An Interview with Caralyn Mirand

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Seventeen-year-old Caralyn Mirand was selected from among tens of thousands of candidates nationwide to become one of the six finalists in Tyra Banks’s “Fiercely Real” contest for teen plus-size models. Over the course of two episodes of the Tyra show, she easily triumphed over her competition, reaching the level of first runner up and being widely acclaimed as the popular favourite. In this interview, Caralyn reveals many surprising behind-the-scenes details about the contest, discusses the pressures that today’s teens face (especially concerning body image), and describes how she overcame her own past self-consciousness to emerge as a fiercely curvy beauty.

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HSG: Good evening. This is Heinrich Saint-Germain calling Caralyn for an interview.

CARALYN: Hi. How are you?

HSG: Not too bad. How are you doing?

CARALYN: I’m doing very well. Thanks for giving me a call.

HSG: It’s a pleasure. So do you have a little time for an interview?

CARALYN: Yes, of course.

HSG: Marvellous. Let’s get right to it, then. How did you first hear about Tyra’s “Fiercely Real” modelling contest?

CARALYN: Well, it’s kind of a funny story. As a senior in high school, I’ve been going through the whole college process, and I was online, supposedly filling out scholarship stuff for school. And then, instead, I somehow came across Tyra’s Web site, and discovered her “Fiercely Real” teen model search.

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HSG: Ah, so you came across it when you should have been concentrating on school.

CARALYN: [chuckles] Yeah. Busted.

HSG: Did you always wish to be a model as you were growing up?

CARALYN: I’ve always loved being in front of the camera and taking pictures, and I’ve always loved fashion, and I’ve always had a passion for dressing well and all of that, so it felt really right, especially with the whole “fiercely real” side of it. It was a great fit for me.

HSG: What made you realize that you would be an ideal candidate for this contest?

CARALYN: I knew that I had what they were looking for. They wanted someone who had that inner and outer beauty. It’s definitely what I believe in. One thing that I really loved about this search is that they want to redefine the term “beauty” and broaden that term for generations to come.

HSG: You managed to become one of the six finalists from among the thousands upon thousands of girls who applied. What qualities do you think enabled you to reach that level? What distinguished you from the other candidates?

CARALYN: I definitely think that my confidence came through with my pictures. And I’m working towards change, and I’m also working towards redefining stereotypes, along with Tyra and her mission with beauty, so it was a great fit.

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HSG: How would you describe your level of body confidence? How high is it?

CARALYN: Right now or in the past?

HSG: Both, as a matter of fact.

CARALYN: In the past it was definitely a challenge.

HSG: It was.

CARALYN: I was always the biggest girl in the class. I was always the tallest girl in the class. And that kind of makes you feel uncomfortable and awkward. Recently, especially with this experience, I’ve definitely become more and more confident. It’s all about what fits and what looks right, and not necessarily the number on the tag.

HSG: So you would say that your level of confidence has increased since the time of the competition and your auspicious performance on it.

CARALYN: Definitely.

HSG: Excellent. How long did the whole “Fiercely Real” experience last? The filming of the photoshoots and the episodes, did that take place over a day, two days…?

CARALYN: From the time that I posted my photos on the site to the time that I was stepping on to the plane to go to New York was about two weeks, so it all happened very quickly. We spent six days in New York. Two days were spent with photoshoots and interviews and challenges, and one day was spent purely filming the show at her studio.

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HSG: How did you like having all of that attention lavished upon you—getting adorned by professional haistylists, makeup artists, etc? Did you feel that you were in your element?

CARALYN: Definitely. There was never any time for nerves. I made sure to embrace the moment because I knew that it was going to go by so quickly. And honestly, it was truly a humbling experience to be surrounded by that many influential and powerful people in the business. I just felt honoured to be part of it.

HSG: You felt honoured, but tell me truthfully, did a part of you also think, “I deserve this”?

CARALYN: Definitely. I definitely felt “in my element,” as you said before. I really wanted it, and it just felt right. It really did.

HSG: So modelling is something that you could potentially see doing as a career?

CARALYN: Yes. For sure.

HSG: What was the most unexpected aspect of the experience? Was there something that surprised you, that might not have been how you envisioned it beforehand?

