Jennie Runk, a 24-year-old “plus-size” model, has been making waves after her recent beachwear spread for H&M. On Tuesday, just weeks after the photo shoot was published, Runk wrote an open letter railing against the industry’s fixation with the “perfect” body shape.
In an opinion piece for the BBC, Runk talked about how when she was first discovered, she was urged to either lose or gain weight. “I was given the option to lose weight and try to maintain a size four (a UK six or eight), or to gain a little -- maintain a size 10 -- and start a career as a plus-size model,” Runk wrote. “I knew my body was never meant to be a size four, so I went with plus.”
For the record, Runk’s admission to being asked to gain weight in order to model isn't exactly news. In 2011, Marquita Pring revealed to Women’s Wear Daily that she sometimes has to wear additional padding sewn into clothes to fit into the larger size requested by clients.
Runk also opened up about her own struggles to feel comfortable with her body growing up, and said that it took her years until she finally became confident in her own skin. “When our bodies change and we all start to look totally different, we simultaneously begin feeling pressured to look exactly the same. This is an impossible goal to achieve and I wish I had known that when I was 13,” Runk said.
Runk said she hopes teenage girls will benefit from hearing about her experiences. “Having finally survived [adolescence], I feel compelled to show girls who are going through the same thing that it's acceptable to be different,” she said.”You will grow out of this awkwardness fabulously. Just focus on being the best possible version of yourself and quit worrying about your thighs, there's nothing wrong with them.”
But while Runk says she has learned to see beyond size, she believes the fashion industry has a lot of catching up to do. “People assume ‘plus’ equates to fat, which in turn equates to ugly. This is completely absurd because many women who are considered plus-sized are actually in line with the American national average, or a US size 12/14.”
Runk acknowledged that clothing companies use sizes as a way to make it easier for customers to find what will look good on them, but said that the practice has led the industry to glamorize certain shapes over others. “We need to stop this absurd hatred towards bodies for being different sizes. It doesn't help anyone and it's getting old,” Runk concluded.
Her piece received appreciation from readers on Twitter, who commended her for raising the issue so publicly.
“She's gorgeous! How about just model- not 'plus' model?” FrugalistaBlog wrote.
“Thank you, H&M” Justine Maki tweeted. “This is awesome!” Nelly Ahmad wrote. “That's right Jennie Runk women come in all beautiful shapes and sizes! Being healthy is the important part!” Claudia Coleman said.
View photos from Runk’s H&M campaign below.