Crystal Renn: Confessions of a Plus-Size Model
Plus-size model Crystal Renn talks to BettyConfidential about her new book, Hungry, and being happy with her body in a world fixated on thin
-April Daniels Hussar
I have loved the photo in the Breast Cancer Research Foundation PSA ever since I first saw it – the woman pictured looks both glamorous and relatable; both real and beautiful. The image, it must be said, reminds me of me – I see my own curves reflected in hers, and it’s hard to believe that this emblem of female beauty, worthiness and health was once a starving, miserable young woman, literally risking her life for the dream of being skinny enough to be photographed.
Crystal Renn, the woman in the PSA, has a story that in many ways can be told in pictures, and she offers an album of them in her new book, Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves (written with Marjorie Ingall). Some are described in words, to be seen in the mind’s eye, like the vision of a little girl blithely searching for Easter eggs, blissfully confident in her world and in her self. And others are shared in print – an adorable pre-teen fiercely demonstrating a martial arts move; a vivacious cheerleader with a mass of auburn hair. Right about there, though, the pictures suddenly start to change, as the girl in the photos get skinnier and skinnier, and her effervescent smile wastes away into a vacant, hollow-eyed look.
Hungry is the story of one girl’s journey from age 14 to 22, during which time she was “discovered” by a top modeling scout, lost more than a third of her body weight, and moved to New York to be a model but almost died instead. Anorexia and exercise bulimia (eight hours split between two gyms every Saturday and Sunday – for starters), hair loss, heart palpitations, diet drugs and blackouts … more and more disturbing pictures of a girl lost. Thankfully, it’s also the journey of recovery – this is where the pictures start to regain their former joy, as her body fills back out, her health returns and so does her spark, and her beauty – and, ultimately, triumph. For Crystal Renn has become the success she always dreamed about, but on her own terms, in her own, gorgeous body.
That photo of the stunning woman in the yellow dress above? That’s the image that launched Crystal Renn’s “plus-size” career – it was shot by famed photographer Steven Meisel for the April 2004 issue of American Vogue, not too long after Crystal made the decision to save her own life, to stop trying to starve herself into the impossibly skinny jeans of a “straight-size” model. Since then, there have been countless other triumphs, including magazine covers, more Vogue appearances, walking the finale on Jean Paul Gaultier’s runway with the famed designer himself, and an incredibly sexy Dolce & Gabbana ad campaign.