CARALYN: I would have to say, my connection with the other girls on the show. I finally was surrounded by five other girls who have gone through similar experiences with body image as I have. And it was truly a bonding experience, these friendships that I’ve made in these six days. I will forever keep in contact with these girls.

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HSG: Were there any interesting moments that took place that never made it into the final cut of the episodes?

CARALYN: Well, during one of my interviews after the Torrid shoot, I was talking about Nigel and how excited I was to be working with him, and I said, “Oh, and I think that Nigel liked me.” And Nigel came up behind me and grabbed me from the back, and said, “You got that right!” [chuckles]

HSG: Beautiful.

CARALYN: It was so cute. Yeah, he was just a pleasure to work with. He was just the nicest guy. Such an honour to be working with him. He’s so professional.

HSG: And he had such great things to say about you too: “Caralyn was great. She was very believable, sincere, confident, and took critique well.” You can’t buy that kind of praise.


HSG: Do you recall any further praise or critiques that you received from the judges that was never shown on film? Because for America’s Next Top Model, the girls say that the panel discussions actually take much longer than what airs on the show. Was that the case for this experience as well, or was what we saw on TV pretty much what you heard?

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CARALYN: [AUDIO] No, the panelists definitely said a lot more than what was shown on the show. I remember Tyra was commenting on my cheekbones, and we were talking about that for a little while, and she said, “Oh, girl, I’d like to have your cheekbones.” And I laughed, and I said, “Oh, you can have some of mine.” Because she said, “I’ve got mine drawn on today.” [chuckles]

HSG: Did you get a sense of which judges might have been pulling for you the most, or was that hard to tell from panel?

CARALYN: It was hard to tell. They were all really supportive. I really did like them all. They were all very, very kind, on stage and off.

HSG: They said many lovely things about you. The Wilhelmina agent talked about your face being “soft and beautiful.” Tyra said, “The camera adores your face.” And Ann Shoket, she was beside herself with praise for you. She talked about your “attitude” about how you looked “sophisticated and grown-up,” and said that “You look like a girl that we all want to know, and be, and be friends with.” How did you feel when you heard so much praise coming from these luminaries?

CARALYN: It was very motivating, to be honest; just to keep going, and to keep doing it, and to have that extra little boost of confidence and encouragement. I thought, “Oh, hey, maybe I am doing something right.”

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HSG: [laughs]

CARALYN: So to keep on carrying on.

HSG: Did you get a chance to interact with Whitney Thompson at all?

CARALYN: I did, actually. I was in a hair-and-makeup room with her, and she’s so, so, so down to earth and so cool and so real. And we were just talking about random things, as girls do.

HSG: You posed like a professional in your photoshoots. Have you in fact had any formal training? Have you gone to any modelling schools, or something of that nature?

CARALYN: [AUDIO] No, not at all. No. It’s really just my love for being in front of the camera, and just spending those extra moments in the mirror, just finding your angles and what works. And I definitely think that I showed that on film.

HSG: And besides, your had clearly watched America’s Next Top Model, because you could reference J. Alexander’s “broken-down doll” motif.

CARALYN: Yes. Actually, I was watching America’s Next Top Model right before you called. [laughs]

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HSG: Oh, that’s right. When we were setting a time for this interview, it didn’t occur to me that it would conflict with the show. I hope you don’t mind.

CARALYN: Oh, no worries. I’m recording it.

HSG: Fans also loved the little bits of business that you did in panel, like the shoulder shimmy that you made at one point, or the “Little old me?” look that you gave when they noted that you had been criticizing the other girls. What gave you the idea to show those touches of personality?

CARALYN: [laughing] Honestly, I didn’t even know that I did that until I watched the show. It’s just a natural… I make a lot of gestures and hand movements, and it was kind of actually funny to see that on the show and to read what you posted on your site. I laughed.

HSG: I’m glad you enjoyed that. You’re fun to write about. Besides the fact that you’re attractive, you have a very expressive camera personality, so it’s interesting to write about your work.
       Here’s a fashion question. You wore light denim for your Torrid challenge, which was wonderful to see, because so many curvy girls get stuck in dark denim. Would you wear light denim in real life?

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CARALYN: Oh, definitely. Actually, Torrid donated the clothes that all of the girls wore on the shoot, so I have that pair of jeans upstairs in my room. And I actually chose that outfit.

HSG: Oh, did you?

