Plus size American model Jennie Runk says she was completely surprised that her H&M beachwear campaign would cause such a stir. Since she had never really considered how she looks in a bikini, she was surprised that so many people were pleased to see her curvy figure in the campaign photos.
In fact, says Runk, some women have confessed that her photos have “inspired them to try on a bikini for the first time in years. This is exactly the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to accomplish, showing women that it’s OK to be confident even if you’re not the popular notion of ‘perfect’.”
Runk has decided to use the attention she has received “as an opportunity to make the world a little nicer by promoting confidence.” She especially hopes to reach out to teenage girls as she had an awkward adolescence and feels it is a difficult period to navigate. “When our bodies change and we all start to look totally different, we simultaneously begin feeling pressured to look exactly the same,” says Runk. “This is an impossible goal to achieve and I wish I had known that when I was 13.”
Having finally survived her teenage years, “I feel compelled to show girls who are going through the same thing that it’s acceptable to be different,” Runk explains. “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. … After all, I never thought of myself as model material but then I was discovered at a Petsmart, while volunteering in my too-short sweat pants no less.”
Runk acknowledges that “there are also negative connotations associated with thinness. Just as bigger women get called fat or chunky, thin women get called gangly or bony. …There’s no need to glamorise one body type and slam another,” she says. “We need to stop this absurd hatred towards bodies for being different sizes. It doesn’t help anyone.”
When she was first discovered, Runk was given the option to lose weight and try to maintain a US size four (a UK six or eight), or to gain a little to be a US size 10 (a UK 12 or 14) – and start a career as a plus-size model. Since she knew her body was never meant to be a size four, she decided to go with plus modelling.
The self-professed “quiet type who reads books, plays video games, and might be a little too obsessed with her cat” seems to be doing pretty well so far!
Read Runk’s full self-penned article from BBC New Magazine.