“I have navigated my whole career in a space that wasn’t necessarily ever meant for me,” explains Candice Huffine. As a curvy woman in an arena that often prizes stick thin, Candice found that the modeling industry didn’t create an easy pathway to success for the teenager with magazine dreams. But sometimes, you have to make your own red carpet. And that’s exactly what Candice did.
Growing up in Maryland, Candice participated in pageants from a young age. “What a strange world,” she says—but one that shaped her in the most positive ways. Those unfamiliar with the circuit might think all pageants are full of little girls dressed like Cowgirl Barbie, but Candice says that was not at all her experience. Like any other sport, pageants helped create a foundation of confidence, not only in her ability but her belief system as well.
An integral part of the competition is the interview. Being asked on the spot difficult questions forced her to consider their answers. It’s easy to drift through childhood without really considering what you believe in, but Candice says, “I had to stand up in front of an audience and talk about things I felt strongly about.”
As it turned out, she had a lot to say; it helped her cement a sense of right and wrong. Candice remembers one competition where the question was: “What would you do if you saw someone parking in a handicapped spot spot who didn’t look handicapped?” While the other girls said that they would confront the individual in order to defend the rights of “real” handicapped people, Candice responded that she wouldn’t do anything at all: “Just because someone looks like they don’t have a disability doesn’t mean they don’t.” One of the judges on the panel struggled with MS, a condition that isn’t always visible to the outside observer. Candice came home with the crown.
“I refused to change. There was going to be a place for me. If there wasn’t one right at the second, I was going to make one.”
It was the same sort of unstoppable certainty that made Candice know in her bones that she was going to become a professional model. At 15, she went to New York with her mom on a mission: She was going to get a contract right there on the spot. “I had no plan B,” she laughs.
At first, the trip didn’t go exactly as planned. Agency after agency told her that they liked her, but in order to work, she’d need to lose weight. “But I have a size 7 jean!” she would tell them, nearly pulling out the tag. Candice remembers not feeling upset exactly but frustrated: “I knew what my body was capable of doing. I was fit, strong, and content in my skin. I didn’t think it was right to go through all of this trouble [to try to lose weight], when it wasn’t natural for me.”
Finally, an agency offered the possibility of signing with their plus-size division (10 and above). At the time (this was 2001), Candice wasn’t aware of this option, and in fact only one or two agencies in New York even had a plus-size group. “They showed me girls they represented who were incredible and happy and beautiful and making money,” says Candice. “I was like, okay. I don’t really see a problem here, so sign up me!”
Huffine moved to New York and started building her career. “I’m very proud of how I handled it,” Candice says. “I refused to change. There was going to be a place for me. If there wasn’t one right at the second, I was going to make one.”
And make one she did—with hard work, persistence, and of course, time. Candice started in Europe shooting mostly commercial work, and slowly expanded into editorial. In the early 2000s, plus-size modeling was still very much an afterthought. Candice pushed to make it mainstream—not a sidebar, but right in the mix. She advocated for size inclusivity, ever-confident that this is what the consumer wanted. “Women need to see themselves reflected in magazines,” she explains. She’d use the mantra “fashion for all,” which later became a hashtag, “a little nudge to designers.”
In 2011, Candcie was on set when she received an email that she would be featured alongside two other curvy women on the cover of Vogue Italia. “I burst out in tears,” Candice remembers. For 10 years she had been working on the sidelines, ready to be put into the game. Finally, the world was starting to shift. There was a place for her in the big leagues, and Candice was ready to play.
After the game-changing cover, doors opened and phones rang, but it would be a few more years before another, very different sort of breakthrough occurred. In December 2015, Candice and her husband, Matt, were planning out goals for the following year. Candice was thinking of career stepping stones, when Matt threw a curveball. “What about training for a half marathon?” he asked.
Candice had always been active, but running was never on her radar. “I always thought it wasn’t for me,” she says.
Matt, a long-time runner himself, pressed. He told her, “I have a feeling that if you set this goal for yourself, everything else you want will fall into place.” Still, Candice was skeptical. Then Matt said, “I dare you,” and the rest is running history.
One half marathon became two, and then two more full marathons (the total 26.2-mile distance) the following year. She landed her first U.S. magazine cover, Women’s Running, in 2016, and her first major fashion cover Elle in 2017. The sport changed the very fabric of Candice’s being in a completely unexpected way. Ever since her early pageant days, she’d been strong and confident, but running gave her an extra gear.
“Listen, I was that person who thought I couldn’t run,” she says. “I looked at runners and thought, Well I don’t look like that.” When she realized that not only could she run, she could successfully finish marathons, Candice began to see everything in a new light. “It changed the whole mentality I have for myself and my future. Instead of telling myself ‘I can’t’ because of some reason I made up in my head, I need to try. Now I want every woman to know that she can do everything she puts her mind to.”
In many ways, founding DAY/WON was a culmination of everything Candice both fought for and learned in her career as a model and as an athlete. When she started the brand at the end of 2017, she wanted to create much more than fitness apparel. The goal was to build a positive space for all women to feel their absolute best, to know for a fact that they are capable of anything and perfect just how they are at this very moment in time.
“Now I want every woman to know that she can do everything she puts her mind to.”
“It’s an extension of me in product form,” says Candice. “Everything about it is what I believe in. It’s a piece of my marbled heart.” That’s why DAY/WON is completely size-inclusive, available in 0 through 32 with no demarcation between “straight” and “plus.” It’s athletic apparel, inspired by the positive effects running had her her life. And the signature statement leggings come from a desire to announce to the world what she believes deeply to be true.
When it comes to the “Can’t Touch This” legging, she says the message is simple: “My dreams, my pride, my confidence, my goals, my body, my heart, my drive. These are all things that are mine. Nobody should be able to touch that. Period.”
As for the legging’s donation to I AM THAT GIRL, a nonprofit that provides leadership tools to high-school and college-age students, Candice says, “It’s extremely exciting, because that is our future. An empowered girl is going to be an unstoppable woman.”