Jennie Runk, plus-sized H&M model: ‘My body was never meant to be a size 4′

Jennie Runk

I know, I know. This is yet another article praising the success of a plus-sized model within mainstream fashion. Last year, I went apesh-t over Ralph Lauren’s first “plus-sized” (and let’s use that term loosely) model, Robyn Lawley, a 6’2″ and size 12 beauty, and then just a few weeks ago, Elle Quebec featured leggy Justine Legault as its very first plus-sized cover model. Now I’d like to introduce you to the positively sultry Jennie Runk, 24, who has taken H&M by storm at size 14 and (gasp!) modelled swimwear to an excellent reception.

Mind you, Jennie is not just a pretty face or a luscious body. She has composed an essay that has been published on the BBC site, and she explains her perspective in an amazingly relatable manner. She also stresses that all body types should be embraced, which makes me a huge fan already. Here’s what Jennie had to say:

Jennie Runk

I had no idea that my H&M beachwear campaign would receive so much publicity. I’m the quiet type who reads books, plays video games, and might be a little too obsessed with her cat.

So, suddenly having a large amount of publicity was an awkward surprise at first. I found it strange that people made such a fuss about how my body looks in a bikini, since I don’t usually give it much thought.

When my Facebook fan page gained about 2,000 new likes in 24 hours, I decided to use the attention as an opportunity to make the world a little nicer by promoting confidence. I’ve since been receiving lots of messages from fans, expressing gratitude.

Some even told me that my confidence has 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.”

This message is especially important for teenage girls. Being a teenage girl is incredibly difficult. They need all the help and support they can get.

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. At 5ft 9in and a US size eight (usually either a UK 10 or 12), I envied the girls whose boyfriends could pick them up and carry them on their shoulders.

Gym class was a nightmare. While the thin girls were wearing shorts, I was wearing sweat pants because my thighs were the size of their waists, and those pants were embarrassingly short because I was taller than the average adult, but still shopped at (pre-teen clothing store) Limited Too.

I also had thick, curly hair that only drew more attention to me, hiding behind my braces and beige, wire-rimmed glasses. On top of all this I’ve always been rather clumsy, so to say that my adolescence was awkward is an understatement.

Having finally survived it, I feel compelled to show girls who are going through the same thing that it’s acceptable to be different. 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.

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 (a UK 12 or 14) – and start a career as a plus-size model. I knew my body was never meant to be a size four, so I went with plus.

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 (somewhere between a UK size 14-18).

I can’t argue that some styles look better on one size than another.

While the idea of separating women into size categories seems stigmatising, clothing companies do this in order to offer their customers exactly what they’re looking for, making it easier for people of all sizes to find clothes that fit their bodies as well as their own unique stylistic expression.

The only problem is the negative connotations that remain stubbornly attached to the term “plus-size”. There shouldn’t be anything negative about being the same size as the average American woman, or even being a little bigger. Some women are perfectly healthy at a size 16 (a UK 18 or 20).

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. We need to stop this absurd hatred towards bodies for being different sizes. It doesn’t help anyone and it’s getting old.

[From BBC]

Doesn’t Jennie make a lot of sense? She’s not arguing that plus-sized is necessarily the best way for a person (or even a model) to be. Instead, she is arguing for acceptance of all body types. I’d also like to proffer the theory that one can even be super fit and healthy while fitting into many body types. From Denise Richards to Kate Upton, health and beauty comes in many shapes and sizes.

Oh, and Jennie Runk? She is GORGEOUS.

Jennie Runk

Jennie Runk

Jennie Runk

Photos courtesy of H&M

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75 Responses to “Jennie Runk, plus-sized H&M model: ‘My body was never meant to be a size 4′”

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  1. backwards says:

    We need more models with this attitude. Beautiful girl.

    • LadyBird83 says:

      We do but we also need to take away the height thing. Why must all models be over 5’9. If we can handle the beauty of a woman’s curves why not give them in truly every shape and size. Beauty is beauty. That can’t be denied.

