We always joke here at TLE that nosiness is a prerequisite for joining our team – and it’s true. We’re all innately curious and it drives everything we do, from the way we quiz the women we profile on the real business and life lessons they’ve learnt along the way, to the countless hours we spend working (read: chatting) our away through the wardrobes of the women whose style we most admire. Of all the regular features though, our Beauty Moments series has become one of my favourites because, along with all the life & career talk, it allows me to turn up at people’s homes and root through their bathrooms before spending hours talking through the products they swear by and the beauty hacks they’ve picked up along the way. Not a shabby job, right?
We all get pretty excited to witness anyone’s beauty routine IRL, but when that person just happens to be one of the most sought after models in the game right now, well, it just takes it up a notch. That’s why we jumped at the opportunity to get together with model, Jennie Runk at her beautiful apartment in New York’s Upper East Side.
In life, one can only dream of having a single momentous, career-changing moment but Jennie’s keep on giving. As a teenager, rather than losing weight to conform to traditional ‘straight-size’ dimensions, she’s carved a successful career for herself as one of the leading plus-size girls in the game. And not only does she embrace it, she’s taken it upon herself to become an unofficial spokesperson for promoting a healthy body image for women all while rooting for the kind of the diversity in fashion we’re all desperate to see.
Her first major editorial was for a Body Language spread in US Vogue, photographed by Steven Meisel and she’s appeared not once, but twice on the cover of US Glamour, most notably back in 2009 when she posed nude along side six other plus-size models including Ashley Graham, Crystal Renn and Lizzie Miller. Oh, and then there’s the H&M beachwear campaign, which, until Jennie, seemed exclusive to the sample-sized. Here she gets candid about the problems with people’s preconceived notions about being plus-size, how she managed to stop comparing herself to others and why you’ll always find Lancôme’s High Resolution Moisturiser in her beauty cabinet.
I was discovered while volunteering at a Petsmart in Chesterfield, MO, when I was 13 years old. Mary Clarke, from Mother Model Management, came in to buy dog food and spotted me. I had the option of losing a lot of weight to model straight size, or I could stay the same size or even gain some weight to do plus size modeling, which was called ‘special size modeling’ at the time. Growing up, I wasn’t particularly interested in the fashion world and I didn’t know anything about it. Fashion just wasn’t something I cared about. At the time, I was more concerned about beating my sister at video games and reading every Stephen King novel. I was also really passionate about acting. I was the captain of my high school’s improvisational theater team. My mom used this to talk me into giving modeling a try, reminding me that a career in modeling could open countless opportunities to me in the future. In the end, I agreed to meet with Mary and the rest is history.
When I was discovered, I was on the swim team and very athletic and healthy. But I was definitely not a size 2. Dropping to that size would have meant losing about half of my body size, which would not have been healthy. I certainly wasn’t going to lose that much weight for a career I wasn’t even passionate about yet. I was a little hesitant to be called a “special size” model when I started out. Attending events with the other Mother models, who were all straight size, I was a little uncomfortable about my size. Plus size modeling was brand new in the early ‘00s and I was often the only plus size model on a set. Especially at 13, I was already feeling uncomfortable and unsure of myself, so being different from everyone else added another layer of insecurity. But eventually, I learned to embrace it. The people I worked with on shoots showed me how special it was to be a “special size model” and eventually, I came to really love being one.
People assume that plus equates to fat, which means ugly. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Being a plus size woman simply means that you’re a bit bigger than other women and there’s nothing wrong with that. I am proud to be a plus size woman! It means that I have a banging booty and some seriously sexy curves. I can wear high-waisted skinny jeans and show off those round hips or a deep V-neck and rock some serious cleavage. I can sport a bikini and feel hot in next to nothing because my body is so undeniably there. It’s big, it takes up space and it’s glorious – because it’s my body and it’s the only one I have.
The confidence I have now has taken years to achieve. As a teenager, I would look at other girls and think ‘her thighs are the size of my arms!’ Once I stopped comparing myself to others, I began to gain confidence. I finally realized that I am so much more than a body – I’m thoughts and beliefs and ideas and passions – and it was pointless to spend so much time worrying about the body that all those things live in. Now, I’m most comfortable and confident the less I’m wearing. I feel strong and beautiful showing off my body and not hiding it behind anything.
I am, and have always been a feminist because I believe that all people are and should be treated as equal. I believe that differences are what make each of us beautiful, so we should celebrate them! As women, we need to stop comparing ourselves to others and putting ourselves down. Instead we should work to build each other up. Being a model gives me a voice to talk about gender equality, and I use that voice to talk about it as often and as publicly as possible. My H&M shoot felt like any other shoot at the time – I put on some swimsuits, we shot them on the beach and then I went home. A few months later, it seemed like my picture was everywhere! Everyone wanted to know about me, all at once, and to be honest; it was a little overwhelming. But the response was so positive that I knew I had to use that moment to speak up about body positivity. When it comes to diversity in the media, we are way behind. It’s great that we’re moving forward, but in 2016, diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be a celebration, it should be a fact of life.
Being a plus size woman simply means that you’re a bit bigger than other women and there’s nothing wrong with that. I am proud to be a plus size woman! It means that I have a banging booty and some seriously sexy curves.
