Hey Guys and Dolls: I’m Renee, otherwise known as Reenaye Starr. I am 30 years old and have been a plus-size adult model for the past seven years. Eight years ago my life was pretty typical for many women of size. I was surrounded by well-meaning family and friends who tried to work my weight into conversations and give me helpful advice. A friend once gave me a weight loss book as a Christmas gift, although I never indicated to her that I was trying to lose weight. I grew up with a step-father who teased me relentlessly and quite cruelly for being a chubby kid. In high school, I was known as the funny girl. Most of my female friends were thinner, very attractive girls who always had dates and boyfriends. Among my male friends, I was thought of as one of the guys. After a lifetime of other people’s opinions of my body being forced upon me, I was a young adult with very low self-esteem, who dreaded swimsuit season. I loved myself on some level… I even thought I was attractive, but I had accepted that everyone else would grow to love me in spite of my body, but never because of it.
I have always found women and men of size attractive, but I thought that my perspective came from the fact that I could just relate to them, and that it was somehow wrong-headed of me… I believed the rest of the world found fat bodies unattractive, so I must have been just sympathizing… or perhaps my standards were lower because I, myself was fat.
In a strange turn of events, I was on Myspace one day and found a girl named Ivy. She was gorgeous: A plus-sized goddess, and she had the most stunning and provocative photos… I thought immediately, I must woo this girl. I literally turned to a friend and said, “Come check out my future girlfriend!” I decided that since she was obviously self-confident and had no problem flaunting her curves, I had to do the same. I had a friend take a few sensual photos of me in pinup style attire and posted them to my profile. Then I sent her a friend request. She accepted, and what happened next changed the course of my life forever. I got a message from the webmaster of a softcore pin-up style website where Ivy was modeling at the time. She thought I had a great look and wanted me apply to be a model for her site… I spent weeks deciding if this was something I wanted to do, and eventually I decided to take some test photos for her. My transformation from the funny fat friend to the voluptuous pinup was underway.
In my first test photos, I refused to send pictures that made me “look too fat” and I even attempted to edit out parts of my body like rolls, lines, and cellulite. Basically, I was editing away anything that made me look too much like me. So many years of disapproval had left me with a very unhealthy body image, but in spite of my own self-loathing, that webmaster saw something special in me, and I was to model for the site. I began taking pictures and four things happened that completely transformed the way I looked at myself. 1) Dressing sexy made me feel sexy. Every time I took a new set of photos, I felt slightly more at ease, and happier with the results. 2) I started making money: The response of the fans was amazing. Subscriptions were rolling in, and I got so many emails telling me I was beautiful, gorgeous, how much they love my curves, my smile, my double chin, my belly… One by one, all of those negative opinions of classmates, friends, and even my stepfather were being challenged. I finally understood that there really are so many men and women out there that can honestly appreciate my body, and thus I began to appreciate it. 3) I began surrounding myself with self-confident women of size who are web-models, including Ivy, who never was my girlfriend, but has become a dear friend. I began to find a community of support and like-minded individuals who love themselves. 4) And finally, I met the love of my life… He originally was a fan who subscribed to my website and we began an online friendship that moved on to a relationship and eventually marriage and a family. It made such an impact on me to spend the past 5 years of my life with someone who truly loves every inch of me, and it helps that he is also my best friend and soul mate.
Because of these experiences, my life has changed drastically. It is so liberating to stop caring so much about what others think. I am no longer embarrassed when I have to squeeze through a crowd or can’t fit in the booth at a restaurant, because I have accepted that this is me, and I am okay. Now that I walk with my head held higher, people’s response has changed. It is difficult to bully someone with self-confidence, and I get picked on far less. Also, my well-meaning friends and family have learned that though I value them, I refuse to be surrounded by negativity. My body is my body, and thus, not open for debate. And on the rare occasion that a rude person says something nasty, I don’t internalize it. I am not ashamed anymore, and I can recognize that the incident took place do to the shortcomings of the other person, not my own. But I have gained something so much more valuable than a new outlook on my relationship to others. I have learned not only to accept, but to love myself. When I stand in front of a mirror, I see my pudgy double chin, and I love it. I see my lines and creases and curves and I genuinely think they are beautiful.
I have been modeling for over seven rich years. I have been featured on many websites, and in several issues of Big Butt Magazine. In 2008, I was named BBW Clubs BBW of the Year, and I currently have an amazing solo website with one of the best webmasters in the business. At the end of the year I am planning to retire. I am moving on to do photography and getting into the webmaster side of “Big Girl Business.” I am super excited about this newest phase of my career, but I would not trade those seven years in front of the camera for anything. It is been a truly eye-opening experience that has forever changed the way I see the world and the way I see myself.