      • Hakura says:

        @LadyBird83 – A very good point, I agree. =)

      • littlemissnaughty says:

        I think the height thing is not going to be changed any time soon, it’s about money. If brands or designers start making collections for different shapes and sizes, that’s a huge step in the right direction but they can’t tackle the height issue at the same time. It’s simply too expensive. I’m not talking about what’s sold in stores, I mean when it comes to models. They wear sample sizes and those are produced before the model is chosen so you need a certain height to work with. It would absolutely be possible to slowly increase sample sizes (and I’m all for it) but models still need to be a certain height. If you decrease the required height, the tall girls are going to complain. You can’t tailor sample sizes for girls between 160 and 185cm, that’s not possible.
        And let’s not forget this is an affordable brand, they manufacture the line in different sizes, which means they can choose the model and simply give her the right size. That doesn’t work for fashion shows either. I think we need to differentiate between this and the various fashion weeks.

      • Jae says:

        The height thing is actually quite weird.

        Thin equals ‘good’ in model-world and (mostly) ‘good’ in ‘real’ world.
        Tall? Not so much.

        When it comes to women tall, really tall 5`9 and taller is good for a model, but actually kinda bad for a real person. Kinda bad for Hollywood too.
        Would Kloe Kardashian be called ‘sasquatch’ or ‘manly’ if she was, say, 5’5? Would Brooke Hogan? Yeah, those chicks are trashy but the nature of the comments towards their appearance reveals what is considered beautiful.

        Even fashion kinda stops caring about tall women after the runway show is done. Try buying pants while tall. Try be stylish without ever wearing high heels.

        When people use ‘tall’ as a compliment, they usually don’t mean actually tall. they mean ‘someone who is still shorter than 6′ in 4′heels’. Someone like Emma Stone or Carey Muligan. 5’10? You’re a freak.

        My mother is 158 cm (5’10) tall and spent all her teenage years being told she’s a freak. I’m 185 cm (around 6’1) tall, and the ‘freakishly tall’ (so, like two to four inches shorter than me) models were basically the only representation of ‘my people’, only proof that at my height I may still be beautiful I had in my adolescence.

  2. Onasan says:

    Wowza!! Absolutely stunning!
    I love that she’s got beauty and brains — a great role model.

    Does she remind anyone else of Megan Fox a few faces ago…

  3. minime says:

    Wow she is gorgeous, what a beautiful face! And she passes a nice message about all-kind-of-body acceptance. Also nice that she looks really classy and it’s not all about her boobs like Upton.

  4. Janet says:

    She has curves. Those Vogue models have angles.

    • stellalovejoydiver says:

      You are completly missing her point:
      “There’s no need to glamorise one body type and slam another. We need to stop this absurd hatred towards bodies for being different sizes. It doesn’t help anyone and it’s getting old.”
      I am saying this being size 12/14.

      • Janet says:

        I totally get point. She looks beautiful and healthy, with emphasis on healthy. Some of those Vogue models look anorexic and there is nothing beautiful or healthy about anorexia. You could hang some of the fashions they model on a clothes hanger and they’d look just as good. I’m speaking as a size 6.

      • stellalovejoydiver says:

        Some people naturally have a bigger frame, some naturally have a smaller frame and are healthy, some people are bigger/smaller due to an unhealthy diet. Dismissing all skinny models as anorexic is missing her point concerning bodyshaming.

      • Liv says:

        But you must admit that most models are on a diet or have a eating disorder. And many are naturally pretty thin but have to lose weight to get even skinnier. That’s sick. And that also doesn’t mean there aren’t models who are naturally super skinny and healthy.

      • stellalovejoydiver says:

        Liv, sure there are skinny models who are starving themselves, but just because someone is at a normal weight or heavier doesn´t mean that person is on a healthy diet or doesn´t have an eating disorder. Most bulimics are normal weight. Some normal weight people are binge eating on one day and then restraining themselves for the rest of the week, that is an eating disorder. And being overweight due an unhealthy diet is harmful as well.

  5. Skipper says:

    If she’s a size 14 then they photoshopped some of those. Why bother ?

    • Mairead says:

      She looks to be a UK size 14 to me.

    • Abby says:

      She very well could be, you’re not taking into account bone structure and how she carries weight. People (even my doctor) guess I’m 2 sizes smaller or 25 lbs. lighter than I am, it’s just how I carry weight. I have a friend who is my height and a couple sizes smaller, but in photos we look the same, it’s really all in how your body is distributed, muscle, etc.

      • Lucinda says:

        Great point. I am currently a size 10 and was once a 12 but no one ever believed me because I have very small hips. I carry all my weight around my waist, hence the larger size. You just never know.

