In our culture, size is everything. It’s an important factor in just about every aspect of our lives: food, lodging, technology, money. In general, we want bigger, better, more…except when it comes to women’s bodies.
Nowhere is this idea more prevalent than in the fashion world. Hollywood bears quite a bit of the scrutiny, as well, but models have gotten dangerously thin in recent years and have prompted a conversation about what it takes to be successful in an industry based on looks. To the general public, that sparkly, glamorous world is like a different planet, populated with beautiful, impossibly thin people who make it look easy.
But it isn’t easy, even for some of the most famous faces on the runway. Public scrutiny and harsh media attention make it difficult for women to alter their appearance in any way, and a “normal” sized woman–size 6, 8, or 10–is considered fat or “plus-sized” in their business. Actress Ashley Judd recently penned an essay regarding the attitude towards appearances after being slammed by media sources for looking “puffy” after she took steroids for a sinus infection.
The general attitude towards size has been a problem for model Crystal Renn, who has built a career on being one of the few highly sought-after plus-sized women in fashion after battling eating disorders brought on by the pressures of being thin to get work.
“I’ve been a double-zero, children’s clothes, at 95 pounds, and I’ve been all the way up to a size 16 and everything in between. Now I’m a 6, 8, sometimes a 10 depending on what designer I’m wearing. And that’s an interesting place to be in fashion, where extremes are the norm,” she said.
Her battle with anorexia was detailed in a self-penned book called Hungry: A Young Model’s Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves, and after a recent appearance at an event in New York where she was unrecognizable, friends are worried she might have fallen back into the clutches of the disorder.
“It’s simply bizarre that ‘normal’ is the new overweight,” she writes in her book. “We’ve seen that super-skinny women can be as unhappy as the fattest fat girl. We know how awful it is to obsess about every calorie. We’ve just opted not to make ourselves crazy.”
Renn says she’s been doing yoga and feels good about her new look, however, and recently landed a coveted spot in Sports Illustrated.
“I have found a place of stability when it comes to how to view my figure,” she says.
While it may not be feasible in the fashion biz, where models need to fit into a certain size range for the ease of designers–whose dress forms are all the same measurements–many think that size shouldn’t matter at all, whether it’s a 2 or a 20. The point is to get women at a healthy level in both mind and body, to feel good about the way they look and to do it in a healthy way. The fact that the media is placing such importance on Renn dropping weight simply adds to the vicious cycle of size-consciousness in our society.