Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves

Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves

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by Crystal Renn, Marjorie Ingall
     
 

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At fourteen, I was a regular junior high school student in Clinton, Mississippi, when a modeling scout told me: You could be a supermodel. And then: But you'll have to lose a little weight. For glamour, fame, and escape, I lost 70 pounds.

This is a photo of me at sixteen, when I signed a big modeling contract, moved to New York City, and

Overview


At fourteen, I was a regular junior high school student in Clinton, Mississippi, when a modeling scout told me: You could be a supermodel. And then: But you'll have to lose a little weight. For glamour, fame, and escape, I lost 70 pounds.

This is a photo of me at sixteen, when I signed a big modeling contract, moved to New York City, and started traveling around the world. It is also when I developed a ferocious case of anorexia and exercise bulimia, and began to lose my hair, develop frequent bruises, and experience frequent heart palpitations. And still my body refused to remain a size zero. As my weight rebelled, my mania escalated. I experimented with diet drugs and fainted between casting calls, slumping to the sidewalk of Madison Avenue.

Until one day I realized that if I wanted to live, I could no longer starve. I had to get off the crazy-making treadmill. I had to nourish my body and feed my soul. So I ate. And ate. And I returned to my natural size 12 -- the size of the average American and the size I was when I really made it big.

This is a photo of me at eighteen, when I became one of the most successful models in the industry today.

Hungry charts the rise, fall, and rise of Crystal Renn, offering a behind-the-scenes peek into the modeling industry, as well as a trenchant look at our weight-obsessed culture. In this testament to the power of authenticity, Renn illustrates the ways in which the fashion industry is slowly changing and exposes the cold truths about size and sizeism.

An inspiring and cautionary tale, Hungry will resonate with anyone who has battled society's small-minded definitions of beauty.

Editorial Reviews

You might not know her name, but you probably recognize the face and body on this book's cover. Crystal Renn is arguably the most successful plus-size model in history, the first such model to grace the front cover of Harper's Bazaar. In her memoir Hungry, she does far more than flaunt her seven-figure annual earnings. Instead, she shares an all too-common-story of a young woman struggling with weight and body image issues.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439101230
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
09/08/2009
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.58(h) x 0.92(d)

Read an Excerpt


Introduction

This is a story about two pictures.

The first is a photograph of the supermodel Gisele. Taken by the photographer Steven Meisel, it appeared in Vogue in 2000. Gisele is in a clingy white gown, posing in a studio against a seamless gray backdrop. Her skin is golden and gleaming. Her hair is windblown, as if she's been surprised by a breeze from an open window just out of view. Her hands, her eyes, the curve of her back -- everything is graceful and expressive. She's mesmerizing.

I was fourteen years old when I saw that picture. It was the first time I'd ever leafed through a copy of Vogue. I'd never cared about any fashion magazine; I'd looked at that one only because a man I'll call The Scout had handed me a copy. He was working for a major modeling agency -- let's just call it The Agency -- in New York. His job was to troll the back roads of America, visiting junior high schools and suburban malls, in a ceaseless quest for the next top model.

I had never met anyone like The Scout before. He was urbane and kind, smooth-talking yet sincere. I was dazzled by his shirt. Tailored to perfection, it was probably more expensive than my entire wardrobe. When he opened Vogue to Gisele's picture, he knew exactly what he was doing. He was planting a fantasy. In the few seconds it took me to absorb all of Gisele's beauty and allure, I'd constructed a new idea of female perfection. It was Gisele.

That's when the Scout said, "This could be you."

And even though I was only fourteen and weighed sixty pounds more than Gisele and had all the sophistication of a girl from Clinton, Mississippi, population twenty-three thousand, I believed The Scout.

The second photograph is from 2007. It shows the naked back of a curvy woman, her dark hair curling into tendrils at the nape of her neck. Her body is half draped in rich red fabric. She's gazing off into the distance, lit from the side in a soft northern light. She looks like a Greek goddess or an Old Master painting -- a Vermeer, a Titian. There's an eye-catching weightiness to her. As she leans slightly to her right, two modest folds of flesh collect at her waist. (If you were a snarky sort, you might call this lush abundance "back fat.") The picture was taken by photographer Ruven Afanador for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. It was a public service ad, designed to look timeless but also of the moment. The objective was to show beauty and strength, to offer hope of a healthy future for all women. It ran in every major women's magazine, from Vogue to O to Bon Appétit to Prevention. The woman in that photograph is me.

Hungry is the story of how I got from the first photograph to the second.

A straight line may well be the shortest distance between two points, but for me, the journey from the first picture to the second crossed continents and set the numbers on my bathroom scale spinning backward and then forward like a time-lapse sequence in a 1930s black-and-white melodrama. The interim was a time of triumphs and humiliations, a jagged line of drastic weight loss and brushes with fame and success and failure and emaciation and eating disorders, until I finally said: Enough.

I started to eat. I stopped churning mindless circles on an elliptical cross-trainer for seven or eight hours a day, my arms and legs jerking like a marionette's. I stopped obsessing about chewing a single stick of sugar-free gum. I got heavier. I put on pounds by the dozen and leap frogged dress sizes -- from 00 to 12. But I honestly didn't mind the weight gain and the loss of my matchstick limbs. I made a choice to stop starving.

