Since the arrival of H&M’s summer swimwear campaign, model Jennie Runk has been catapulted into the public spotlight. Sure, the bathing suits are pretty, and the photographs beautifully capture the scenic ocean backdrop, but the reason this campaign is gaining so much attention is because of Runk’s “plus-size” figure.
Fashion campaigns featuring women with larger body types are few and far between in an industry obsessed with bodies and size. For decades, media outlets have relentlessly picked and prodded at models’ bodies, critiquing every inch of them, from their hair and skin, to their waistlines. Happily, Jennie Runk has become a role model to women who can’t relate to the countless images in magazines of waiflike bodies. Women and girls can find empowerment in the confidence that Runk exudes, and in her message.
Runk often explains in interviews that since her modeling career began at the age of thirteen, she was pressured to conform to the norms of the fashion industry. She was given a choice early on: to lose enough weight to drop five clothing sizes, or to remain her size and find work as a “plus-size” model. For her, regardless of the label it would leave her with, the choice was obvious.
Runk has a lot to say about her label as a “plus-size” model, and the industry in general. In a recent interview she was quoted as saying,
“People assume ‘plus’ equates to fat, which in turn equates to ugly. There are also negative connotations associated with thinness. Just as bigger women get called fat or chunky, thin women get called gangly or bony.” Runk has empowered herself over the years by forming a great relationship with her shape, and not letting others’ comments undermine her body-positive outlook. She’s aware that there are problems within the modeling industry on every end of the spectrum, acknowledging the double-edged sword of being too large and thus, “fat,” as well as being too thin and “bony.”
For many women and girls, Jennie Runk looks like a sister, a daughter, or a friend. She looks like a beautiful woman that carries herself with great confidence, someone that a lot of people can relate to. She’s undoubtedly a role model, regardless of her size, which is something that the fashion industry needs much more of.
Read Runk’s statement to BBC for more of her opinions on body image in the fashion industry.
Photos by H&M