes tough journey to confidence. “When I was younger, I use to feel really insecure because ‘plus size’ at the time was just known as ‘fat.’ I used to get criticized and I didn’t have anyone to look up to. All the models and celebrities were all very different than I was. I just felt like I wasn’t beautiful because I believed that I needed to look like the celebrities and models that I saw on TV and the magazines. As time passed and I started fashion blogging, putting outfits together and taking pictures for my blog helped me boost my confidence level especially with all the positive feedback from these young girls telling me that they looked up to me and that I inspired them to be comfortable in their own skin.”
As Denise continues to break barriers, she has also started her own body positive campaign dedicated to women of all shapes and sizes called #becauseitsmybody. She is an advocate for body positivity, is trying to become a voice for women of all shapes and sizes, and believes that everyone is beautiful in their own way. Denise has goals to make it onto the cover of a magazine (thanks, FabUplus!) and be on billboards. One of her favorite quotes is “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars (Norman Vincent Peale).”