Here's the strange part: Call it crazy or ironic or simply perfect justice, but when I stopped starving myself, my career took off. That was when I shot five international editions of Vogue and the covers of international editions of Harper's Bazaar and Elle. That was when I starred in Dolce & Gabbana's ad campaign. That was when I worked the runway as the final model in Jean Paul Gaultier's prêt-à-porter show in a gauzy, breathtaking, form-fitting fairy-tale dress covered in an explosion of tissue-paper-thin silk flowers. That was when I appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. That was when I became the highest-paid plus-size model in America. That was when I became a favorite model of the man who took that amazing picture of Gisele in 2000: the great Steven Meisel. And I did it all at the weight my body wanted to be.

I was hardly alone in my descent into weight obsession and madness. Five to ten million Americans have eating disorders. A 2005 study found that over half of all teenage girls and nearly a third of teenage boys use unhealthy methods to try to be thin, such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes for the express purpose of losing weight, vomiting, and taking laxatives. Even women without clinical disorders spend a heartbreaking amount of time obsessing about their weight, hating their bodies, and thinking that if they were only thinner, their lives would be richer, fuller, happier.

I'm the embodiment of the truth that it doesn't have to be that way. You can learn to love the size you're supposed to be. I had to lose seventy pounds (along with lumps of hair, muscle mass, the ability to concentrate, and any sense of joy) before finding my sanity. I regained the weight and, in the process, became an infinitely more successful model. My self-acceptance led to a return of the intellectual curiosity I'd had as a child, before I got on the weight-loss express. It led to a better career. It led to romance. I'm proof that life doesn't have to wait until you're skinny. Copyright © 2009 by Crystal Renn

Meet the Author

Crystal Renn is the leading plus-size model in America. At twenty-two years of age, she has appeared in four international editions of Vogue; starred in a Dolce & Gabbana ad campaign; served as the final model in Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Spring pret-a-porter show in a diaphanous, flower-strewn gown that Gaultier designed specifically for her curvaceous figure; was the cover girl on an international edition of Harper's Bazaar; appeared on The Tyra Banks Show, The View and The Oprah Winfrey Show; and has been photographed by Steven Meisel, Ellen von Unwerth, Steven Meisel, Ruven Afanador and Patrick Demarchelier. Renn lives in Brooklyn.

Marjorie Ingall is a contributing writer at Self magazine and a columnist for The Forward. She has written for many other magazines, including The New York Times, Glamour, Redbook, Seventeen, Ms., Food & Wine, Wired, and the late, lamented Sassy, where she was the senior writer and health editor. At Sassy, she won several awards for health and social issues coverage. She is the author of The Field Guild to North American Males, the co-author of a sex-ed book for teenagers, Smart Sex and a former writer/producer at the Oxygen TV network.

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Hungry 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
browneyedgirlMA More than 1 year ago
Crystal Renn's fascinating biography tells the tale of a young teenage girl drawn to the glamorous, heady world of high-fashion. Always a "normal" weight for her height, modeling agents, agency executives and photographers warned her that unless she lost an extreme amount of weight, though beautiful and photogenic as she was, she would never get work in the world of high-fashion modeling. Renn, like many girls in the modeling industry embarked on a severe weight loss regimen that involved extreme calorie reduction and endless cycles of exercise. She quickly developed a devastating eating disorder, but she continued her persuit of success in the high-fashion modeling world. Finally at her breaking point, Renn decides to feed herself and take care of herself properly, Though she was afraid she might never model again, she made a priority of saving her life. Much to her surprise, once she embraced the woman she really was, she found success and happiness beyond her wildest dreams. Read Crystal Renn's story to join in her joy of loving herself as she is and finding love for your true self!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I completely connected to Crystal in this book. I felt like she took parts of my own life and put it into this book. I love the fashion industry and want to be a model so bad, and until I read this book, I thought I had to starve myself in order to fit into the mold of the average "straight size" model. So, that's what I did: I starved myself. Only, I lost alot more weight, a lot faster, than Crystal did, and it took everything in me not to eat, not to exercise and to try to stay that size...until I fainted at work and was sent to the hospital. Now, like Crystal, I'm a healthy size 12 and I love my body now more than ever. And, like Crystal, I want to become a top plus-size model. Getting just this little glimpse itno Crysal's world was amazing and inspiring. I wish I found this book earlier in my life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Writing is okay.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont read books often because i loose interest in many quickly. My personal interests are modeling, and fashion. This author had me hooked from the beginning!! I could not put it down! :) All the information about the industry is so true! I definetly would recomend this to anyone who's interested in modeling and fashion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Crystal is brilliant. Her strength and will power arre just amazing. I have resad this book 3 times now. Still my favorite work written.Defintely recommend this to everyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sooooo good and inspiering
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im not normally one for memoirs, but this one was thoughtfully written and tastefully done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book a year ago, when I was not feeling so great about my body. It seriously changed my whole perspective on beauty. This book made me realize that everyone has characteristics that make them beautiful.
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