        I’m going to read this essay to my pre-teen who currently hates the changes her body is going through and is convinced she’s ugly no matter how much everyone tells her she is far from ugly. I don’t think she’ll believe it but it’s one more time to reinforce body acceptance.

    • cc says:

      She is a UK 14, so she is a US 10, which looks abuot right- I am a 10 and she looks a lot like my shape, but a little thinner because she has two inches on me

    • Moneypenny says:

      As someone who is 5’11, I can tell you that what one size looks like on a tall person is very different than a shorter person in that size. And I agree with others, frame size is also a factor.

    • Leen says:

      My problem is what was wrong wi her original weight? Why did she need to lose weight or gain weight for that matter? Seriously the fashion world is ridiculous, it does nt cater to average sized women. I am betting the majority are neither a size 6 nor a size 14 but somewhere in between.

  6. Lentil says:

    I’m much closer to her size, but I love that she said you should never criticize ANYONE’S shape. I think the “men want meat, not bones” thing is as awful as curvy hate.

  7. Hillshmill says:

    I like her. She seems intelligent, down to earth, and realistic. I’m a size 14 and just ran my first half marathon. I tend to find all different sizes of men & women attractive, so long as there’s some muscle tone. Healthy should be the objective in life, regardless of your jean size.

    • Amy Lynne says:

      Congratulations!!! What a huge accomplishment. Whenever my body image gets off (I start fixating on my thighs, etc), I focus on what my body can DO instead of what it looks like. I am a runner too and I think it is the best thing in the world for health.

  8. Jess says:

    We need more plus size models like her. She’s beautiful, but in a normal way.

    Most plus size models are as much genetic freaks as Gisele or Heidi. Maybe moreso. Most women could wear small size Chanel if they starved themselves, but very few women can be plus-size and still have a totally flat tummy, dainty little calves, an uber chiseled face etc.

  9. j.eyre says:

    I really enjoyed her essay. I hope she remains in the spotlight for a long time. She is a good role model for everyone.

  10. Val says:

    Very pretty woman. We have a similar body shape, I’m just 5’3″.

  11. Gwen says:

    Very nice that she’s not only very pretty but also smart!

  12. Mary says:

    Such a beautiful girl! I could look at her face for ages. And sound smart and sweet too (Yay for her being a cat lover!)

    As a Swedish speaker I just think it’s unfortunate that her name is Runk :/

    • Inari says:

      I’m a Finn, and unfortunately my mind went there too. Model + bikini + Runk… Uh-oh. (Yeah, I think our word is borrowed from Swedish – and of course everyone learns the profanities even if they can’t form a single meaningful sentence in Swedish.)

      Apart from that, she really is beautiful and seems smart.

  13. Micki says:

    I like her attitude, however there are some points I don’t agree with.

    1.”Average size” is someting that varies widely with time. I’m sure the average US size went up through the decades from 70s’ till today. As did the chips and Coke portions. I remember 25g was average when I was a kid. Now we buy 300g on average. Coke was sold in 250 ml cups.

    2. Just because the majority of people are average size it doesn’t mean it’s good for them. “Some women” being healthy in size 16 does not correspond with the general population’s health.

    3. I like her confidence but I feel unhappy with my new weight. It’s still low average compared to the cited sizes but it’s too much for ME and my frame.
    Besides there’s diabetes history in my family, my father is the last to be diagnosed with it and he’s overweight. Roughly said : I’m shit*ing bricks with stress by the thought I may be the next if I don’t do something.

    • JennJ says:

      And as the portions have changed, so have the sizes. I am now two sizes smaller at places like the Gap and Banana Republic than I was in high school, and 1 1/2 inches taller and 15 pounds heavier. I know not all brands do this, but these two do cater to a huge number of people.

      I do agree that we need to accept people for who they are and not discriminate. But in our rush to do so, we also need to be careful to not minimize the potential health problems of being overweight. Not every overweight person is at risk, but many are and won’t find out until it is too late, so to promote extra weight as being OK health-wise is irresponsible.

      • Micki says:

        The weight issue is such a complex matter I feel sometimes irritated we have a go only at some sides.It’s not only body shaming or not, diat or not.

