H&M's Plus-Size Model Jennie Runk Says She Chose To Gain Weight

Jennie RunkJennie Runk was volunteering at a PetSmart when the stunningly beautiful woman was spotted by a modeling agent. There was just one issue. The 13-year-old was a size 4. She either had to lose weight, the agent said, or gain weight, so she could be marketed as plus-size. Runk chose the latter.

Now 24 and wearing a size 12 or 14, she sent the Internet into seizures earlier this month when major clothing retailer H&M splashed a bikini-clad Runk on its homepage. She was the face, and body, of its beachwear campaign -- not plus-size beachwear, just beachwear -- thrusting Runk -- suddenly into the limelight as a body image cheerleader and everywoman advocate.

Runk has taken on the role with relish. She penned an op-ed for the BBC describing her awkward adolescence -- when she had braces, wide-rimmed glasses, thick curly hair and thighs "the size of [other girls'] waists."

More: Overweight Women: Fat Chance Of Getting Ahead

"Having finally survived it, I feel compelled to show girls who are going through the same thing that it's acceptable to be different," Runk wrote. "You will grow out of this awkwardness fabulously."

She expresses frustration at the stigma of plus size (the size of "the average American woman" she points out), and laments the stigma that thin girls endure too, slurred as "gangly and bony."

Runk notably avoids finger-pointing in her public statements, and doesn't express any objection to the plus-size category. ("Clothing companies do this in order to offer their customers exactly what they're looking for," she writes.) After all, the fashion and media industries are paying Runk's bills. Her enemy is simply body hatred, and a plus-size model just speaking out on the subject qualifies as activism in itself.

Runk's Facebook fan page has quickly built a devoted following, with her uplifting posts on "confidence," "individuality," and "how to be beautiful naked," earning hundreds of likes.

More: 7 Ways You Can Be Fired For Your Appearance -- Legally

Over the past few years, there's been a slowly-growing movement in the fashion and media industries to present more realistic images of women. In 2010, Germany's most popular women's magazine banned professional models from its pages, opting for "ordinary women" instead. The next year, the United Kingdom banned two ads for L'Oreal cosmetic foundation as being misleading in its use of airbrushing.

Last year, Israel became the first country to pass a law prohibiting the use of underweight models in advertisements, and Vogue magazine pledged to keep unhealthy-seeming models out of its pages. Britain, France, and Norway all considered mandating warning labels on photos that were digitally altered, but faced stiff opposition from advertisers.

Abercrombie & Fitch faced a backlash last week over its refusal to stock clothes in a size 14, which is what the average American woman wears. A protest erupted outside one of its Chicago stores, and a Los Angeles filmmaker took a more creative stab at the retailer by giving out its clothes to the homeless.

But advocates are still waiting for the revolution. According to Plus magazine, most models walking the runway today meet the body mass index criteria for anorexia.

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12-14 is not plus size! Its a size. Plus size is when you get into 16W, 18W, 20W etc.
And sizes are not consistent between designers anyway. A size 10 at Target is a Size 14 at DKNY for example. There truly is no set standard, like there is with a ruler or a tape measure, since people are 3 dimensional and not flat like a 2x 4. As much as women struggle with how they feel in their weight class, it's actually American Men who are the SNOBS when it comes to what they think a " good figure" should be! Start with that prick Karl Lagerfeld and his insane comments.... many of them gay designers, pretending to assume they know anything about a woman's body! They DON'T! They cannot! And now down to the average American Male, their standard shown to them in recent decades has also warped their perception into thinking Super Model skinny is what they are supposed to accept. All the while, America has poisoned our food chain, toxified us with chemicals in the air and in our fruits, vegetables, fish and meats, our grains, and even our water, ruining our metabolisms, and we are supposed to look like an Auschwitz victim with $300 blouses on, in the hope of looking " Sexy" to men/ boys ? Puhleeeze!

May 29 2013 at 11:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Boo to H&M. Frankly, I don't shop at H&M all that much but their usual models are an unhealthy model skinny. Some models under-eat to achieve the look that the modeling world wants which is disgusting. So now they are promoting that people should gain weight to be plus size models? Just as disgusting and unhealthy. Having a few extra pounds on is ok, but to flaunt jiggly fat as the new "norm" is way off base ladies! My sister in law told me that the new average size is a 14 as a means to justify her eating two desserts and not to exercise. I told her that I do not want to be average. I am 5'5" and weigh 142. That is not skinny and I do not want to gain 12 pounds to fit into an "average" size 14, thank you very much! Being healthy is my goal.

May 29 2013 at 9:08 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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May 27 2013 at 2:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

A size 12 oe 14 is not obese! The reason it's considered a plus size is because it has double digits. I do believe that being overly obese is a problem not because of what society saids, but for yuor health. If you can't go up a flight of stairs or walk a few blocks without being out of breath, that's a problem. So do it for your health to be on a "healthy weight" for yourself!

May 23 2013 at 9:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I do believe that most designers want women to look like men!! Then they should design clothes for men. A woman is supposed to look like a female, not a male!! Get real!!

May 23 2013 at 9:40 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

She's plus size? Are you kidding me?

May 23 2013 at 9:38 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I don't know why when we talk about weight we never talk about height as well?!?! Size 12 on a 6 ft person is not the same as size 12 on a 5 ft 4 or 5 ft 7 person. Also, what about body shape? We are all different. No extreme is good.

May 23 2013 at 9:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

a 12 or 14 is considered plus?? No wonder young females have such a hard time feeling good about their size.

May 23 2013 at 8:55 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I would so tap that, if I weren't already involved with my gf.

May 23 2013 at 8:48 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

There are lots of posts in response to this article that bash Mrs Obama's initiative "Let's Move!", many stating that it sends a message to children and families that obesity is wrong. It IS wrong...it's unhealthy. You will never hear the First Lady say that a size 12 needs to be addressed. We have become a nation of opinions of extremes. There is a whole lot of ground between an unhealthy size 0 and very obese weights. Both extremes are not healthy. Health needs to be the focus { which I do believe is the First Lady's message }, and not appearance or a number on a size tag.

May 23 2013 at 8:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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