'I couldn't look at myself in a mirror': The 5ft 11in model who hated herself at 116lbs on how becoming plus-size changed her career
19:26 GMT, 22 October 2012
Standing at five-foot-11-inches, model Karolin Wolter weighed 116lbs; 22lbs less than her natural body weight.
After three years in New York being told to lose more weight, the pressure to be thin became overwhelming and the 22-year-old Hamburg native decided to re-brand herself as plus-size; finally finding peace with her body, even if the modelling industry hadn't.
'When I realized I couldn't look in the mirror anymore, I knew something was wrong,' she wrote in an essay for I Love You magazine.
Size struggles: Karolin Wolter (pictured from the period when her agency was marketing her as a plus-size model), finally found peace with her body, even if the modelling industry hadn't
She added: 'I did really well, but even then my agents were telling me, “You know
Karolin, next season are the spring/summer shows, you have to be even
'At the time I honestly thought it was totally fine to weigh
less than 55 kg (121 lbs). Now… I am shaking my
head, I can't quite believe it. I am not surprised it completely f**ked with my mind.'
Her natural eating habits disappeared, and feeling like a shell of her former shelf, she wrote: 'Every day the burden became heavier. Work became exhausting, I was afraid of disappointing the client.
'[But] the actual struggle was when I wasn't at work. At home, before a big job, I was absolutely useless because of the unbelievable mental pressure.'
After three years of runway modelling for top labels like Marc Jacobs, Lanvin, and Yves Saint Laurent, Miss Wolter decided to take some time off in 2011 to rethink the business, and her eating habits. One year later, back at her natural weight, she told her agents she was ready to work again, but on her own terms.
She said to her agent: 'You have to put my real
measurements on my card,' before asking him, 'Maybe I could be a plus-size model'
'Every day the burden became heavier…because of the unbelievable mental pressure'
He responded: 'No way, you are not big enough,' but she was quickly taken on by New York's plus-size agents, only to be told later that she was too skinny.
She wrote: 'I hardly got any work, and when I did, I needed to wear pads to make me look bigger. Suddenly, I was too slim'.
Miss Wolter's European agencies were
still promoting her as a 'straight size' model, but they struggled to
book her regular jobs after clients found out she was also modelling for the
'plus-size' market in New York.
She explained: 'My agents in Europe were having trouble booking me, because everyone
thought I was big. My German agent made me take new Polaroids every
week, but many clients thought the photos weren't real.
funny thing is, the day that [becoming a plus-size model] happened, I
instantly lost about 2kg (5lbs). The pressure was gone, and my natural
eating behavior came
back,' she said.
Runway runaway: After three years
modelling for top labels like Jason Wu (left), and Francesco Scognamiglio (right), Miss Wolter decided to take some time off in 2011 to rethink
the business, and her eating habits
Now, as of last week, Miss Wolter is back working as a 'straight size' model in New York, but at a weight she is happy with.
She wrote: 'I am no longer pressuring myself, I try to go with the flow while keeping my priorities straight. These days I enjoy working with smaller clients… I have earned more in the last three months then ever before.
'There just isn't any rule. It's not about how big you are, how small you are or what label you are given. It's about how you carry yourself. If you are comfortable with your body you can sell pretty much anything.'
Miss Wolter's story has since generated commentary about the particular labels 'plus-size' and 'straight-size' in the modelling industry – where many have been quick to dismiss it with 'but she's too skinny to be plus-size!'
However Jezebel's Jenna Sauers, who re-published Miss Wolter's story from I Love You magazine, hopes that people won't 'miss the point' the model's essay makes about the industry's ingrained and harmful size pigeonholing.
'It's sad her high-fashion work dried up not because of any significant change in her body, but because of a label'
Miss Sauer's explained: 'It's sad that Wolter's high-fashion work dried up not because of any significant change in her body, but because of a label.
She added: 'It is unusual for Wolter's agency to market her as a plus-size model when she was, even in recovery, not very big. It's even more unusual that she seems to have gone back to her agency's straight-size board without changing her eating habits or losing any significant amount of weight.
'I think more than anything what this demonstrates is the narrowness of the modeling industry's categories and the problems that narrowness causes: models either have to be “straight” or “plus” size for marketing purposes, and regardless of their actual body size they must be shoehorned into one category or the other.
'This is simply wrong-headed, and many models who have personally struggled to remain within those parameters will tell you it has caused actual harm.'