        On one side we have unrealistic view what’s slim, trim and beautiful. (I still remember the gushing about the tight belly of one 2 times mother here on CB.)The mags feed their readers with Photoshop, we rebel and still when given “candid” photos women get slammed for having “extra” weight, crow’s feet and so on.

        On the other side “normal” is attached to weight that’s way over the healthy limit. Example. Mama June and her daughter Boo Boo…

        Let me be clear.I’m not preaching “model size body for all” I find Lena Duhnam OK, not fat and not thin either.
        I find this H&M model attractive and have no issues with size 14 per se. It’s the generalisation that 14 (or 16, or 18)is acceptable and healthy for everyone. It’s not.

    • Nerd Alert says:

      Well said. I was hoping someone would make these points. Most people who are a size 16 are not really all that healthy, even if they are beautiful. I wish we could focus less on one’s appearance and more on health.

    • Glaughy says:


      Health should be promoted. Heart-healthy exercise and a balanced diet.

  14. The Wizz says:

    As long as your body is healthy (which the majority of the adult population’s isn’t) then stop stressing about your body.

  15. Green Is Good says:

    Very well spoken.

  16. Happyhat says:

    Dang – if only I looked like her when I was heavier! But I agree with her point about not glamorizing any one particular body shape. Though, as a society, we tend to glamorize what is rare. No matter what the average is, anything smaller than that (seeing as we live with an abundance of food) is considered worthy. In other societies with a scarcity of food, anything over the average would be equally as valued.

    There’s an interesting piece in the Guardian today about this subject:

    “If you’re thin, you’re a kook; if you’re fat, you’re a failure. You can’t win. In fact, nobody in this game is winning.”

  17. moon says:

    She’s so pretty!!

    I am so very much looking forward to the day when women are no longer expected to be super thin toned machines with massive boobs. We women could do with a chill pill and enjoy a little pizza now and then and just 4 hours of pilates a week, you know, not vege shakes and 12 hours of cardio a week.

  18. smee says:

    HA! Vindicated. Last time we discussed this “plus sized” model on this site I wrote that the average size for a woman in the U.S. is a size 14 (that’s the AVERAGE) – just as she quoted in her piece. I got blasted that there was NO WAY that’s the average size. Well, well, well. Google it, ladies.

    To me, she looks REGULAR. Not plus size. So while I’m glad they used her, I’m still not down with her being called Plus Sized. She’s Regular Sized. And she looks great.

    By calling her Plus you’re saying she’s bigger than average, and she’s not. Maybe she’s bigger than the usual skeletal model they use, but that’ not a fair comparison.

  19. Bren says:

    She’s gorgeous. Sadly from my experience H&M doesn’t actually carry clothes for anyone over about an 8. Their items all tend to be tiny & have unforgiving cuts.
    Hopefully things are changing. I could use some new cheap clothes!

    • Inari says:

      Odd. Finnish and Swedish stores carry plenty of clothes up to EU size 54 (some items even larger), meaning roughly 50 in bust, 44 in waist and 52 in hips, which means that they cater to a vast majority of women around here. The US online chart says the same, but the page shows exactly two “plus sized” items – basically as much variety as in Japan, as bizarre as it may sound.

  20. Blaze says:

    So while I agree about different body types being accepted and am against the notion of beauty being polarized, I did have a little issue with this part of the article:

    ” 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 (a UK 12 or 14) – and start a career as a plus-size model. I knew my body was never meant to be a size four, so I went with plus.”

    Seems a bit contradictory to a lot of the other points, yes? I understand it’s the fashion industry and I’m glad she’s open about it, but to me it gives the impression that if she wanted to break into the modeling world she would have to change her natural body into something bigger or smaller than what it’s meant to be in order to be accepted. And I know the industry is to blame for this, not her, but just thought I’d point it out because it bugs me.

  21. EmmaStoneWannabe says:

    Beautiful woman! Way to go girl!! Hope other brands step up like this. Very encouraging.

  22. Inky says:

    This may seem like a small point to make, but I am probably about the model’s size, maybe a bit smaller and I have never worn a bikini because I feel too fat to do so. Especially when you even go and look at them, all the pictures advertising them are of these models who make me think, “Well, if I don’t look like that I can’t wear the bikini.” Now having just seen that picture, I totally want to go bikini shopping, and I actually want to buy the one she is modelling because it has made it feel acceptable for me to wear one. Had no idea how much these advertising images had affected me until I saw this one.

