We often view our idols through rose-tinted glasses — flawless, and fearless. The truth is, we all have flaws, and we’re all touched by fear at times. So, how do these incredibly successful people look beyond themselves to realise their full potential?
Tevent Talks is the stage for authentic and unfiltered conversation to uncover the human behind success. In this episode, we spoke to content creator, fashion designer, and influencer, Denise Mercedes, to find out what makes her tick.
From her humble roots as a receptionist at a law firm, Denise has grown her business from the ground up — amassing over one million subscribers on Instagram alone. After getting laid off from her 9-5 minimum wage desk job, Denise enrolled at university, majoring in psychology — which is where her incredible journey began.
As she grew academically, her following did too — and, to heights that she could never have envisioned. Despite initially planning to study for a Master’s degree, by the end of her Bachelor’s, she’d started to see signs of potential in her budding new business, and decided to take the plunge. Watch the full video below, or keep scrolling for our highlights.
Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes — a sentiment that inspired Denise, and co-founder Maria, to create #stylenotsize. Though they didn’t set out to start a movement, their fresh new take on fashion was picked up by brands across the globe.
To Denise, “body positivity is just a person loving themselves unconditionally” and “not comparing yourself to other people.” As a plus-size model, her brand champions this ethos — inspiring all who follow to realise their own worth.
Both models don the same, or similar, outfit to highlight the fact that despite their different body types, their style is the main focal point. What’s more, the movement champions the need to normalise our differences. And it went viral.
Two years later, the pair were creating new collections for Macy’s with this new formula for content — it just worked. With authenticity, positivity, and hard work at their core, it was seemingly inevitable — but Denise learnt a lot along the road, and has been kind enough to share her insights with us.
Denise recalls the first time being recognised in public as a nerve-wracking experience — so much so that she denied any relation to her online persona, and carried on about our day. That, she muses, was when she realised her “following was growing”, but little did she know it would soon reach unimaginable heights.
When we think of our idols being stopped on the street, it’s easy to believe that they’d be flattered, unsurprised, and nonchalant. Denise, however, reacted just as we would — shocked, and flustered — because behind every brave maverick is a human — and we all get nervous from time to time.
Putting herself out there to inspire a generation of fashion enthusiasts — Denise strives to be a force for good in the world. From body positivity to mental wellbeing — her good nature and authenticity are echoed throughout her content, and this, it seems, was her recipe for success.
Though at first, you may want autonomy, asking for help is essential to growth. Reflecting on this, Denise realised that her strengths lay in content creation, not negotiation, so she set out to find herself a manager that could represent her brand in the corporate world.
In content creation, she’d found a formula that seemed to be working, and set her sights on a manager on the other side of the continent. It’s important to know your strengths and weaknesses when running a business to effectively fill in the inevitable blanks.
Her current manager, Keisha, was the perfect fit — helping to maximise her worth to potential brands and collaborators.
“When brands want to work with us, the first thing they ask: analytics, female audience, where are your followers based?”
By not overlooking these crucial elements, Denise was slowly but surely laying the groundwork to succeed.
1. Take it one step at a time: The best part about being your own boss is setting your own schedule. Don’t try to do everything at once, or you’ll risk burning out, which, ironically, can become a hindrance to productivity. Having achievable, short-term goals aids in prioritisation, making your macro goals less daunting, and more achievable.
2. Find your voice: Denise has three main types of content — “body positivity”, “fashion” and “editorial”, making sure to service each topic equally. In doing so, her followers become steadily acquainted with her brand aesthetic — and by subscribing to the content, they get what they came for. Veering off the beaten track, and trying something completely different will sometimes get results — but without a formula for regular posting, things can get disorganised, and your userbase harder to target.
3. Stay true to yourself: One concept that permeates much of Denise’s content is the celebration of our differences. By staying true to yourself, your content will naturally be unique to you. Not only does this make you more relatable, but can also help guide you toward goals that align with your moral compass.
“I never changed who I was, I kept my personality... and just continued to create.”
4. Surround yourself with positivity: It’s no secret that social media sees its fair share of negativity — staying out of it can keep you from veering off your path. Denise remarks that “on social media, there's definitely space for everyone to create,” so don’t get too distracted by what other people are doing. Do your own thing. What’s more, surround yourself with people who are positive, and will support you as you endeavour to start your own business.
5. Keep pushing: Clichés are clichés for a reason. There will be tough times — your growth may be slow, and you may plateau, but everyone starts somewhere. There are myriad routes to success — taking steps at your own pace is essential if you want to make it to the finish line. Denise herself had moments of doubt, but told herself, “you have nothing to lose, just keep on going.” As long as you keep pushing, we believe you can make it all the way.
A special thanks to Denise, for your inspiring and uplifting words — may you continue to bring positivity and joy to all your followers (us included). Feel free to head to the Tevent Talks Space to find out what’s coming up next.
It’s about time we outgrew the teething pains of current virtual and remote solutions. Let’s start making remote fun, collaborative and workable for all.