Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Appetite for Destruction: The Rise of Crystal Renn, Curvy Top Model By Elva Ramirez

Each fashion week comes packed with its own themes — and we’re not necessarily talking about hemlines. For the last few seasons, the lack of runway diversity and outrage over too-skinny models has dominated fashion week coverage. This season’s theme is shaping up to be about getting people to buy clothes, now, please, and not at a discount.

But lest people forget about the price too-skinny models pay for bright lights and big cities, model Crystal Renn is ready to remind us. Renn’s autobiography “Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves” arrives in stores on Sept. 9, just in time for New York’s seasonal shot of unattainable glamour.

“Hungry” charts the story of Renn’s early youth in Mississippi to her rise as a New York City model. A model scout lures the 14-year-old cheerleader into the world of fashion with promises of couture, Paris and photo shoots — on the condition that she whittle her hips from 43 inches to 34. When exercise and healthy eating can’t shave the last few inches off, Renn develops anorexia. The 5′9″ model officially joins Manhattan’s modeling circuit in 2002. Her weight? 95 pounds.

But here’s the unexpected narrative arc: In mid-2003, after giving in to the crushing eating disorder, she decides to stop her unhealthy behavior, gains back her lost weight… and is celebrated for her curves. Renn’s sumptuous post-disorder brunette beauty has since graced the editorial pages of Vogue, been featured in a Dolce & Gabbana ad and closed out Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Spring 2006 runway show.

“People ask me all the time, Do you only want to see only plus-size women out there?,” says Renn, now 23 and at 165 pounds, a size 12. “But that’s not an accurate portrayal either. There are many different-sized women. If perfection is only a size 0, what are you saying to women?”

When she was competing against other thin girls, she incurred wrathful looks if her hips were bigger than 34 inches, but now she’s embraced at fashion shoots. “People treat me [like a] human,” Renn says. “When I show up to a shoot, they say, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re so thin!’ They don’t really have a term for me.”

Renn uses her recovery from anorexia as a way of framing women’s complicated relationship with weight. “How many people say, ‘When I lose 15 pounds, then I’m going to travel, then I’m going to get that job raise, then I’m going to get that relationship that I want?’ ” she says. “They need to stop saying that and just go out there and live.”

1 comment:

  1. I've always been a fan of plus-size models! There's a great site with many images of Crystal and other plus-size models here:


    They're all gorgeous.

    The site's forum also has thought-provoking discussions about body image and the media.