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Video: Plus model ‘shocked’ photos made her skinny

  1. Transcript of: Plus model ‘shocked’ photos made her skinny

    MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: Model Crystal Renn has always celebrated her full-figured curves, so when she realized that recent photos of her had been retouched to make her look thinner she was less than thrilled. Going to talk to her in a moment, but first, MSNBC 's Tamron Hall has the details. Tamron , good morning.

    TAMRON HALL reporting: Good morning, Meredith . Well, the second those photos of Crystal were altered to transfer her from a size 10 to a size two, a plus-size controversy was ignited. At a size 10, model Crystal Renn has a full-size career, posing for top designers, appearing on magazine covers. A poster model for real women everywhere. In May, she spoke about it on TODAY.

    Ms. CRYSTAL RENN (Plus-Size Model): I've never let my size define me. I came into this and I said `I'm going to be a model. I'm never going to let my size stop me. I just am.' And I think that that's the most important thing, and I think that's a really positive message.

    HALL: But in these new photos, the proud, plus-size model appears surprisingly thin. Turns out the pictures taken for an ad campaign had been retouched. Here's a videotape of Crystal from the set looking full-figured. But in the published photos she's super skinny.

    Ms. MICHELLE TAN (Staff Editor, People Magazine): The retouching issue has always been around in the fashion industry . It's always a matter of how extreme certain places take it.

    HALL: In the new issue of People, Crystal says she's had enough. The plus-size beauty opens up about their own battle with anorexia and bulimia and says retouched photos like these send the wrong message to young women .

    Ms. TAN: She's known as a full-figured model and she also suffered from an eating disorder. She overcame that seven years ago, and the last thing she wanted to do was have anybody think that she had either relapsed or she's falling under industry pressures.

    HALL: As for the photographer, Nicholas Routzen , he makes no apologies, saying on his blog, "the minimal retouching that I did do, it's nothing you wouldn't see in any magazine today. There's nothing hidden about this." Of course, Crystal is not the only celebrity who's been given an digital diet on magazine covers. It happened to singers Kelly Clarkson and Faith Hill , and Academy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet . Meredith :

    VIEIRA: Tamron Hall , thank you very much . Crystal Renn is with us now, along with Leslie Goldman , a body image blogger for iVillage's "Never Say Diet." Ladies, good morning to you.

    Ms. RENN: Thank you.

    VIEIRA: First of all, Crystal , just to be honest, when you walked into the studio, people who looked at you said, `She's not a plus-size model' and you have lost some weight, right?

    Ms. RENN: Yes. I absolutely have. I basically started an exercise routine. After seven years of being in recovery, I thought it was a great time as ever to start taking care of myself and reintroducing exercise back into my life. I mean, there was a time where eight hours in a day of hard, grueling exercise, you know, was normal. And I think that I'm at a place now where I can do it in a healthy way. And I think that's really important.

    VIEIRA: So but you do consider yourself still at this point a plus-size model?

    Ms. RENN: Yes, because the thing is, is what the industry thinks is plus and what the public thinks is plus is, you know, different things and that's why we get all this confusion and oftentimes anger because I am plus what the norm is. You know, what I do is basically, you know, you can be a size eight all the way up to a 20. And that offers a lot of freedom because I'm finding, you know, in my personal life even, but even through other girls who've told me their stories, women fluctuate. And with what I do I can fluctuate as opposed to what I had to be before, which was only 34-inch hip.

    VIEIRA: So let's talk -- so let's talk about these photos because when you first -- they were taken for a charity that funds art for the kids, right, Fashion for Passion .

    Ms. RENN: Yes.

    VIEIRA: When you first saw them, what did you think?

    Ms. RENN: Well, when I first saw the pictures I have to say I was absolutely shocked. I think I sat in silence for a good five minutes because I knew nothing of the pictures. That's not -- you know, when I was looking at the computer screen, that's not what I saw. So I was absolutely shocked and I don't think it's an accurate portrayal of my body in any way. I mean, I'm a size 10 and that's more like a size two.

    VIEIRA: And there is you -- that's a picture of you after the fact.

    Ms. RENN: Yes. Yes.

    VIEIRA: Now the photographer said that, yeah, there was some retouching done, but that normal. He also says that it was minimal and that he used a wide lens and he shot...

    Ms. RENN: Right.

    VIEIRA: ...I guess it was from above. That makes you look...

    Ms. RENN: Yeah.

    VIEIRA: ...that makes you look slimmer. And that's just the nature of the business.

    Ms. RENN: Absolutely. I think that, you know, you can have all of those things and you would get an image like that. I think that I'm known for my body, I'm proud of my body, and I absolutely understand, you know, a reasonable amount of retouching. You know, if there's the zit for instance, or if you want to smooth things out. But to change my body completely and I think that that's not -- I mean, that's not what I'm about, that's not my message and that's so important to me.

    VIEIRA: Oh, is it -- so it's about the message, really?

    Ms. RENN: Yes.

    VIEIRA: You're concerned about what young girls looking at that picture of you , maybe even some of those who might be dealing with anorexia right now....

    Ms. RENN: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

    VIEIRA: ...might think.

    Ms. RENN: Yes, because I don't want them to think that my message isn't the same, that I think only being thin is the only way to be beautiful. Beauty is not a pants size, and that's what I'm about. And I think that it's about what I have to say and how I live my life , which is in a healthy way, I believe, for me. And I think that's the most important thing. And I want them to know I'm healthy and well.

