Model feels plus-size pressure

In an industry dominated by the stick thin, Crystal Renn has stood out as one of the few plus-sized models to have obtained global recognition with the leading fashion houses.

She regularly graces the pages of Vogue, is on the books of one of New York's top modelling agencies and is this season's face of Jimmy Choo.

Now the model has hit out at the media and her fans for boxing her in to the plus-sized category and expecting her to maintain her fuller figure.

In a video interview published on the website of Ford Models, Renn's agency, the 24-year-old said: "Where do I feel pressure? Probably more than any place from the public. And the media.

"By placing a title on my head - which is plus size - and the picture that people have placed in their mind about what plus size is, I'll basically fail you just with that. Because I couldn't possibly live up to that. And at this point in my life, I would actually have to have another eating disorder to live up to that expectation."

Unlike most models who might show frustration trying to stay an industry-acceptable thin, Renn is not angry with people for expecting her to keep the weight off. She is instead annoyed by the pressure on her to keep her fuller figure.

Over the past month, fashion blogs and gossip columns have been filled with feverish - and often cruel - comments over Renn's changing figure which has dropped from a British size 16 that made her so famous to a 12.

In the fashion world, where anything above a size six is considered unusual unless you are very tall, Renn's figure is still relatively curvaceous. Most women of her build would not get a look in at the mainstream agencies. But many commentators have used Renn's weight loss as a chance to suggest the Florida-born model is selling out the principles on which much of her success is built.

The debate wasn't helped by Ford Models updating its statistics for Renn on its website and giving her size as a two - the equivalent of a British size four.

Gary Dakin, of Ford Models, said the size was a printing error. He added: "If people have truly followed her message, it is about acceptance and beauty at any size".

Even so, Renn is feeling the pressure to be a standard bearer for plus-sized models.

"I had anorexia ultimately because someone set the standard for me and I wanted to follow it," she said referring to her teenage years.

"If I followed what the public, or the media, wanted from me I would be doing the same thing. I would have a binge-eating disorder."

It was a black-and-white photo shoot for the small-circulation fashion magazine Little Planes that got the gossip tongues wagging. Renn appeared looking noticeably slimmer than in the swimsuit shoot she did for Glamour in 2009 which effectively launched her as the acceptable face of plus-sized.

The timing also tied in with a growing recognition that consumers were becoming intolerant of the lack of variety on catwalks and concerned about the health implications of size-zero figures. What made Renn so refreshing was that her success came once she started to put weight on.

She was discovered by a talent scout at the age of 14 and spent her teenage years trying to maintain a thin figure in the face of biological inevitability. Anorexia set in as she tried desperately to keep the weight off. Her Damascene moment came as a size-eight teenager being sent home from a shoot for being too large.

She put weight on and signed with the plus-size agencies and has hardly looked back since.

But if Renn had her way, there wouldn't even be a need to use the phrase plus-sized.

"[You] have to realise that plus-size model doesn't mean plus-size woman," she told a US radio station this week. "But bridging the gap would be a very good thing. We need to have all sizes. This isn't a them against us fight. It's about bringing everybody together.

- INDEPENDENT

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 21 Apr 2014 04:36:44 Processing Time: 447ms