If you don’t know who Denisse Myrick is (formerly Benitez, when I interviewed her) you will very, very soon. Denisse isn’t simply an influencer. She is paving the way for uncomfortable and unconventional conversations in the influencer industry along with other “not very well known” influencers. As a woman of color, she will not remain silent when an injustice comes to her attention. As a woman of color, she will not willingly take work from top brands for the money. If it doesn’t sit well with her beliefs, you’ll be quick to notice she will not take your coins.
Denisse is a renowned and published photographer through her company, Paris in June, she is a content creator (literally, she will create a media kit for you and you can purchase customized filters from her) and, in my opinion, she is now an interior designer (she literally transformed her house and it is gorgeous). “I remember I used to work at the galleries at Chelsea when I was 17. I made $7.15 an hour and had to commute from New Jersey to New York. One time when I was leaving work, I saw a picture of a thumb that was selling for $75 thousand dollars, and I knew I could do that myself. So, I bought a camera for $500, and started shooting fashion and fine arts photographs.” That was when she began to get noticed. “I started connecting and working with big bloggers like Jessica from Heygorjess, and the late Kyrzayda Rodriguez to name a few. My work was getting reposted with the proper photo credit.” Denisse’s work has now been published with Vogue Italia, InStyle, The Knot, Latina Magazine, Vise, and Essence, among others.
Struggles never keep a distance when you’re working hard though. “As an Afro-Latina. my biggest struggle has been existing. No matter what you do, there’s a white man existing in that space, and it’s uncomfortable. I find myself having to use my ‘white voice’ sometimes. Showing my worth and expressing it has been a struggle. Creative jobs aren’t valued. Women aren’t valued. Women of color aren’t valued.” Denisse has had to fight to be represented as a woman of color. “The lack of representation in my industry is so severe and real and intense, so I talk about it.” Revolve, a very popular online store, has for a few years now, sent their brand ambassadors to exotic and lavish trips to Spain, Indonesia, and Brazil among other foreign countries, and Denisse noticed something odd. “All of the beigest of the beige women of the same size were on these trips. I was upset.” She has always made it clear that when discussing these sort of issues, it’s never to bash, but bring attention to a big problem. She wrote on a blog post a year ago that “a brand like Revolve, which has 2m+ followers should be using their reach to promote inclusion, acceptance, and equality of all shapes, colors, and sizes.” Denisse has worked hard to promote inclusion and has had this discussion with Revolve specifically. They have not changed their standards yet. “Unlike many of my peers, because blogging is not my full-time experience, I don’t have as much to lose. Their income is based on what companies ask them to post. So, I don’t care about what people think. They have beautiful pieces, but they do not care about us. That’s why I continue to talk and post about it. Representation matters.”
She nannied a little girl named Sefan for years before she moved to Arizona. “Her two, white, adoptive parents work together to make sure their African American daughter is represented.” Denisse, who has naturally curly hair, recalls of a time when Sefan looked at her curly hair and instantly knew they looked alike. “I straighten my hair now, but she said, ‘you look like me.’ That’s why representation matters. Black lives matter, and yes, we see color.”
She has vowed to use her platform as a place for important discussions. She listens to her followers and educates them. “I fight for women to have a voice. I want to give a voice to those that don’t have one because women matter. Women’s reproductive rights matter.” With ongoing issues like anti-abortion laws from state to state and separated children at the border, Denisse stands firm in her belief. “I don’t understand how being pro-life is being anti-abortion yet locking children up in cages at the border is okay. They are getting sexually abused. So much is happening to them. If you turn a blind eye to social injustices for likes, something is wrong with you. Not everyone has a passion for social justice, but if you’re not reading, listening, then it could be you. To live in fear, and not do something about it means something is wrong with you. We have to continually talk about it. I always say, if you can’t donate your money, donate your time.”
A year ago, when Lesandro ‘Junior’ Guzman-Feliz was murdered in the Bronx, it hit home for Denisse. “I was still living in New Jersey at the time. The suspects were found 12 minutes from my house. Junior looked like my little brother. I couldn’t sleep for weeks.” There is a lot about her life that social media doesn’t get to see. She has a desire to make change happen, anywhere and everywhere she could. She works closely with nonprofit organizations that fight for Native American rights in Arizona. She also battles and is open about her mental health issues, like anxiety and depression. “My move to Arizona changed me. It made me realize how much of my identity was wrapped in what I do. The move made me vulnerable. I’m at a point in my life where I have to think, ‘my thoughts are more important than my likes, so I work through my feelings all the time.” This is what an influencer should do. Become relatable and vulnerable. Be a friend and an ear. There’s more to life than suggesting which face mask to use at night or how to eat your avocado toast. Using your platform to advocate and talk about real life issues is important. Denisse talks about it. So, let’s talk about it.
SHE MAGAZINE USA