Crystal Renn showing off her healthy curves on two covers of her new book. Photos: Ruven Afanador

When Crystal Renn aspired to be a model as a 14-year-old in Mississippi, an agent (not from Ford) told her she had to lose 9 inches off of her hips first.

Renn ended up doing that, and then some, going from 175 lbs and 5' 8" to 95 lbs and an inch and a half taller in two years, eventually moving to New York City and launching a successful modeling career.


Model Crystal Renn -- in 2002, weighing between 95 and 105 lbs -- at the height of her eating disorder. Photos: From the author's personal collection.

After conquering the eating disorder that transformed her body, Renn, now 23, is happy to call herself a size 12 plus-size model, who, with her new curvy figure has walked the runway for Gaultier, graced the pages of Vogue and starred in ads for Dolce & Gabbana.

Renn's new book about her intriguing journey, titled "Hungry," comes out September 8 (pre-order it at Amazon.com).

We landed an exclusive interview with Renn in which the beauty opens up to StyleList about the dark side of modeling, accepting her body and coming out on top.

StyleList: Why did you decide to write this book?
Crystal Renn: I could only reach a certain number of people through magazine interviews and I wanted to take it to the next level and go into greater depths about my story. One of the messages I wanted to get out was that no matter who you are or where you are, you can accomplish your dreams. I'm a girl from Clinton, Mississippi, and here I am in New York. I also wanted to talk about body acceptance and help women feel empowered.


SL: How did your eating disorder develop once you were trying to achieve the model shape?
CR: It started gradually. I switched to whole wheat bread or eating eggs instead of beef. Just making everything lower in fat. Then it came to cutting out desserts completely. I ended up losing 30 lbs in 2 months, but then I plateaued. That's when it got pretty serious. I started exercising everyday between 1 hour and 8 hours. I wouldn't eat above a thousand calories. And the weight started coming off again. And this was all before I was even modeling yet. I was 15.

SL: Once you were in New York booking jobs and maintaining a weight between 105 and 95 lbs, did your agency and the people around you know what was happening?
CR: I think you had to be aware that something was wrong -- the veins coming out of my arms, the lack of energy, the hair falling out, being in a sullen dark place all the time. That's not normal for a 16-year-old girl. But they pushed me harder and even set me up with a very expensive trainer. I think they turned the other way.

SL: Did you notice the same issues happening with the models around you?
CR: The thing about anorexia is it's a really private thing. People who share openly think they are going to be judged. But I did meet other girls that I knew were suffering with it. I had a roommate and we were eating disorder buddies. And at shoots girls would share tips and it was really quite twisted. One girl said, "When I really want dessert I just eat fat-free Jell-o and I just eat tons of it." Or there were tips on drinking Diet Coke or eating just the peel of apples.

SL: What was your own diet like?
CR: I was probably eating 600 or 700 calories a day. I would steam vegetables and eat them with fat-free dressing for breakfast, for lunch it was lettuce with balsamic vinegar, for dinner maybe the same thing. Everything was always fat-free or sugar-free.

SL: What made you stop?

CR: At 17 my body completely rebelled. I couldn't loose more weight and I realized I was going to die for a job. The next day I was completely chastised by my agency for my size and one agent pulled me aside and said, "There's an option for you. You can either go plus-size or do commercial work." And I asked, "What's plus-size modeling? I've never heard of that." And she said, "Well it means you can be whatever size you want and model." But she said it was for old women! But for whatever reason, everything made sense and I knew this was the route I had to take. I went and had a salad with salmon and walnuts and olive oil. I gave into what my body needed. I could be healthy and happy and still model.

SL: Then you switched agencies to Ford's plus-size division and you've had a successful career. Do you think the enduring waif aesthetic in fashion will ever change?
CR: I believe it'll change because fashion is always changing. A hundred years ago, heavier women were more ideal and now it's a size 0. I think it's a cycle and I think that women want to see themselves in the pictures -- they want to see their size, color and height. I think if that happens, it'll make women feel more empowered and they'll love themselves more. In fashion, it starts with the sample sizes and I think designers are becoming more aware. But I think there have been many positive changes. I've done all of the Vogue's and Dolce & Gabbana ads. It's just a matter of time before it's brought back to mainstream.


We previously reported the action one top magazine editor took to fight the too-skinny model epidemic. Click here to read more.