Sept. 8, 2009 -- In the fashion world, it seems as if thin is always in. But could curvy women be making a comeback? A photo of nude plus-size model Lizzie Miller in Glamour magazine got a tidal wave of positive press recently, and one of the most successful models working today is a size 12, which is considered plus-size.
Crystal Renn is gorgeous, glamorous, sexy and at the top of her game. She's a leading plus-size model, but getting there is nothing like you might imagine. Renn, 23, has written about her journey from teenager in Mississippi to globetrotting supermodel in her new book, "Hungry."
Renn was a pretty 14-year-old from Clinton, Miss., with a big dream: become a supermodel and grace the cover of Vogue. She was attending charm school in Mississippi when a scout from a modeling agency spotted her, showed her a photo of Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen and told her "that could be you."
Bundchen was "the most beautiful person that I'd ever seen," Renn told Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America" today.
"That was my moment," she said. "I think I was never identified as the beautiful girl."
There was only one problem; she was told she'll have to shave off 70 pounds from her healthy teenage body to do it.
"You have to lose 9 inches off your hips," Renn recalled being told.
Shockingly, in just one year, with starvation dieting and obsessive exercise, Renn went from life as a happy, healthy cheerleader to a "hungry girl" with a lifeless expression.
"I ended up almost risking my life," she said. "I was probably eating more like 600 calories … my body started to rebel."
At 16 she moved to New York City and signed a quarter-million-dollar modeling contract and said she spent up to eight hours a day at the gym and starved herself.
"Even though I was accomplishing my dream, I was absolutely miserable," she said.
And at 5 feet 9 inches she weighed 95 pounds, but was told she still wasn't thin enough.
"I knew that no matter what I did …I 'll never be good enough to meet the weight standard of a traditional fashion model," she said. "And I might lose my dream."
Plus-Size Model: Life 'Finally Flourished'
So how did Renn become an international runway model and cover girl? She began eating again.
At 18 years old, Renn decided, for the sake of her health, to become a plus-size model. She's now a size 12 and weighs between 165 and 170 pounds.
Renn, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband, is now one of the most successful plus-size models working today.
She's graced magazine covers, including four international editions of Vogue, and walked in runway shows for top designers such as Jean-Paul Gaultier. She appeared in a Dolce & Gabbana ad campaign, and in November will be part of a photo spread of nude plus-size models in Glamour.
Today Renn said that "my life and everything about me finally flourished" once she started accepting her body.
"I want people to know that they can be themselves," she said. "They don't have to conform to be accepted and succeed."
Renn attributed her success to self-acceptance and individuality.
"It's being individual that works in what I do," she said. "You will be set apart from the rest."
Her goals include designing a clothing line geared to full-figured women, and she'd also like to represent a brand of makeup, because she believes it's important for women of all different sizes to be seen as beautiful.
Her message for girls everywhere is that "being who you are -- that's going to get you ahead in whatever you do."