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Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves Hardcover – September 8, 2009
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About the Author
Crystal Renn is the leading plus-size model in America. At twenty-two years of age, she has appeared in four international editions of Vogue; starred in a Dolce & Gabbana ad campaign; served as the final model in Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Spring pret-a-porter show in a diaphanous, flower-strewn gown that Gaultier designed specifically for her curvaceous figure; was the cover girl on an international edition of Harper's Bazaar; appeared on The Tyra Banks Show, The View and The Oprah Winfrey Show; and has been photographed by Steven Meisel, Ellen von Unwerth, Steven Meisel, Ruven Afanador and Patrick Demarchelier. Renn lives in Brooklyn.
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I've worked in the fashion industry for many years. I was a model with an eating disorder. I wasn't naturally thin, I had to work at it. It's a very subjective business and what one agent wants another doesn't want. Beauty is very subjective and truly is in the eye of the beholder. If a major photographer likes you despite what your agent thinks you can be successful and just switch agents. Heidi Klum was called "fat" but she became a success with Victoria's Secret. Now she'd be fat according to them. The industry constantly changes. Suzy Parker never would have been successful today because she had hips. it isn't all about the agent as many girls think, success is as much about the model as it is the agent. The models need to sell themselves. They are a product after all and each client has a specific product they're looking for their "brand." Many models like Kate Upton are "branding" themselves. She's working mainstream not plus-size although she really is technically that way. She made herself into a celebrity where it's your name that matters.
I've worked with both naturally thin girls who were mocked because they were thin and girls who had to diet to become what the industry wanted. It's also very subjective depending on the agent. I had one girl who was Supermodel material with 10% body fat, 5'10", 16 yrs old, 33" hips, size 2 naturally who was being called fat by one agent. Another top agent absolutely adored her and thought she was fine the way she was, just needed a hair trim. I had done a makeover on her. She could have toned up a bit but she couldn't change her actual body type. She was naturally thin and she was going to wear heavier BMI wize even though she physically had a very low fat percentage. It's also not so much about weight because more muscular girls without much fat will weigh more but they might be very thin despite their BMI or how much they weigh. As long as their hips are 34" or smaller and they can wear a sample size without destroying it they're fine. Their weight shouldn't matter, the size should.
To be honest, I haven't followed the modeling world for some time. I used to read all of the magazines and watched Style with Elsa Klensch religiously.
But years have passed since that time, and I had never heard of model Crystal Renn. I was unaware of her story.
Crystal was raised by her grandmother when her own mother abandoned her. Being abandoned or rejected by a parent often leads to feelings of inadequacy, as no matter how much reassurance from others you receive that you are worthy of love, it is still a blow to your psyche. Crystal was no different, and she developed a need to dominate whatever activity she chose, whether it be student council president or cheerleading or modeling.
Crystal didn't want to just be a model in a catalog. She wanted the runways and the Vogue covers. In order to do this, she was told that her hips would have to get down to 34". This meant that she, at 5'9" would need to drop down to 110 lbs. She had to lose 60 lbs.
Of course, given her overachiever demeanor, she went beyond this. She exercised for 8 hours a day on the weekends. She ate lettuce, chewed gum, and smoked. And she eventually found herself at 95lbs.
You don't have to be a budding model to feel that you don't have the right to take up space. ~ Crystal Renn.
I wanted to be less, always less. I wanted to be as barely there as possible. ~ Crystal Renn
I wonder whether today's mania for super-thin, wide-eyed, less powerful-looking girls is tied to fear of female strength. Today's girls take up less space, literally and metaphorically. ~Crystal Renn
And yet, she wasn't successful at that weight. She was a shell of a person at that point and no one wanted to hire her because of her lack of spark and energy.
You can be as beautiful as anything, but if you can't show people a little of your soul, you'll never make it. It wasn't until I became the weight I was meant to be that I figured that out. ~ Crystal Renn
The stereotype of models is that we're brain-dead, but some of us are just starving. ~ Crystal Renn
Eventually, Crystal's body fought back and started gaining weight on its own, no matter how hard she tried to keep her weight down.
Crystal began to learn about how our bodies are designed and why some people are destined to be size 0 naturally and others are not. I have to agree with her assertions, as I think it's easy to tell when someone is naturally thin. I know people who are very thin and petite, but not skin and bones. I know some folks who are larger, yet have a nice defined figure.
When we diet to lose weight, we have to steamroll over the weight our genes want us to be, disregard the hunger pangs that won't go away as we dip below the size that's normal for us, ignore the marketing of junk food and the prevalence of giant slabs of meat and glugs of high-fructose corn syrup and the hugeness of most portion sizes. We may have to struggle to find fresh, affordable food, which isn't accessible in many neighborhoods. We have to find the time to cook and walk more. We blame ourselves for failing to lose weight and we never think, Gee, if almost everyone who loses weight gains it back, maybe the problem is with the concept of dieting, not with individuals. ~ Crystal Renn
Crystal talks about studies that have shown people who are not overweight have a difficult time gaining weight, even when they are told to do so. They have to eat around 10,000 calories per day to put on weight and maintain it.
Yet some people can't lose weight until they cut their calories drastically. And so, the conclusion is, that there is a genetic difference between people who are thin and people who are overweight.
She also discusses the bashing that overweight people are taking in our society now. This part of the book is rather involved, but very informative. I'll just give you with a taste of it:
No one has established a causal relationship between weight and ill health. Are people fat because they're unhealthy or unhealthy because they're fat? Bacon (a researcher) shows the difference between the two with an example: Bald men have a higher incidence of heart disease than men with a full head of hair. However, this doesn't mean that baldness causes heart disease or that hair protects against heart disease. (And no one would suggest that bald men dig deep, show some damn discipline, and grow some hair.) ~ Crystal Renn
Eventually, Crystal's body weight settled in at what was healthy for her, which was about what she weighed before she started starving herself to fit in to the "straight" modeling world. Yes, she is a size 10/12 now and that is considered Plus sized in the modeling world. But she has broken through many of the barriers and appeared on Vogue covers around the world.
If you couldn't tell, I absolutely adore this book and its author. I think that it's one of the most important books I've ever read. Crystal Renn is only 24, but she has already learned a great deal about body acceptance and what works for her. That she can share this very personal journey in such an accessible way is truly amazing. This should be required reading for everyone, as it will change the way people think about our genetic appearances.