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Refinery29 & History-Making Plus-Sized Supermodel Are Changing the Face of Fashion

"When we create this generation of women who support each other and who are happy, we change the playing field.”

- Denise Bidot, New York Fashion Week history-making model


Thanks to the hard work of Piera Gelardi, co-founder and executive creator/director of Refinery29, a “platform that’s meant to celebrate and empower all women,” the 67% of plus-sized women who are traditionally marginalized in mass media are finally being noticed.

In a groundbreaking research study completed as part of the induction of “The 67% Project”, Gelardi found that of the approximately two-thirds of US women who identify as plus-sized, only 1-2% are represented in mass media. “We are really surprised at that great divide,” Gelardi said. “It’s an invisible majority in the stories we’re telling and the images we’re showing. It’s detrimental to women’s confidence—what we see around us tells us what’s valued in our society.”

Piera Gelardi of Refinery 29

Photo Source: CBS News This Morning, featuring Piera Gelardi, co-founder and executive creative director

In its first year, Refinery29’s The 67% Project created over 800 photographs of diverse women of every size, shape and weight and made the images available to publishers globally. Gelardi said that even with such a concerted effort to represent body positivity and diversity - including her decision to “cast models on the subway and streets of New York so that we could be really representing what real women look like” - The 67% Project had “fallen short.” According to their website The 67% Project is making a promise in its second year to do more to change “biased perception imposed on the millions of women in the United States who identify as plus size.”

Gelardi appeared this week on CBS This Morning alongside history-making plus-sized model Denise Bidot, the first plus-sized model at New York Fashion Week to be featured in multiple “straight-sized” runway shows. The two women came together to discuss the impact of limited images of plus-sized women as representations of beauty in the media.

Photo Source: CBS News This Morning, featuring Piera Gelardi and Denise Bidot, history-making plus-sized fashion model

“Bias is held really deep in our society,” said Gelardi. “By focusing on this standard of beauty that promotes thinness, we leave so many women behind and we perpetuate shame.” Quoting superstar singer and actress Beyoncé, Gelardi continued, “Perfection is the disease of the nation; it’s the soul that needs surgery.”

“What about the self-love that you need to be confident and heal yourself,” she asks.

Denise Bidot, legendary plus-sized model

Photo: Denise Bidot by Victoria Janashvili

Bidot, who is also on a mission as the founder of the "No Wrong Way Movement" to “encourage everyone to embrace their most authentic self,” said that "having the honor" to open and close top fashion shows, something she was told “many times would never be possible,” and including plus-sized models in straight-sized runway shows is “a huge milestone for our industry and our possibilities and opportunities. The moment women can see themselves in the media alongside everyone and we have these diverse campaigns, we create this internal happiness that starts to seep out. When we create this generation of women who support each other and who are happy, we change the playing field.”

Sources: CBS This Morning, Refinery 29, No Wrong Way Movement

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