CARALYN: Yes. They let use choose what we were going to wear for the show, with the help of some stylists that were there. But, yeah, it was awesome. I just loved—

HSG: And did you also choose the berry-coloured tops that you wore for the taping of the episodes?

CARALYN: Yeah, those are my clothes that the stylists liked when we were getting dressed, and so, yeah, those are all my clothes that I brought to wear.

HSG: It was a great choice, because you were right there in the middle of the five girls, and you sported the brightest hues. It helped you stand out—much as they say, in Hollywood, that you should always wear red to castings because the vibrant colour will make you memorable.
       Whitney mentioned that you can look a little “snooty” in your denim photo, but fans really liked that look because it showed vanity and confidence. Do you remember what was going through your mind when you adopted that particular pose, or was it just a blur, because you were striking many poses, one after another?

CARALYN: I don’t know. That left side, with my head tiled up, is kind of my signature facial expression, I guess you could say. I never actually thought about the “snooty” thing, but after Whitney said that, I’ve definitely taken it into consideration for future shoots.

HSG: Not to contradict a Top Model, but at the Judgment of Paris, we like poses with a touch of vanity, so don’t dispense with it too quickly. Too much confidence is always better than not enough.

CARALYN: Well, thank you. The next time you see that, it will be for you guys.

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HSG: [chuckles] That segues perfectly into my next question. The Fergie picture was more challenging for you, and you even seemed a bit emotional afterwards. Why was that?

CARALYN: I guess every real person has insecurities, and my insecurity at that time were my thighs. And the skirt that I was in was a lot shorter than what I was used to wearing, and I didn’t feel as confident from the waist down. But now, looking back on it, I know that I had nothing to worry about, and that I can just accept myself for who I am—especially with the help of Whitney and Tyra on the show reassuring me that I had nothing to worry about.

HSG: You speak of your body concern in the past tense. Are you truly free of it? Because even Whitney, who is very thin herself, said that her thighs are fuller than yours. Do feel that you have overcome that needless concern?

CARALYN: Yeah, definitely. This experience has helped me grow, not only as a person, as a teenager, as an adolescent, but as a model, for sure, and just being who you are in your own skin—the whole thing.

HSG: What would you say to other “fiercely real” girls of your age who may similarly feel needlessly self-conscious about their thighs, to help them feel better about themselves?

CARALYN: I would have to say to all of those girls, “Love yourself for who you are. You need to accept the way you are and the way you look inside and out, and really embrace your inner and outer beauty.”

HSG: From the six finalists, you made it to first runner up. What do you think distinguished you from your competitors and enabled you to make it further than they did?

CARALYN: Hmmm. I would say my confidence and my personality. I’m not sure if it was shown on the cut of the show itself, but I was very outgoing, and willing, and open to everything that was going on in the show. And I really connected with everyone on the scene and behind the scenes of the show. And I think that maybe because of that I was a little favoured and stood out.

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HSG: Your B.I.O. video was very compelling. What inspired you to deliver a message on that theme?

CARALYN: It’s what I believe in. This constant struggle with the media is something that Tyra is trying to take on. I can say that it has gotten better over the years, but people are still compelled by materialistic things, such as plastic surgery for strictly cosmetic use. And I really wanted to show that you can take off the bronzer, you can pull down the hair, and take off the jewellery, and be beautiful, be yourself, bring out your natural beauty. And that’s what inspired me for that.

HSG: That was a brilliant bit of business, the visual presentation of actually taking off your makeup and letting down your hair on camera. Where did you get the idea to do that?

CARALYN: I talked that out with my mom. We spent a very long time working out the script. And that taping, believe it or not, was actually our first take. We did a lot of takes after that, but that first take, I think, was our best one.

HSG: Really? That’s very interesting. And was that shot before you went to New York?

CARALYN: Yes, that was shot the night before we left. The producers called us and said that this needed to be done before we arrived in New York, so—heh, heh—that was a late night. But it was well worth it.

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HSG: Absolutely. Now, tell the truth: When you were filming your scene, did you also have the ulterior modelling purpose of showing that you are just as glamorous and beautiful without a stitch of makeup as you are when you’re all dolled up?

CARALYN: [pauses] Yes. I can say that. Yes. Definitely.

