We all have that one girl that’s our best friend in our heads. She’s marking her territory, comfortable in her skin and when she speaks her mind you give her a slow clap and a double tap because you love to see her express her truth.
For us, one of those girls is Denisse Benitez, aka Thug Nanny.
If there’s a solid definition of a millennial move-maker, Benitez surely fits the bill. Multiple hustles? Check. An inspiring, exciting and refreshingly honest social media presence? Yea, most definitely. An effortless sense of style? Indeed.
In a field that’s heavily saturated, Benitez has an eye that has helped her stand out from the pack in a major way. We talked to this queen about her most embarrassing style moment (it’s a good one), what it means to be the daughter of an immigrant & who exactly she thinks she is.
Denisse Benitez, or thugnanny. No one ever knows my real name.
I’m a mutt. My dad’s family is from South America, the Caribbean, and Spain. My mom’s family is Dominican, French + Puerto Rican.
I am a full-time photographer and a part-time nanny.
If you like it, put it on.
Short Story About Favorite Piece of Clothing or Most Embarrassing Fashion Moment:
About 5 years ago I was in a wedding. We all had to wear the same shoes and they were the most uncomfortable shoes of my life. The wedding was supposed to be outside I think, or at another location. So for whatever reason, the ceremony venue was changed. Maybe the weather? Slick cement floors + uncomfortable heels + a girl who hates heels anyway. Guess who busted their ass walking down the aisle. This girl! I was mortified. Well not really. But it’s a good story. You should know that I can run in Louboutin’s ‘So Kate’s’, but I still refuse to wear heels.
Fresh off the runway or vintage?
Both? I love mixing the old with the new. It’s like different eras are having a conversation on your body. What a wonderful thing to host.
A famous woman whose closet you’d raid?
Mmm, this one is hard. I don’t really follow fashion. Like today, I just learned fanny packs across your chest are a thing now? Okay. I don’t really have anyone who’s closet I would raid. Maybe ‘Song of Style’s’ Aimee song. But I’d mostly just raid her bag collection. I’m a sucker for a gorgeous bag.
What woman (or man) in your life shaped your style?
I like to think I picked a lot of different things from people whose style I admire. @Kyrzayda_ is a big one. I also love @mikaelapabon of @vetudedejoy. She inspired me to mix prints. Moms. I like to dress like a mom who leaves you confused when you look at her because her mom jeans say PTA but her Celine sunnies and her Gucci loafers say pre-season collection preview before kindergarten pickup.
As a street style photographer, you’re constantly surrounded by stylish, go-getter women from all walks of life. What inspires you the most about what you do?
I love getting to know people. I love hearing how or why they chose to pair the pieces they pair together. Oftentimes they share their sources of inspiration and so it’s great to hear other women inspiring each other to slay the fashion game. But what inspires me the most is their story. I always ask my clients questions. I want to know what is beyond the dope fit.
You’ve used fashion to express your pride in your cultural background. What does it mean to be the daughter of an immigrant to you?
Wooo. I can write a 20-page essay on this. Probably not though. I haven’t written an essay in like 10 years. Anyway, being a daughter of an immigrant means so many things. It’s a loaded question. For me, it means being an adult far sooner than I had to be. It means being a teacher and a translator as well as the head of the household for years. It also means I have a responsibility to my parents to completely murder everything I touch because they busted their asses so that I could have the opportunity to do so. I’m really proud of my parents and how hard they worked to build the lives they lead along with my siblings and myself. Being a daughter of an immigrant means chancletas, cafe con leech, pan de agua y lots of “benedicion abuela’s” in exchange for a twenty dollar bill. I’m proud of my heritage.
You use your platform to not only showcase fierce women with killer style but to speak out about everything from depression to the power of following your dreams. What advice do you have for young women who are trying to find not only their personal style but ultimately their voice?
If you’re trying to find your personal style just wear whatever makes you happy. I’ve worn so many things that people said looked fantastic on me but I hated. Do what you want. Maybe it’ll be bomb, or maybe you’ll look crazy. At least you loved it.
If you’re trying to find your voice, that starts with refraining from comparing your voice to others. Comparison, as we all know, is the thief of joy. If you can’t be happy with what you’re saying then it lacks honesty and authenticity. Because I’m happy with using my voice even when what I am saying hurts. Also patience. You spend all your live developing and refining your voice. As you experience life you find things you resonate with more or things you don’t agree with anymore. Let life shape you and allow life to be your soundboard. There are lessons that will get your bass and treble balanced just right. There are times in life where you’ll have really uncomfortable ear-piercing feedback when you speak. That’s fine. Go back to the board and fix the error. Learn from life. Always always ALWAYS be a student of life. Always, all ways.
Who do you think you are?
I really want to say “I KNOW I AM,” haha. Over the past year, I’ve really learned a lot about who I am and I’ve been more comfortable with owning it. I know I’m a bad ass photographer. I know that I’m a spazzy anxiety-ridden walking heart. I know I’m a no-bullshit-taker, “you can contact my assistant,” overbooking insane lady hustler. And I know that I’m good at 90% off the things that I try. Because If I don’t know how then I’m going to learn. That’s what makes me dope. If I can’t, then it’s not because there is nothing I can’t do. Unless it’s rollerblading. No thanks. I’m an incredible human being and everyone who is reading this that knows me should be really happy to know me. I’m happy I’m getting the opportunity to know me. We should all feel that way about ourselves.