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She may be contractually required by Victoria's Secret to remain "bikini ready" 365 days a year, but Dutch model Doutzen Kroes says she has the body of a real woman.
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"I'm not a sample size at all…" the mother of 2-year-old son Phyllon with DJ Sunnery James told the Telegraph U.K. "I'm 28 and I've had a baby. I have a woman's body, and once in a while you run into the fact that things are not fitting the way they should be. But I joke about it and say, 'What 13-year-old girl was wearing this?'"
Kroes, who is one of the world's highest paid models, grew up in the Dutch countryside with little awareness of fashion industry. "I never even thought about my looks. We didn't have social media so we couldn't look at other girls and pictures from magazines," she said. Her mother grew vegetables for family meals and her father chopped wood to heat their home. Both parents were successful competitive speed skaters in the 1970s and encouraged Kroes and her younger sister, Ren, to be healthy. "I biked to school every day, about 25km [15.5 miles] there and back," she said. "My mum would say, if you go on your bike it will make you stronger. I think it did. I see a lot of Dutch women on their bikes with their kids and their groceries and it makes me happy to see that it's how we are, and how I was raised."
Today, Kroes works out with former boxer Michael Olajide and also Mary Helen Bowers, the founder of Ballet Beautiful, which she describes as extreme ballet with a little boxing thrown in. "Ballet is amazing for a woman's body- you work on the little muscles." To keep fit for the runway, Kroes says that physical training is important, but careful eating is key. "Diet is 70 per cent of what your body looks like." She doesn't drink alcohol for a month before a show and sticks with what she calls, "Very basic and happy food" -some fish with green vegetables, and a potato. She also avoids sugar.
Kroes uses her Instagram to share the super healthy meals she makes for herself and her son, such ginger marinated tofu, with her 670,000 followers. She acknowledges that most people aren't looking up pictures of a Victoria's Secret Angel to see nutritious recipes for kids and is concerned about the impact the industry the modeling industry has on young women's self-esteem.
"I feel I'm such a big part of that insecurity that some girls might have because of my job, that girls think they have to be that picture," she said. "And even boys, they think that that picture exists and it's so frustrating because I don't look like that picture-I wake up not looking like that picture."
While the fashion industry still has a long way to go to embrace different body types, Kroes is one of the growing number of top models who are, at a minimum, aware of their role and influence. Some are even using their popularity as a platform for directly addressing issues like extreme dieting and body image.
Plus size model Jennie Runk, in particular, has leveraged her visibility to advocate for teenage girls. After her spring H&M swimsuit campaign gained widespread attention because it didn't make a distinction between plus- and smaller-sized beachwear-surprisingly rare for a mainstream retailer-Runk wrote an essay for the BBC describing her own difficult adolescence and encouraging girls, "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." She also called for an end to the body wars. "There's no need to glamorize one body type and slam another," she wrote. "We need to stop this absurd hatred towards bodies for being different sizes. It doesn't help anyone and it's getting old."
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