HSG: Oh! Okay. Bravo to you for admitting it, because I expected that you would give a politically correct answer: “Who, me? No, no. I’m completely innocent.” Because it was, in fact, a very effective way to present yourself with a Polaroid look—hair down, no makeup, etc. It was a clever way to get your message across while achieving a promotional purpose from a modelling point of view.

CARALYN: Thank you. And I think that it proves that I was comfortable with myself all glammed up or with no makeup at all. It proved that I was comfortable either way.

HSG: What was also impressive about it was the fact that you did not say that “beauty is evil,” or that girls should reject beauty altogether or ignore any thought of their appearance. Rather, you condemned false beauty—or as you put it, the “narrow” definition of beauty (which was such a well-chosen word, by the way, with so many meanings in this context).
       So you think that it’s okay for girls to want to look pretty and so forth, just that they shouldn’t diminish and constrict themselves in the way that the media advocates.

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CARALYN: [AUDIO] Definitely. I think that it’s a great thing that people can take pride in their appearance. And when they look good, they feel good, and that’s definitely not something that I would ever want to take away from anyone. I think that embracing beauty is a wonderful thing, and that’s something that our culture prides itself on, yet in recent years, we’ve kind of gotten away from what really is beautiful. With that film, I wanted to prove that you have to create your own definition of beauty. You can’t follow someone else’s.

HSG: We like the fact that you singled out bronzer as something to be avoided. Bravo for that. So you’re not in favour of girls sporting leathery-skinned, radioactive-looking tans, are you?

CARALYN: No, I guess not.

HSG: Is there a lot of that at your age? Girls your age, do they do things like that to themselves?

CARALYN: Yeah, especially up north, in the midst of winter, when everyone loses their tans from the summertime, fake tanning and bronzer gets heavily used.

HSG: That’s awful. Do you think that you might try modelling with a fairer complexion?

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CARALYN: [AUDIO] Yes. Actually, I was surprised with the makeup that was done on me [on the show]. It was actually a lot fairer than what I usually use. And I kind of liked it. I liked that it was almost a doll-like—

HSG: Yes! I encourage you to adopt that, because it was a fantastic look. Fairness may be out of fashion in Hollywood, with its fetish for artificiality, but fair skin is a traditional hallmark of feminine beauty, and it certainly works for you.

CARALYN: Oh, well, thank you.

HSG: Be honest. When the winner was announced, in your heart of hearts, did you think that you deserved to be the top model?

CARALYN: Well, I was definitely disappointed that I did not win. It took me a while to realize that to make it that far was just amazing. I know that the show itself was a springboard, and I can jump off and now leap onto any upcoming opportunities. And [the winner] was a great, great girl. I connected a lot with her. She deserved to win as much as any of us did.

HSG: You’re much nicer than your fans were, because we were devastated. We considered it a crime.

CARALYN: [laughing]

HSG: Anyway, the one effort that might have worked against you was your deliberately comedic runway walk. What prompted you to decide to go for a comic effect? That was quite unexpected.

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CARALYN: Heh, heh. That particular walk was suggested by some of the producers, and—

HSG: Oh! Oh, really?

CARALYN: [laughing softly]

HSG: Ah, the truth comes out. Sabotage!

CARALYN: They suggested that it was going to get her attention, and I knew that if there was any time to really get her attention, that that would be the time. If I had known how the other girls were going to walk, maybe I wouldn’t have done such a busted walk. [chuckles] But I took a risk.

HSG: It was certainly unique. And actually, we kind of like the fact that you did that walk, because while some parts of the industry may prize the “broken-down doll” approach to posing, there is something inherently silly about it too. A send-up was long overdue.
       That “broken-down doll” technique must have originated with the “waif” model, and how modern photographers want to show angles instead of curves—especially since straight-size models have no curves to show. For plus-size models, we prefer a more traditional, curve-accentuating posing style.
       At any rate, of the photographs that you took on the show, which do you like the best?

CARALYN: I loved the Torrid shoot. I loved the [arched] eyebrow, and my confidence really showed through in that shoot.

HSG: I would agree. Now, I’ve asked you a couple of times to suggest qualities that distinguish you, and you’ve been very careful with your answers, but now I’m going to ask you directly. You can’t get out of this question.

CARALYN: [giggles]

HSG: What would you describe as your best features in terms of physical beauty?

