To be or Not to be Thinner…

Crystal Renn is that rare model in the fashion industry that for the majority of her successful career, did not fit into the modeling world’s version of what is average, which 90% of the time is a body that is more underweight than awesomely lithe; and the great news is that she still made it.  Renn was the plus-size equivalent of Kate Moss as far as her unique status goes (as Moss is celebrated for being of a regular tall woman height at “5’6″-5’7”); and for Renn, it was because she was of a fabulously fuller figure.  She was an anomaly.  Along with Kate Dillon, she was one of very few rounder models to still book campaigns as she appeared in Chanel, Mango, and Jimmy Choo ads, and covered big magazines like Glamour, but also gave face to brands that cater to the “plus-size” division like Lane Bryant and Torrid.  It was refreshing and one step closer to equality and confirmed individuality being embraced in an industry that regrettably supports institutionalized racism, and issues on what is an appropriate, healthy weight, both matters that are often justified through fashion’s delusional telescopes.

Dillon has mainly stayed at a plus size for most of her career, while Renn’s weight has fluctuated and earlier this spring she caused a mini OMG frenzy when it seemed the model lost even more weight and showed up to an event looking not only thinner but platinum blonde (or as Zac Posen said, a “blonde bombshell”).  While posing innocuously like the superstar in the game that she is, some thought of her thinned out appearance as foul.  Renn was supposed to be the leader of real women in fashion, so what was going on here?  Renn admitted going through anorexia nervosa during the beginning of her career and later gained enough weight to be an US 12 to 14 at her height of 5’9″, but the brunette beauty has exclaimed every so often that she feels a special pressure to be an iconic image of the more average woman’s body.  Through her comments, it can be found that Renn would prefer to be the size she wants to be than the size the industry demands of her and what the public whats her to represent, and both are aggressive images to live up to.

Because she was arguably more successful at an US 12-14 than at a US 2-0, fashion critics and fans may be wondering why is she pushing herself to be a size that was less bankable for her?  It’s kind of a big deal when the kaiser himself Karl Lagerfeld still wants you to star in his ad, and we all know he feels about curvier or bigger sized women (his views on Adele left many people un-amused).  Renn, only 26 years old, may still feel the classic intensity of finding how and when she is comfortable with her body, and the annoyance of discovering this is all the more exacerbated in the field she’s in.  Whenever she loses LBs, she’s labeled a sell-out.  When she is obviously more plus-size, her figure is used as a “your kind is beautiful too” in magazine features about being gorgeous at any size, finding clothes that fit your body, and even massive displays of food are used as props in kitschy photo shoots, as she did with provocateur photographer Terry Richardson.  She chronicled her life thus far in modeling in her co-authored book Hungry in 2009, and this year she was included in Sports Illustrated‘s swimsuit issue.

photo by Terry Richardson for Elle

The most fascinating thing about Renn is that she truly looks good whether plus size or in clothes that are single digit, as she doesn’t lose her ability to model well, and her features are beautiful that either way they don’t get lost.  Renn, in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, defended her current phase of weight loss by stating she “doesn’t let my body dictate whether I’m happy or not [anymore].”

So what exactly is the controversy here?  All signs point to if Renn loses weight, who is there to continue the good fight of not just a healthy body image, but the presence of more than just one body to aspire to be or that one can see themselves in the media, and especially from a business that thrives on the level of many women (and men’s) self-esteem and pretense at an astronomical level.  Renn, in her defense, may be exhausted on having to be always talk about weight and modeling, always having to be that spokesperson for a particular category.  The name “Crystal Renn” is synonymous with the term “plus-size”.  If you type in her name in YouTube, almost all of the videos posted are linked to a discussion about weight and being of a different size for expose-style interviews.

Last year, in PEOPLE magazine, she was reported to be a size 8 (now between a 6-8), and that she recognized the public was more interested in her size than anything else about her, which is unfair to her well-being and another major reason why she now attempts to act both defiant and blase since living in a weight she’s comfortable being at.  Renn feels, and rightfully so, that she shouldn’t have to gain or lose weight so that everyone else that views her can put her in a box, and the idea or vision of what is plus-size is not an unanmouis gathering, as she wrote in a blog entry for her agency’s website at Ford Models.

Renn is an example of the long-term affects of having to be the role model and when becoming the archetype starts to overtake who you are on the inside.  It’s a complicated occurence because often what you epitiomize is what you naturally embody, inside and out, but people do change over time.  We get older.  We hopefully become wiser and while we were may still be part of us, it isn’t everything; it isn’t the end all or be all to your existence.  Very human should yearn for evolvement.  For Renn, she may be over being the poster child for plus-size, and not because she ever felt ashamed of being so, but because her identity is not being Crystal Renn, it’s being known for a size.  Her size in an industry of waif pretty things certainly makes her memorable on so many levels, but Renn wants the public to know she’s not just a number.

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