27 January 2013

From 0 To 12 In 70 Pounds: Crystal Renn And The Concept Of "Too Big"Versus "Too Small"



It’s no secret that people take issue with size 10/12 5’10” models being labeled as plus-size.  How could these women who are statuesque and slim possibly be placed into a group that revolves around possessing the “more to love” body type?  I don’t take issue with it, however, because saying someone isn’t big enough is no different than saying someone is too big.  It’s all the same judgment.  It’s all the same perceptions that beauty is this and that – that straight models can only be skinny and plus-size ones can only be fat.  To me, models should simply be models.  They are people, much like the rest of us, and I guarantee being poked and prodded and told what weight they should be is close to nightmarish.

A few months ago I was a bit more undecided on the matter – I looked at photos of Robyn Lawley for Ralph Lauren and wondered how she could be considered plus-size.  Though gorgeous, Lawley is hardly “big.”  But in the world of fashion, I suppose she is.  She is much larger than her size 0 counterparts, and some years ago she never would have landed a contract for such an established brand at her size.  So instead of complaining that plus-size models aren’t big enough, I took the route of realization that it just doesn’t matter.  At least women above a size 10 are reaching high places in fashion.

I for one love plus-size models, and not just BBW models who are perhaps what many people would like to see in the plus divisions of agencies, but women like Tara Lynn, and most of all, Crystal Renn.  I feel no shame for my unrequited love story with Renn, one in which she is the glamorous, high-fashion personification of beauty and intelligence, and I the simple groupie trying to catch a quick glimpse of her porcelain face.  Renn is essentially what Penelope Cruz and Audrey Hepburn’s baby would look like; she has this way about her that makes you think she’s come from the 1920’s – like she must’ve been close friends with Katharine Hepburn and must have a million stories about Fitzgerald.  Essentially, she’s beauty in a nutshell.

I look at photographs of Renn today – her curvaceousness a thing of envy.  Her ups and downs of weight are ever-changing -- as not so long ago she wore a size 0, and starved herself to the point of near death to fit some baffling standard of beauty that was thrust upon to achieve “success.”

Renn was “discovered” at only 13 years old, and though I’m not sure how long after her discovery, she was soon ordered to lose nearly half of her body weight in order to be taken on as new talent.  Barely past puberty and after being abandoned by her mother, with most likely no guidance on the matter, she lost the weight and took the opportunity for escapism.  For three years she exercised for eight hours a day, took diuretics and ate the bare minimum in order to keep herself alive, but at 95 pounds, she could have easily lost everything.  Renn was one of the lucky ones, however, because she realized that she was going to die, and turned everything around.  “Each pound was a discovery.  I liked it.  I felt myself becoming more who I am.  I had cleavage suddenly,” she said regarding her 70-pound weight gain.  “I started wearing heels, short dresses, color.  I was becoming the weight I naturally am.  It felt like I was a woman finally.”

Her transformation is epic.  You look at photos from then and now and can hardly believe you are looking at the same woman.  Even though embracing the fuller figure was short lived and she has now lost weight once again, a quick look at her autobiography, Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves, details her life in the fashion industry and the ups and downs of her weight and relationship with food.  The end is joyful, however, as we all know she once reached a size 12 and became, perhaps, the most renowned plus-size model in the world.

It’s funny though…no, it’s not funny actually, it’s quite sad: Renn was forced into weight loss because though she had a beautiful face, her agency thought she was too big.  Now that she works with Ford, her agency adores her body (whether at a 12 or 8) but it’s the public who criticizes her for not being big enough.  No one is ever happy with her body – everyone picks her apart as though it were their place to do so.  No one can just back off and admire her for her talent.  And it’s a shame, because discrimination against someone for being "too thin" is no different than discrimination against someone for being "too fat."

This isn’t all to say I wouldn’t love seeing someone like Sailor Rose or Big Cutie’s Beccabae receive more widespread recognition or make it as renowned models instead of being limited to online BBW work.  I think larger women, those who actually look to be in the double digit sizes, need a place in the industry as well.  But I’m somewhat optimistic that in some years, women who look more like Nicolette Mason or Ragini Nag Rao or Beth Ditto will be featured in ads and high-profile magazines – will make it to the place that 10 years ago, those who looked more like Crystal Renn never would have dreamed of.

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