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CARALYN: [AUDIO] I love my eyes and my eyebrows, and just my curves and the shape of my body. And I like the way that your site said it, that I wasn’t an “Amazon height.” I think that’s how you said it.

HSG: That’s right.

CARALYN: And that I am more of a realistic height for a model, which enabled me to appear more curvy.

HSG: How tall are you?

CARALYN: I’m 5'9.

HSG: You are 5'9. So the other girls were tall!


HSG: That must have been a novel experience for you, because you said that growing up, you were always the tallest girl in the class, and all of a sudden you were surrounded by girls taller than you. Very interesting. Well, 5'9 is good because it does still bring out some curves.
       Now, as to modelling, here’s a tough question. If you get signed to an agency, sooner or later you may be asked to commit the unforgivable crime for a plus-size model, which is to appear in a diet ad or a weight-loss promotion of some kind. Will you be able to resist such pressure?

CARALYN: [emphatically] Yes. Definitely. I don’t think I could do that.

HSG: And the other crucial question of a similar nature is: Would you ever betray the cause by diminishing yourself into a smaller size?

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CARALYN: [AUDIO] I don’t think that I would look good at a smaller size! I think I would lose all my curves and my shape, and I don’t think I would be as successful as I could be as a plus-size model.

HSG: That’s such a good answer. But incidentally, if it ever were to happen that you went in the other direction and became curvier, that would be just fine.

CARALYN: Oh, thank you. [laughs]

HSG: Your fans would love that.
       Now we come to the toughest question of all. I ask this in every interview. Why does the media suppress plus-size feminine beauty?

CARALYN: [pauses] I think the media suppresses plus-size models because somehow along the way that very, very skinny, waif-like model—as you have commented, that “chiseled” look—has become ideal, and everyone kind of got hooked on it, like a bad drug or something, and—

HSG: A “bad drug.” That’s a very apt comparison.

CARALYN: Right. And ever since then, everyone has just assumed that that is what’s beautiful, and everything else is just shunned.. And it sells magazines. It sells clothes. But I think that we’re trying to change that. Because the average size of a woman in America is a size 14.

HSG: That’s right.

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CARALYN: When I think of “model,” I think of “role model,” [AUDIO] and when I see that very, very unhealthy, skinny look in the magazines, that does not make me want to buy the shirt that she’s wearing. It’s almost distracting. And I think to see someone like myself in a magazine would [make girls] say, “Hey, I’m about her size. I could totally rock that.”

HSG: I agree completely. Excellent answer. And as for selling, well, to extend your drug analogy, an industry could sell crack cocaine too, but does that mean that it should be allowed to do so?


HSG: Like the drug, the fashion industry’s promotion of an anorexic look has ruinous consequences for individuals and for society.
       Do you think that images of attractive and youthful plus-size models can undo the damage to women’s self-esteem that is caused by the fashion world’s promotion of emaciation?

CARALYN: I do. I really do. Because it all starts with that pre-teen state. Especially being at that pre-teen, middle-school phase, being a little bit bigger, you feel like such an ugly duck. And if people are exposed to [fuller-figured beauty], maybe at a sooner age, or even now, it will almost be like an epiphany, and everyone will eventually grow to love the “fiercely realness” of it, and the acceptance of it, of reality.

HSG: “Fiercely real.” It’s an interesting phrase. Personally, I would amend that to “fiercely curvy.” “Real” is too ambiguous a term. I like “fiercely curvy.”
       Anyway, now let’s learn a little bit about your personality. Have you always been curvy, or have you grown into your curves as you’ve gotten older?

CARALYN: I’ve always thought of myself as a bigger girl, and kind of awkwardly, eventually growing into my curves. It was a process. But I think that I’ve evolved into this fiercely curvy model.

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HSG: How would you describe your personality?

CARALYN: My personality would have to be outgoing, energetic, happy, confident, open-minded, caring, friendly…

HSG: That’s pretty good. You make yourself sound like a very appealing person.

CARALYN: [chuckles]

HSG: What sort of music do you enjoy?

CARALYN: For a while I really was into that indie rock phrase, but I’m back on the top-40 charts. I really am. I’m all about that catchy, poppy, earworm-type music.

HSG: [laughing]

CARALYN: Some of the dance tunes, for sure. The only music that I probably wouldn’t like is heavy metal. It’s kind of depressing. But other than that, I’m pretty open.

