No matter that in the real world women come in a bevy of shapes and sizes, in the model world, you’re either “regular” or “plus-size.” And for the past several years, model Crystal Renn has been at the top of the plus-size game. But Renn has been catching flack lately for a rather surprising reason: some say she’s not plus-size enough. In yesterday’s Daily Mail, the model was criticized for appearing at a Metropolitan Opera opening in a slinky gold number, “now virtually unrecognisable from her days of ‘big’ modeling.” Nevermind that Renn is still not considered thin enough to model in the ultra-warped world of “regular” modeling, it seems Renn and her new, slimmer figure just can’t seem to win. Where critics of plus-size models say they provide unhealthy role models, others claim Renn’s sold out from her original plus-size form.
Earlier this year, Renn addressed her weight loss in an interview with Ford models. “A lot of people wanted to point their finger at somebody. They wanted to find a conspiracy when there actually was none,” she said. “I feel pressure probably more than any place from the public and the media. I think by placing a title on my head—which is plus-size—and then the picture that these people have created in their mind about what plus-size actually is, I basically fail you just with that, because I couldn’t possibly live up to that.”
That hasn’t stopped some fashion bloggers from saying they feel “betrayed” by her new, slimmer frame. “Crystal Renn used to be an example of the industry’s changing attitudes towards beauty, but now she’s just an example of how women must change to be accepted by that industry,” wrote one fashion blogger. But isn’t criticizing a woman for no longer being plus-size as equally body snarky as telling her to try to lose weight?
Especially when Renn’s copped to a past eating disorder. As she explained to Ford, part of dealing with her disorder meant eschewing public opinion of her weight altogether. “I had anorexia ultimately because someone else set the standard for me and I wanted to follow it,” she said. “And if I followed what the public wanted from me or what the media wants from me I would be doing the same thing—I would have a binge eating disorder.”
So what’s the answer? It seems that we should perhaps begin accepting the radical notion that — gasp! — women’s bodies expand, contract, age and morph. We can’t know what motivated Renn’s physical change — and it would be presumptuous to assume that because she’s thinner she’s somehow less happy or less healthy (in the same way that it would equally obnoxious to assume that a woman who gains weight is depressive and unhealthy). Overtly commenting on Renn’s — or any other woman’s — physical changes just seems tacky, unnecessary and a touch catty, wouldn’t you say? Even if the comments are what we may conventionally associate with positive feedback. (“Oh! You’re so much thinner now! Have you lost weight?”) Instead, let’s try assessing one another on our non-physical traits and cut out the inverted, undermining (even when couched in positive terms!) bodysnarking. Because if we as women can do that, perhaps the modeling industry will — someday — too.