    VIEIRA: You know -- yeah. Leslie , this caused quite a controversy on the blogs. In your own blog, you said it amounted to mass hysteria.

    Ms. RENN:

    VIEIRA: What were people saying? Why were they so hysterical about this?

    Ms. LESLIE GOLDMAN (Body Image Blogger, iVillage's Neversaydiet.com): Well, I would hope that at least there was some legitimate concern for Crystal 's health. But I think mostly people felt maybe a sense of betrayal before they knew that the pictures had been retouched. I think that women have so few role models to look up to, public well -- widely accepted role models who portray beauty as something outside of this very narrow norm that they felt, well, if now she clearly thinks that she needs to be skinny to be beautiful, I'm going to have to do that, too. That said, if Crystal decides to lose weight in a healthy way, that's her prerogative, she doesn't deserve to have people jumping, you know, all over her because of it.

    VIEIRA: Except she's become the poster child for plus size.

    Ms. RENN: Which I'm proud of.

    VIEIRA: Speaking of...

    Ms. GOLDMAN: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. RENN: I'm super proud of this. I want to inform people that this is an option for models and for people to find role models to look up to. You know, there's freedom in what I do and I'm -- it's something I'm very proud of. Plus size? I mean, some people scoff at the name but I think, you know, it's amazing to even be a part of the whole thing. What I think would end the confusion is if we just call each other, you know, all the models just models. You know, no more straight size, no more plus size. Because I think it's like us against them, them against us. And that is absolutely not the way that women should look at each other. And I think if we did something like that, and that's where I'm going, that's where my message is going. I want to get rid of titles because they demean women and there's no need for that.

    VIEIRA: So just to wrap this up, you are not losing weight because you're feeling pressure from the industry now to...

    Ms. RENN: Oh, absolutely not. No. It's funny, because people I, you know, I keep running into for work, `don't you lose any weight.' You know,

    that's......Karl Lagerfeld and Cindi Leive , who's fantastic. And, you know, it's just great that you know you have these wonderful people supporting you, so.

TODAY contributor
updated 7/22/2010 9:52:53 AM ET 2010-07-22T13:52:53

Model Crystal Renn has become the poster woman for curvy girls everywhere, many of whom know her story: As a teen model, Renn tried so hard to get down to the size 0 designers wanted that she developed bulimia and anorexia.

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So when Renn saw the published results of a recent photo shoot she did for charity Fashion for Passion in which her body was whittled down via retouching, her reaction was vehement.

“When I first saw the photos, I would have to say I was absolutely shocked,” Renn, 24, told Meredith Vieira on TODAY Thursday. “I think I sat in silence for a good five minutes.

“I didn’t think it was an accurate portrayal of my body in any way,” she added. “I’m a size 10, and that’s more like a size 2.”

On the left is one of Crystal Renn’s unretouched photos for charity Fashion for Passion; on right is the altered version that was published.

Since recovering from her eating disorders seven years ago — Renn had an epiphany when her hair started falling out in clumps and she could barely muster a step without becoming exhausted — the model has seen her career take off. She’s in high demand from fashion’s top photographers, gracing the pages of Vogue and Glamour, sashaying down the runway for Jean Paul Gaultier, and being the face and body of Dolce & Gabbana ads.

‘Mass hysteria’
Appearing with Renn on TODAY, health writer and body-image blogger Leslie Goldman told Vieira there was nothing short of “mass hysteria” when the new Renn photos were released.

“Mostly people felt a sense of betrayal before they knew that the pictures had been retouched,” Goldman explained. “I think women have so few role models to look up to that they felt, ‘Now [that] she clearly thinks she needs [to do this] to be beautiful, I’m going to have to do that, too.’ ”

“I don’t want [women] to think my message isn’t the same, that I think thin is the only way to be beautiful,” Renn said. “Beauty is not a pants size; I think it’s about what I have to say and how I live my life, which is in a healthy way, I believe, for me. I want them to know I’m healthy.”

But the photographer who did the controversial shoot said the issue has been blown out of proportion. “The minimal retouching that I did do, it’s nothing you wouldn’t see in any magazine today,” Nicholas Routzen said. “There is nothing hidden about this.”

Renn firmly disagreed. She said she could barely recognize her full-figured self in the slimmed-down shots. “I absolutely understand a reasonable amount of retouching, but to change my body completely, that is not what I’m about and that’s not my message, and that’s so important to me,” she told Vieira.

Size issues
Renn added that her plus-size career has been going great, and said she has the support of many top designers, who tell her, “Don’t you lose any weight!” Even so, the model is a bit slimmer than she was a year ago: After years of eschewing exercise as she came to terms with her eating disorders, Renn told Vieira she’s back to working out.

“I thought it was as great a time as ever to start taking care of myself and reintroducing exercise back into my life,” she said. And while she may have dropped from a size 12 to a 10, she said there’s plenty of wiggle room in her style of modeling.

“You can be a size 8 all the way up to a 20, and that offers a lot of freedom,” she said. “With what I do, I can fluctuate, as opposed to what I had to do before.”

And Renn looks forward to the day when all fashion models have the same freedom. “What I think would end the confusion is if we just called each other ‘models,’ ” she said. “No more straight size, no more plus size, because I think it’s us against them; them against us.

“That is absolutely not the way women should look at each other. That’s where I’m going; that’s where my message is going.”

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