HSG: If you’re ever looking for new music to get into, I highly recommend classical—Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, etc. What types of books do you like to read?

CARALYN: I like to read teen fiction—you know, like the Gossip Girl series, that scandalous, on-edge, high-fashion type of unreal [world].

HSG: It fits that you would like Gossip Girl, because you yourself are entering the fashion world.

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CARALYN: When it doesn’t have to do with you, a little bit of scandal isn’t bad.

HSG: Hopefully you won’t be involved in any scandals yourself! Be sure to stay on the good side of the tracks. But since you mentioned Gossip Girl, I have to ask the obvious question: Serena or Blair?

CARALYN: Ooh, it depends! I like Blair’s blunt kind of way about things. But I like Serena’s carefree, she-is-who-she-is kind of thing. It depends on the episode, to be honest.

HSG: Judgment of Paris readers, I’ve noticed, tend to be Blair fans. Make of that what you will.

CARALYN: I like Blair. I like Blair.

HSG: She has that slightly spoiled quality which our readers find adorable. What’s your ethnicity? What’s your ethnic background?

CARALYN: [pauses] White.

HSG: Well, yes, but is your heritage English, Irish, French…?

CARALYN: Mostly Italian—of Italian descent. I have a little bit of Polish, a little bit of German, and Irish in me, somehow.

HSG: Ah, so a little bit of everything from Europe. Do you speak any of your mother tongues? Do you speak Italian or German, for example?

CARALYN: I don’t. I wish I did, though. I have taken Spanish for five years, and I’m on my second year of French now, so I’m trying to acquire a little international flair.

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HSG: How would you describe your own fashion style?

CARALYN: Hmmm. I’d like to say classic, trendy, preppy, colourful, yet sometimes edgy.

HSG: It’s like your ethnicity—a bit of everything. But that’s good. You’re a girl for all seasons. Would you say that you’re very feminine—a “girly” girl?

CARALYN: Yeah, I would say that, except I can also get down and dirty with it. But I do like that soft, feminine side, so I kind of like to play up both.

HSG: I’m glad you responded “yes” to that, because that’s the answer I was looking for. Has your family been supportive of you being curvy, or have you ever faced any pressure at home to diminish yourself?

CARALYN: Well, my family [tend to be] bigger. We’re never going to be those tall, skinny-boned people. It was a struggle to recognize that healthy and skinny are on two different ends of the spectrum. They’re not the same thing. They do support me with that.

HSG: I ask because you may encounter girls with terrible family histories in your position as a role model for young women. It’s shocking and tragic how many girls have had their mothers subject them to diet-starvation. Can you imagine that? Your mother starving you? That’s the one person who should support a girl and help her embrace her naturally curvy beauty, not amplify the media’s propaganda about weight. It’s very sad.
       Many of your fans were delighted to hear you mention on the show that you “were in the in crowd,” and “with all the cool kids” at school. The reason why this pleased them so much is because Hollywood perpetuates the myth that curvy girls are social outcasts. But you can testify from your own experience that girls
can be curvy and popular, yes?

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CARALYN: Yes, of course. I think that my leadership positions in school have helped with that. I was an avid member of student government and an open-minded person. A lot of people are very quick to judge, and not necessarily that you have to prove anything to them, but just be confident in yourself before you jump into any social group.

HSG: Have you ever experienced envy from your friends at school due to your beauty?

CARALYN: Yes, especially more recently with this experience on the show.

HSG: And how difficult has that been to deal with?

CARALYN: It’s not easy, because you want to be accepted, and when you’re disliked because of that green-eyed monster that’s eating people up inside, it’s almost uncomfortable, but you kind of have to just address it.

HSG: One notices it even on Top Model, where the skinnier girls often envy the fuller girls. The feeling among them seems to be, “I’m starving myself. Why don’t you have to starve too?”


HSG: You may experience reactions of that nature. And that segues into the next question: Do you diet/starve yourself? (Please say no.) Or do you actually allow yourself to enjoy food?

CARALYN: [AUDIO] I do not diet at all. Heh, heh.

HSG: Bravo.

CARALYN: I do indulge in treats and, you know, foods that we all love.

HSG: You do? Marvellous. What’s your favourite food or dessert?

