It seems the eternal dialogue over body size in the fashion industry has never been more alive and more interesting than it is at this very moment. As the average American woman now wears a size 14, we’ve seen a true clampdown on dangerously underweight models (though beanpoles still abound), editors as powerful as British Vogue’s Alexandra Shulman are demanding that designers adopt “healthier” standards, and some magazines are now using non-models exclusively. Meanwhile, Kate Moss sits there reminding us that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” and the “pro-ana” websites still offer helpful tips on self-starvation. Adding a new ripple to all of this is the woman who has accidentally found herself at the center of the conversation: Queen of the plus-size girls and star of V magazine’s “size issue,” Crystal Renn offers herself up to Eric Wilson in today’s Times. Predictably, we learn that Renn has suffered emotionally from being “normal” in an industry that values the abnormal. Wilson relates one frightening story found in the pages of Renn’s book, Hunger. “By 2002, when she moved to New York at age 15, she weighed 95 pounds and had lost more than 42 percent of her body weight. On her first day in the city, she landed a shoot for Seventeen.” Eesh.
Far and away, though, Renn’s most interesting revelation is that she’s not strictly pro plus-size. “When designers and editors choose one fat girl to salivate over, and revel in her avoirdupois, I’m not sure how much it advances the cause of using girls of all sizes in a magazine,” she says. Renn argues that making an example of a handful of curvy models for periodic editorials (as in V’s current issue) is no solution to the industry’s deeper body-image issues. Normality, whatever that is, and diversity are far more valuable than a single shot of Beth Ditto on the cover of your magazine. Says Renn, “I believe fashion can be a place of diversity. It’s not going to happen overnight, but do you want it to?” We put that question to you.