Is she? It’s something to think about. Twenty-three-year-old Crystal Renn is a lovely and intelligent young lady from Mississippi who is hothothot for a couple of reasons: she is currently the most successful “plus-size” couture model in the U.S., and she is also the author of “Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves”(with Marjorie Ingall), an autobiography which highlights her struggles with anorexia as a teen just entering the fashion industry. Here’s a short video from her publisher, Simon & Schuster:

Let’s look at Renn’s stats:

Height: 5’9”
Weight: approximately 165 lbs.
Size: 12

Would you have guessed these numbers from watching her in the video? Would you have cared about them? What I see is a beautiful girl, and one who doesn’t look odd or hefty or bad in any way at all. But your eyes can perceive things differently, depending on the parameters your brain is working with. Take a look at Crystal at age 16:


Height: 5’9”
Weight: approximately 95 lbs.
Size: 0

Crystal is a very pretty girl no matter what, but her 95-lb. weight far more reflects what we all expect to see in a current-day fashion model. Your eyes, with that expectation, see her jutting collarbone and obvious muscle wasting as completely normal.

As Renn discusses in her book, she went to very dramatic lengths to stay under 100 pounds, eating essentially nothing and exercising hours every day. Probably to her long-term favor, her body began to rather quickly fall apart – her gorgeous long dark hair began to fall out in clumps, her heart began to misfire, and fainting dead away became a regular and frightening occurrence. She was unhappy enough and scared enough to get a handle on her eating disorder, regained her weight, and now earns in the seven-figure range as a sought-after model, a story with a happy ending.

Let’s break things down a little further. No one is going to disagree that Crystal’s early story isn’t at all unique, but unless a full-blown tragedy occurs we don’t hear about the exploitation of children by the fashion industry. Who was supposed to be protecting her at that time? Who made a profit off her sickness and misery? Crystal didn’t have to be a model, sure, but we have laws in place to protect children because kids don’t always make the best decisions. You cannot expect someone at 15 or 16 or 17 to know how to expertly cope with the incredible pressure exacted from any top-level, high performance, high-prestige, adult-run industry. It would be like high school coaches injecting their football players with steroids, or a mother encouraging her red-headed teenage actress daughter to get a boob job and a coke habit to look Hollywood-hot. The fashion world has to stop exploiting children, period, and should be held accountable for the long-term damage that eating disorders have upon young, growing bodies. Shame on you f-ing people.

But I would also like to hear a stronger message of body health from Renn herself. She speaks quite a bit about having body confidence and accepting the weight you are meant to be, to not be afraid to be normal. Unfortunately, the average size woman in America is now a size 14. Unless you are over 6’, this probably means that you are overweight, which puts you at greater risk for heart disease, bone and joint problems, Type II diabetes, certain types of cancer, etc. There’s a real health crisis going on in this country, and a great deal of it is related to obesity. Anorexia = no good; obesity = no good. I wish Renn had made more of a case for not only eating well and not obsessing over food, but that reasonable, regular exercise is crucial to obtaining and maintaining your best healthy body. I also wish, because she is certainly someone with a public voice now and a role model for young girls, that she weren't also a smoker. I could probably lose the last 10-15 lbs. that cruelly hang on to me still if I started up with the Marlboros, but I am not into emphysema or lung cancer as a fashion statement.

And, remember that both Crystal’s Auschwitz look and her larger self were both retouched by the fashion folks to look smooth, perfect, and poreless. It’s all about the image, and sallow zitty skin or cellulite doesn’t sell magazines or $3000 dresses. This is an outtake of Crystal from a recent photo session, no airbrushing, no Photoshopping, no nothing.

If Renn’s message was for women to love themselves, exactly as they are, then show people what that really is! We all would look better with Steven Meisel photographing us in beautiful clothes and beautiful lighting at the best angles. Probably.

If we think as a culture that resetting our internal eyes to a broader recognition and acceptance of what is a visually-beautiful woman is good, and that the fantasy image sold to the world since the mid-'60s has had a serious negative impact upon millions of young women, then this is what I suggest:

1. Stop using young teenagers as high-fashion models. It’s kind of pedo-creepy anyway, and it’s just too messed-up of an industry for kids to deal with.

2. Make variety the norm. Designers and fashion editors, step up like Jean-Paul Gaultier and Glamour and the Euro Vogues and just quietly start using beautiful women of many sizes and ages in your work. People will get used to seeing it instead of one narrow kind of look, and over time it will be just how things are; potentially a very powerful reshaping that could have huge and unexpected benefits.

3. Show bodies that reflect good internal health, too. Being healthy is more beautiful than anything in the world. Promote that.

So, did you answer the question? Is Crystal Renn fat? Ha ha, I tricked you into thinking about stuff!