CARALYN: [AUDIO] Ooh, that’s a hard one. [giggles] I love breads and cheese and all that. And I am a sucker for chocolate. I will say that.

HSG: You’re so wonderful.

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CARALYN: [chuckles] Thanks.

HSG: This is a great interview.

CARALYN: [laughing] I have never met someone who was so quickly so nice to me, so thank you.

HSG: As a high-school student, how acute would you say the pressure is on girls your age to starve themselves into a smaller size?

CARALYN: I think it’s really bad. I don’t want to name names, but there’s this one mainstream store that is supposedly the teenager store, and the “teenagers” that are modelling for it are 12 years old and have no curves or anything. When girls see that, they think that that’s what they should be fitting into, that extra-extra-small shirt. There’s a lot of pressure to be skinny.

HSG: I always suspected that there was, but it’s disheartening to hear that the pressure manifests itself even at a high-school age, a time when girls should be free of any such concerns.
       Are your friends generally able to resist this pressure, or do a lot of them succumb and starve themselves?

CARALYN: I would like to say that I have a balance between both. I have a lot of friends who are confident at their size. But I also do have a lot of friends who are very uncomfortable with themselves and don’t eat lunch because they think that they need to lose weight.

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HSG: [groans] How have you managed to resist such pressure, if some of your friends have given in?

CARALYN: Well, I kind of realized that I can’t really stick to that whole not-eating thing. [chuckles]

HSG: Thank goodness.

CARALYN: It was not going to work for me. And I knew that I was never going to be an itty-bitty size, and I kind of just… I enjoy food, and I enjoy being the size that I am.

HSG: On the show, you mentioned that you experienced pressure to partake of drugs and alcohol. How bad is that pressure for teens these days?

CARALYN: It goes way beyond my direct peer group. It’s an ever-growing problem nationwide, with all teens. Drugs and alcohol have become a bigger part of social gatherings than they have ever been. You can’t get together anymore at a party without there being drugs or alcohol there, and it’s really sad.

HSG: And again, how were you able to resist? Were you confronted by a situation such as, “Here are all of my popular friends, and they all want me to do this,” and you had to just say no? That must be a difficult predicament. If your friends were all partaking of such things, and you wanted to be among them, and you wanted them to like you, how were you able to resist this pressure?

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CARALYN: It wasn’t easy. It just didn’t feel right. It didn’t look right. I have a big conscience and that was just saying, “No way.” It really was not something that I was interested in or thought that was good for me.

HSG: I almost hate to ask this. Do you smoke?


HSG: Thank goodness. Because in the modelling world that is a particularly nasty vice, so if you can avoid that, please do.

CARALYN: I can’t even stand the smell of it. When people are around me, ugh, I have to walk away. It’s horrible. I will definitely resist that one.

HSG: How do you feel about potentially being a role model for girls your age, or for young women in general?

CARALYN: I truly think that it is an honour. I know that I would be a great role model. I do have positive messages, and I could see using this modelling platform to be a positive influence to teens and women of all ages and sizes. And it would truly be very fulfilling to do that.

HSG: Last interview question: When you look at yourself in the mirror now, do you acknowledge that you are beautiful?

CARALYN: Yes, I do. I mean, I don’t wake up in the morning and be, like, “Wow, damn, like, I’m stunning!”

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HSG: [dismayed] You don’t?

CARALYN: [chuckles] I think it’s more of a comfortable way of just being confident about myself. At this point, I don’t have anything to be ashamed about.

HSG: Well, that’s a start. And if you ever get to that point where you do wake up every morning and think, “Wow, I’m stunning,” that would be okay too.

CARALYN: Well, thank you.

HSG: Your fans will think that about you, even if you don’t.

CARALYN: That’s so nice of you. I was so touched when I stumbled upon the first entry [on the forum]. I was blown away. I called everyone I knew and said, “Hey, look. Type this in. Look at this. They love me!”

HSG: We do, without a doubt.

CARALYN: Thank you so, so much. Words cannot even expressed how touched I am for your interest in me.

HSG: It’s our pleasure. You can now go off and watch the rest of Top Model. It should be ending right about now. You can see how well the plus-size model performed this week.

CARALYN: Maybe someday you’ll see me on there too.

HSG: [laughs] Hopefully! Take care, and have a good evening.


(Interview recorded March 11, 2010.)

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