Disclaimer: This post may possibly be triggering for those struggling with eating disorders. They are not discussed in any detail but you know what you need – please take gentle care of yourself.
Crystal Renn in her plus-size heyday
Model Crystal Renn made huge waves (no pun intended) several years ago when she went from a mildly successful straight-size model to a voluptuous, internationally acclaimed plus-size model. Proud of her curves, she even wrote a best-selling book, Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves, detailing her anorexic past and how she broke free from the body tyranny of our culture. I loved that book so much I read it twice.
Renn as a teenaged anorexic straight-size model
While I was happy for her that she seemed so much happier, what I really loved about it was hopeful it felt – that there was a way to be beautiful at the weight your body was meant to be at. (Also: I loved that her grandmother taught her to swim under water at age 2 by giving her a drinking straw to breathe through and dunking her in the pond. And by “love” I mean am simultaneously in awe and horrified by that story.)
For awhile Renn made the interview rounds and was featured in some high-profile fashion spreads but then she quietly dropped out of sight. When she resurfaced she appeared to be a “normal” size and the Internet went nuts trying to figure out how much weight she’d lost, what her current size was and if she could still be called “plus sized” if she was only a US size 6-8. The furor died down again but now the model has made yet another transformation:
Appearing in the 2012 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, one thing was clear: she was back to straight-size modelling. While she says that she lost the weight in a healthy way and is equally as happy with her larger self as she is with her smaller self, many women feel confused and even betrayed.
Of her current exercise regimen, Renn sounds pretty sane and balanced: “I just think that if there is anything you don’t want to do, you shouldn’t do it, so I just tried to live by that. What I do enjoy doing is hiking in nature. I like yoga because it keeps the mind balanced. I like how I feel when I’m doing yoga and it’s also very good to help with modeling—it keeps you flexible and gives you more variety of what you can do on set, so I find that very, very useful. If I’m super stressed and can’t go hiking or do yoga, I’ll go to the gym in my building and do elliptical training. It’s great because I don’t have a TV so the one time I get to watch TV is in the gym. I’ll have my moment, de-stress, and that’s it.”
But her fans aren’t buying it. “You don’t lose that much weight doing yoga and hiking! You have to put a lot of effort to go from a 14 to a size 6. We’re not that stupid, we know how hard it is to lose weight and she insulted our intelligence.” And from a reaction from PLUS Model magazine, the editor (or the editor quoting a reader), says, “Once she got down to a size 10 she lost the support of a lot of people. We’re disappointed because she was our star fighting for equality and fashion for us, and now she’s going to their side. It is sad that she’s turned her back on us.”
Honestly I’m not sure what I think about this. I’ve avoided writing about it because I can’t resolve two conflicting feelings:
1. I am sad she’s skinny again. There, I said it. I know that I’m supposed be all girl power and say that whatever makes her happy makes me happy but the truth is that I am disappointed. She was a hero to me because she bucked the trends and proved that beautiful is not a size or body type. Now she looks just like all the other models.
2. BUT. It’s absolutely not my business what she weighs, how she got there or how she feels about it. It’s her business. In every sense of the word. And I hope, for the record, that the answers are healthy, healthfully and happy. But even if they’re not, it’s still not mine to comment on.
See, I know shouldn’t care. But I do. It doesn’t help that the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition is the absolute epitome of catering to the male gaze. Although I am grateful she hasn’t done any stupid tabloid covers showing her frowny in a “fat” pic and smiley in a bikini proclaiming “I lost half my body weight and you can too!” Having sat on this one for a good week, I have come to conclude that this is simply more evidence how bad it is to compare ourselves to anyone else. Crystal Renn is just gorgeous and one of the most photogenic people on the planet, no matter what she weighs. That’s why she’s a model. And also, maybe I’m just jealous.
I’m hoping you guys can help me sort this all out. Do you have feelings one way or the other on this issue? Am I nuts that I hate the SI spread or jealous? Should I just get over myself already and realize that people change and that’s fine?