[S]upermodel Crystal Renn is not your stereotypical model. Smart, savvy and purposefully outspoken she has successfully broken taboos surrounding the model industry and sticks uncompromisingly to her views – and we love her for it. Following her shoot on LA’s Zuma Beach for Issue 4 of Hunger Rankin caught up with Crystal to delve a little deeper.
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU DID – BOTH WORK AND TEN MINUTES AGO.
For work it was a collaboration with a friend on a future project. Ten minutes ago I was making a coffee because it’s early and I’m off to the studio in a little while.
YOU’VE RECENTLY WRITTEN A BOOK, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT?
I had lived so much up until that point, that I felt I had to tell my story. My childhood with the good and the bad, the tumultuous teen years where I am not only trying to deal with growing up but looking forward to and preparing for a modelling career, what i was willing to do to accomplish my dreams, and how I finally did.
I knew that soon I would leave my family and friends and go on a great adventure. I gave up everything I had for what I wanted in my future. I took it too far and became sick in the process. I knew if I was ever going to reach the success I wanted, I would have to be healthy to appreciate it. I never gave up my dream but I sure turned away from the path I was on, because I knew that it would lead to death, not the cover of Vogue. So I switched the path and accomplished the dream anyway. The title of my book is Hungry and it was the only title that could sum up everything in one word. I was hungry, for life and everything it could be.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS FOR A FOLLOW UP BOOK?
I think in life there is a time to learn and a time to teach. When I wrote my book, I felt that I had enough experience at that point to share what I had learned with the world. Now again, I am at a place where my eyes are wide open and I am like a sponge, gaining knowledge with every new experience. I am in the learning phase. At some point I will revisit the idea of writing. I don’t know yet whether it will be fiction, self help, or biographical but in the mean time, I am just doing the living part.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST EXCITING PROJECTS TO DATE?
Well, this shoot was definitely one of them! I love doing pictures where you know that these images have never been done before. There is no reference, you will be the reference. I also love playing characters and in one shoot I was a mental patient fully in character. Method Modelling? Something about being on a set and getting that sort of release is just magical. I am obsessed with the idea of people capturing moments in time, so to give that part of yourself for even one second authentically, is so gratifying.
WHAT IS THE STRANGEST SHOOT AND LOCATION YOU’VE EVER BEEN ON?
The strangest shoot I have been on was a test when I was first starting out. I was in this photographer’s apartment and his assistant would dangle an Ugly Doll from a fishing rod in front of me. I was asked to please pretend I was walking on a tight rope under water, and to do it as an octopus. When I was close enough to the doll “reaching out with my tentacles” he would then yell dramatically,” You want it you want it, (then suddenly say) no no you don’t want it!!” Strange as that was, we got the shot.
When it comes to locations, the strangest by far was an old abandoned (said to be haunted) hospital out in California. I recall walking into one of the rooms and finding a red hand print (still o be determined if it was blood) and a dead flattened rat on the floor. There were bizarre writings scribbled on the wall, that after reading I would wonder, “is this philosophy or insanity”? I later found out people go to that location when they want to capture spirits for their television shows.
I SHOT YOU ON ZUMA BEACH ALONGSIDE A RANGE OF INFLATABLE ANIMALS, WHICH ONE WAS YOUR FAVOURITE?
I loved the elephant because it was the largest, a life size version. This picture represents strength to me, I loved looking through those images afterwards. They were some of my favourite shots I have ever been part of.
ISSUE FOUR OF HUNGER WAS THE ‘GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS’ ISSUE – ARE YOU ALL FOR THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN?
Since I was 17 I have realised the influence models have over women and that they set the standards of beauty in our society. I always liked the idea of communicating with women and getting a greater message out there, whether it be with words or images. Because of overcoming my own demons of low self esteem and self worth, I made it my mission to help others get over those issues too.
Women are beautiful! Their quirks and the things that make them different are not flaws but special, that a woman’s beauty is not just her exterior but her character. I have seen beauty in all its forms and I know that what society excepts as an ideal, is set for them by the industry i work in. I want to encourage people to open their eyes to different types of beauty and to challenge the big issues on that topic which are weight, color, and age. I believe confident and empowered women can do anything.
ARE THERE ANY WOMEN YOU PARTICULARLY ADMIRE?
Helena Bonham Carter, Marina Abramovic, Twilda Swinton, Cindy Sherman. They are genius at what they do. Strong, multi layered and creative. I love women who can not be tamed.
CAN YOU GIVE US SOME ADVICE, HOWEVER RANDOM?
This may be intense, but I highly recommend this. Stand or sit in front of a mirror with no sound distraction, like music for instance. Start to breathe and then force yourself to look in the mirror, deep into your own eyes. Breathe. Stay there and see how long you can do this. This sounds easy but has most people start freaking out after 20 seconds. The reason to do this is because if you can look at yourself and not feel intimidated and look away it forces you to get comfortable with yourself. Difficult emotions, thoughts, and memories may show up, but you sit there breathe and you fight them with acceptance. Don’t bind yourself to those thoughts, just watch them and let them go. I guess you could call it mirror meditation.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUR 14-YEAR-OLD SELF?
Please chill out and savor being 14.
WHO IS YOUR ALL TIME FAVOURITE MODEL AND WHY?
I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens lol. Linda E because she is not just a model but an artist, Christy Turlington for her business sense, and Kristen McMenamy for her spirit.
HAVE YOU TURNED DOWN MANY JOBS, AND IF SO WHAT ARE YOUR REASONS?
A modelling career is kind of like a complicated stew. Too much of one ingredient throws off the balance and taste of the entire thing. So I guess what I am saying is that the collaboration with your agents is important because it is a constant balancing act of trying to get it right, not to be typecast or go in the wrong direction. So we as a team turn things down because we are thinking of a certain path that we want to take. We know the final product and good agents will ask “is this job a step towards that final goal” and we decide from there.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE ITEM OF CLOTHING?
I would have to say a few… I love my Rad Hourani vest that I wore to his show. Rick Owens tank tops which are my everyday staples. A Comme des Garcons coat that looks like a bed comforter, sculpted into a weird shape. Wearing it is almost as if you never left bed. And a Zac Posen cape that he gave to me as a gift.
CHINESE, ITALIAN OR JAPANESE CUISINE – WHICH DO YOU PREFER?
Japanese. I am a huge fan of sushi/sashimi and the desserts are divine. I love chestnut creme filled rice pastry.
WHO IS CURRENTLY YOUR FAVOURITE MUSIC ARTIST?
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE MUSICIAN FROM THE PAST?
The recent collaboration between David Lynch and Jocelyn Montgomery from Miranda Sex Garden, one of my favorite bands from the 90s, was just beautiful.
YOU ARE INTO ASTROLOGY; WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE STAR SIGN AND QUALITIES IN A PERSON OF THAT SIGN?
I love all signs for different reasons but if I have to pick I would say Geminis for their wit and Scorpios for their depth.
WHAT DO YOU DO AT THE END OF A BUSY DAY?
If I am out of the country, I seek out the best restaurant in that city and book a table there and try their recommendations or get the tasting menu. One of my favorite things about traveling is the exotic food. I am an experimental eater and a bit of a foodie, so getting to try international delicacies is a must. If I am home in NY, I would get take-out and read, write, or watch a movie.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
I have been lucky to work with some incredibly inspiring and talented artists all living and breathing their passions. The next step for me would be taking the knowledge I have gained from them and my experiences in fashion and going forward to take part in all areas of self expression. I am interested in design, photography, acting, styling, travel and directing. I love all the possibilities.