Plus-Sized Model Forced to Gain Weight In Order to Be Successful

STORY BY Jessica Elizabeth Pawlarczyk

Published: June 2, 2013

Model Jennie Runk’s story may sound too bizarre to be the truth. While most models are asked to slim down, Runk’s agent encouraged her to gain weight so that she may fit the criteria for plus-sized modeling.

Runk, originally an average size 4 at 13 years old, began to put on weight, knowing that her success in the industry depended on it. Today, at 24 years old, Runk has tripled in size and now wears size 12 or 14.

Despite her uniquely “overweight” body, Runk has beaten the odds in the modeling world by acquiring much fame. In fact, she was just featured on the front page of H&M’s website wearing nothing but a tiny two-piece bikini.

H&M really deserves a round of applause for this bold, refreshing advertisement. When Abercrombie and Fitch is refusing to stock size 14 clothes, H&M accepts— and more importantly, celebrates— the average woman’s body. Instead of following the status quo and choosing skinny model with sunken in cheeks, H&M has ultimately taken the first step towards eliminating unhealthily thin models.

While I make this statement, however, I can’t help but notice that the majority of the models on H&M’s site do live up to the stereotypical norm, where they appear to be size 0 or 2. I guess the clothing company isn’t too big on the “Go big or go home” philosophy.

Besides using stick-thin women and men on their site, H&M clearly caters to their skinny customers. The “H&M + Size 14-24” tab only features three articles of clothing: a dress, cardigan, and pair of leggings. The sad thing is that this bountiful plus-size collection is probably not even offered in stores. From personal experience, I know the H&M store in my Ohio hometown sure doesn’t carry these sizes.

So now after a bit of reflection, I am left feeling confused. Why did H&M decide to feature a plus-size model on its homepage, when in reality, the store does not offer much to the plus-size community? It seems to me that if H&M truly cared about normalizing women of all sizes, it would logically decide to carry these larger sizes in bulk.

I would truly love to get inside of the head of whomever created Runk’s H&M campaign, because now I’m not so sure of the clothing store’s intentions. I want to give the company the benefit of the doubt and believe that it truly wants to promote and attract plus-sized women, but now, I can’t help but wonder if their unique model selection was just a marketing ploy. Grab the media’s attention by choosing Runk, who looks nothing like our average customer! Make a scene by disregarding the modeling industry’s obsession with thinness! You get the idea…

In the end, all I want to do is remind H&M of this age-old saying: if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk. If you’re going to use plus-sized women in your marketing campaigns, be sure that plus-sized women can shop at your store. 

Other Stories by Jessica Elizabeth Pawlarczyk
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