Discovered aged 14 by a model scout in her hometown of Mississippi, Crystal Renn thought she was living the dream. When her obsession to conform to the stick-thin model world nearly cost her life, she jumped to the other side of the fence. Today, she’s one of the most successful plus-sized models with bookings with the likes of Dolce and Gabbana and Jean-Paul Gaulthier. Renn tells Metro about her dreams, her love of martial arts and how she’s just not going to let herself go hungry anymore…
Q: When did it click to you that actually, you didn’t want to be hungry anymore?
A: I had an epiphany…I could lose my life for a job. I was booked for a Polaroid shoot on the Monday and that weekend I’d worked out for 16 hours. They cancelled the shoot telling me I still didn’t make the cut and I was like, ‘You don’t get it, I worked out for hours.’ They gave me two options: Carry on and do commercial work, or be my natural size and go into plus-sized modelling where I could do arty shoots and editorials. Choosing the second option meant I could still fulfill my dreams and accomplish all I had worked for, yet not be put away in a box.
Q: How hard was it to accept your new curves?
A: I was so sick when I was thin, so negative. I was so excited to get healthy and live my dream that every pound I gained was a discovery, so I embraced the change. I was getting to know myself again and feel good in my body.
Q: How does your diet today compare to before you became a plus-size model?
A: I was addicted to Diet Coke; I’d drink up to six cans a day. One day I woke up and decided to stop putting chemicals in my body. I’ll have natural soda once in a while but it’s been three years I’ve had a Diet Coke. Today I make a point of listening to what my body wants. I indulge to my cravings, as I believe that they are signs that your body lacks something. I look at my health and energy levels now, not my weight.
Q: Your book, Hungry, talks about how you went from a size-zero model to plus-sized. Do you think you were lucky to come out of it the way you did, more successful — as most people aren’t usually so lucky?
A: I’m incredibly driven and direct with what I want, when you have a dream you need to do everything to get it. I’d been starving myself to achieve my dream and realized I’d lose my life for it. I turned my life around but kept the dream. I have this burning desire in me to accomplish and now I have more confidence and a different mindset. With Hungry I wanted to tell people that life doesn’t need to be extreme — I was at the lowest place with my body and I wanted people to be conscious of that.
Q: Do you feel more feminine now that you are curvier than you used to?
A: Absolutely. I feel more beautiful, feminine and at ease, which brings peace into every part of my life. I have the confidence and attitude to wear the clothes I want to wear. When I was a double zero I was too self-conscious. It’s not about the clothes, but what’s going on in your head. You can be the skinniest girl in the world yet not feel good about yourself.
Q: Do you ever get a glimpse of your old self and worry about your weight at times?
A: I associate being thin with being unhealthy, so never crave it. I was so detached from my body back then, all I see is a girl who hated her life. Today, I’ve found a healthy medium with food and my mind. Worrying about weight gets in the way about everything, relationships, friends, and your hobbies… Lose the obsession and you will open up your mind and have time for everything else that matters.
Q: What does your daily health/fitness and beauty regime usually consist of?
A: When I first switched to plus-sized, I was anti-workout. I’d like to work out more but I find it difficult to find the time. I walk, ride my bike, and do yoga. Before I started modelling I used to compete in martial arts, I was obsessed with the weapons — nun chuckers and all. My job now doesn’t allow it though; hit yourself in the face once is enough to do damage.
Q: Do you think the fashion industry has changed at all since the skinny model debate?
A: I think people are more aware of the issues and can’t walk away from them anymore. We are seeing more plus-sized models in fashion magazines and that to me shows there is change. There’s a lot of talk, a lot of controversy, but at least there’s change; just look at the work I’ve been able to do, that would never have been allowed in the past. What we need is change to the point of getting more variety on the runway so that everyday women can feel they are a part of fashion and fit in.
Q: In your opinion how does the fashion world’s definition of plus-size differ from the real world’s?
A: In the modelling industry, it’s based on measurements, it’s extremely technical. Plus is a size 8 to 20, yet the average person tends to think plus is a size 18. The healthy attitude would be for the industry to change sample sizes from a size 2 to 4 to being a size 10, it would be a good starting ground.
Q: Your guilty pleasure?
A: I’m lactose intolerant, so anything with milk is a guilty pleasure. Days when I’m at home I’ll have a brie panini and a crème brulee, followed with a beer — it’s total heaven. Chocolate is the worst as it makes my skin break out so if I decide to have a ‘day’ I’ll be like, right today is cheese day and take pills so that the side effects aren’t so bad.
Q: How would you define beauty, do you think that the modelling industry has a lot to learn on the subject?
A: I think beauty is in variety. Having a wide variety of woman with all kinds of faces, sizes, background- it helps tell a story and that’s beautiful. Beauty comes within, its what you what you project and the message you give out to the world.
Q: If there is anything you could say to all the hungry boys and girls out there, what would it be?
A: Be an individual. There are a lot of people trying to make it, but the ones who succeed are the ones who are individuals. Make your attributes work in your favour, and don’t let a job change who you are.