    I really hope more modelling campaigns go this way!

    Thanks for posting

  23. jess says:

    I had a friend who was TINY in our early 20s, but she was TALL. She didn’t have an ounce of body fat, but she wore a size 9, not size 0, because of her height/size ratio. If this woman is a size 10 and tall, there is a good chance she’d be a size 4 or 6 if she was say, 5’6 or shorter, with the same height/weight proportions. Sizes are very deceiving.

  24. sara says:

    She doesn’t look like a model at all with this body. Beautiful face though.

  25. jacq says:

    it’s nice we can see the beauty in larger women, but i just hate how the girls in the middle get shafted. you have to be either a size 0 or a size 12 to be a model. where is the love for the size 4-6-8′s??

  26. JenniferJustice says:

    I think she has a beautiful face and I love her hair. I’ve never understood why the girls/women with the most gorgeous hair (thick & wavy) want flat fine hair. That said, and I know I’m going to receive major flack for this, I’m all for accepting what’s healthy for any certain size or frame, but I don’t beleive being over weight is something to celebrate or encourage. Of course, we can’t all be built the same, but we can alls trive for what’s healthy for us and being over weight at any height or any frame is not healthy. IMO she needs to lose 15 lbs and get rid of the belly roll. It’s not healthy. It’s a lack of discipline and sorry, but it’s not attractive. Go ahead and shoot me now.

  27. Karolina says:

    Very pretty face, however I would never buy one of those bathing suits she is modeling. Sorry, a skinny model wears is just better, on a skinny frame you can recognize the tailoring, which you just can’t with this overweight model. Why can’t we all accept, that models are just some unusual looking, super tall and skinny amazones, who work really hard for their bodies. I don’t want to see women with average, flabby bodies modeling bathing suits.

  28. WendyNerd says:


    I’m a US size 8-10 and in the last year I’ve lost a lot of weight. Last summer I had ballooned to being WAY TOO BIG especially for my height, and my blood tests were a mess. Since then, I started exercising and eating better and lost about thirty pounds (2.14 stone). Since then almost all my blood work is perfect (my blood sugar is still a little high, partially due to a medication I take which really makes you gain weight and spikes your blood sugar), and according to tests I got at my school’s gym, my BMI is at a very healthy range and my body fat percentage is at the low side of the optimal range. I’ve gained a ton of muscles (my calf muscles look like apples and I have thighs of steel) and I almost (almost!) have abs (when I flex you can see muscle definition there and I have almost no fat at the sides of my waist, which indents very nicely). But, at the same time, I get nervous about being in a bikini because I still weigh at the high side of what is recommended for my height and I’m still not skinny by any stretch of the imagination. I have my Dad’s short, thick legs (even if they are clearly muscular, they’re still thick), I still have some of the stretch marks from when I gained all that weight, my boobs are still big and even with the indenting waist, I still have back fat, belly fat, and small pockets of fat on my inner thighs no matter what I do. I am not thin and that’s so disheartening to me because except for the last week and a half I’ve been doing six to eight hours of cardio a week (we’ve been in the midst of a move that has involved long-ass road trips, so I’ve had to spend days driving). WIth all that exercise, I thought I’d be losing more weight and felt really bad about it and timid about being in a bikini. But it makes me feel good now that women like her are modeling, and modeling mainstream at that. She’s bigger than me and so happy to be how she is and doing mainstream ads gives me a boost of confidence. I don’t feel as bad for being built the way I am– she looks amazing and I know I don’t look bad now. Thanks Jennie Runk.

  29. Patrice says:

    Stunning, articulate and whip-smart! I can’t remember the last time an article in the press made me feel so positive and good about myself as not only a curvy woman (and former teenage girl) but as a woman period.

    All I can say is that someone is sure going to be very lucky to scoop her up some day (if they already haven’t) :D H&M should be thanking the fashion gods every day to have gotten Jennie: looks and brains!

  30. KellyinSeattle says:

    I really like her, too, and she’s still really young – so hopefully she’ll be around a long, long time!

  31. Onyx XV says:

    She is gorgeous! I love the tie-dye bathing suit, I only wish it wasn’t my least favorite of all colors, green, but I still might get it…just because she models it so well.

  32. Tom says:

    Absolutely positively gorgeous!!!!