I’ve always been outspoken about issues I care about and body image has always been something I care about. In high school, I did a research project on the negative affect the media can have on young girls’ bodies and self-esteem. So now that I’m in a position that I can make a positive change, I feel the responsibility to do so. The highlights of my career are the times that I get a chance to make a difference and spread the message that it’s okay to love yourself no matter what. A memory that has always stuck with me is when I was a Girl Scout leader and I talked to my troop about my job as a model. I brought in a magazine with my pictures in it and I asked the troop to compare the girl in the photos with me in real life – wearing jeans, a t-shirt, no makeup and my hair in a big, frizzy bun. Of course, there were many differences! We had a really good conversation about how images in the media aren’t a reflection of real life and so we shouldn’t compare ourselves to the pictures in magazines. Moments like that, where I can use my career to keep this conversation going, especially for young girls, are what make me so happy to do what I do.
My advice is to remember that your own opinion of yourself is the only one that matters! If you focus on being the kind of person you’d want to know and love, you’ll end up having no reason not to love yourself.
Every morning, I slather my face in Lancôme High Resolution Moisturizer. I have very dry skin, so when I say slather, I mean it. I also use Lancôme’s High Resolution Eye Cream in the mornings and at night. When my eyes look a little puffy, I use KORRES eye patches and if my eyes are red and tired (we get some crazy early call times once in awhile!) I use Rohto Eye Drops. On days that I’m not working and I want to do my own makeup, I use Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer instead of foundation, and then build whatever makeup look I’m feeling that day on top of that. If I’m traveling, I carry a small tub of Nivea cream in my carry-on and smear it all over my face every few hours to keep my skin moisturized. I love body butter on my body. My go-tos are Clinique Deep Comfort Body Butter, First Aid Beauty: Ultra Repair Cream and Caudalie Vine Body Butter. When I’m traveling, I bring Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel because it comes in a great travel size and I occasionally use Goe Oil Body Oil after I shave or if my skin is particularly dry.
As women, we need to stop comparing ourselves to others and putting ourselves down. Instead we should work to build each other up. Being a model gives me a voice…Now that I’m in a position that I can make a positive change, I feel the responsibility to do so.
To remove makeup, I only use Neutrogena Make-up Remover Cleansing Towelettes. They are strong enough to remove anything, but don’t dry out my skin. I add my Lancôme’s High Resolution Night Cream and Eye Cream afterwards because living with dry skin means I moisturize every chance I get! Once in awhile I’ll use Boscia’s Detoxifying Black Cleanser and their Luminizing Black Mask, which is one of my favorite at-home spa treatments.
I’m so relieved that winter is over, because it means that my dry skin will finally get a break! The only real difference for me is that I might not have to reapply moisturizer as frequently, but I’ll add sunscreen if I’m outside. I love Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock, SPF 100+ for my face and body because it’s not greasy at all and I can even layer makeup on top of it.
I didn’t get into makeup until after I started modeling. I was never interested in wearing it growing up. My mom and sister tried to get me into it, but I always pushed it away. My makeup collection started when I was working part-time in the beauty department of a drug store. Part of my training was how to choose the right product for different skin types or needs and how to best apply it. Once I met and worked with makeup artists, I saw how much fun it can be. There are so many ways you can completely change your look and it’s a fun way to express yourself. I love every chance I get to do my own makeup and I’m always playing with new colors or trying out new trends.
Everything I know about makeup, I’ve learned from being onset. I like to know everything that professional makeup artists keep in their kit, so whenever I see something I haven’t seen before, I ask about it. Where is it from? Who developed it? What do you like / don’t like about it? Some of the best tips I’ve picked up would be to use a good primer and a good powder – that will allow your look to really last. Also – use makeup brushes – never use that sponge on a stick that comes with your eye shadow palette.
My go-to is a fresh, clean, natural look. I use Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer and Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer under my eyes. I do a little contouring with Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Face Palette under my cheekbones and bronzer from NARS or Estée Lauder on my cheeks and eyes, and whatever lip gloss or lipstick I’m feeling for the day, or just a dab of Aquaphor. I also use a bronze highligher from BECCA on my cheekbones and a white highlighter like Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Face Palette under my brows and on the top of my top lip. Occasionally, I bump up my brows with Anastasia Tinted Brow Gel and fill them in with a black, grey and brown matte eyeshadow from Sephora. My all-time favorite mascara is Clinique High Impact Mascara. I go over my whole look with Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder and Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder. At night, I love to be more dramatic and do either a smoky eye or some cat eyeliner. And if it’s an especially busy day or I don’t have time to do a whole new look, I’ll throw on a dark lipstick. A bold lip can totally transform your look.
I don’t wash my hair often at all. My hair is dry, thick and curly and it takes almost a full week before it starts to look dirty, so I let the natural oils keep it healthy. When I do wash it, I switch up the shampoo and conditioner based on what kind of dirty it is. If it’s fairly oil-free, but has a lot of product in it from work, I use Alterna Caviar Repair Instant Recovery shampoo and conditioner. If it has been a few days since I’ve washed it, then I use Living Proof Perfect Hair Day shampoo and conditioner. If it’s drenched in both oil and product, I use Bumble and Bumble Sunday shampoo with the Alterna Caviar conditioner. In between washing, I use Bumble and Bumble Prêt-à-Powder dry shampoo at the roots as needed. After I wash my hair, I always use Alterna Caviar Repair Re-Texturizing Protein Cream, which I recommend to anyone who regularly straightens their natural curls. Then I blow dry it with a paddle brush and straighten the roots with a straightener. My Sedu Revolution hair dryer has changed my life. It’s so small and powerful that I can have my hair dried straight within 10 minutes!