Get Close ... with Doutzen Kroes

by Renata Certo-Ware 

Doutzen Kroes has been ranked the world’s fifth-highest-paid supermodel, but this Victoria’s Secret Angel understands that success in the fashion industry can come at a cost. In April, she joined media mogul Arianna Huffington, Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani, and model/actress Amber Valletta of Revenge for “Health Is Beauty: Defining Ourselves,” the Harris Center at Mass General Hospital’s 15th-annual forum on body image and the media. But first, the Dutch beauty spoke candidly with STUFF.

I can’t stand when models say “Oh, I eat whatever I want — fried chicken for breakfast, dessert with every meal.” Is that reality? I work really hard for it [my body] because it’s my job! I have to be in the gym every day. I have to be really healthy. I have to give up things for it. Nobody’s going to win the world Olympics without practicing. At some point, I had to tell my agent, “I can’t not eat, because I get hungry!”

Has anyone close to you dealt with an eating disorder or body dysmorphia? I think every woman has doubts and insecurities about her body. I’ve never had struggles with anorexia or anything like that, but I’ve dealt with the fact that I always had to watch my weight and I’ve been told so often to lose weight. Sometimes it’s a struggle to keep up with my own photos, where the lighting is perfect, the makeup is done, and the images have been retouched. That’s not what I see when I look in the mirror! I felt really empowered when I said, “Okay, this is my body, the best that I can be. Deal with it.” I was able to do that because I had a nice life and great family back in Holland. Having a safe, solid background that I could always fall back on made me feel very empowered. There are a lot of girls from poor countries who enter the modeling industry and feel that they can’t say no when an agent or director tells them to lose weight or to do something that they aren’t comfortable with, because they have nothing to fall back on and nowhere to go. Their biggest fear is to go back to their old lives. I want to be a role model to help other models to feel strong and beautiful in their own way.

With awareness of body-image issues increasing, have you noticed changes within the industry? Since the CFDA [Council of Fashion Designers of America] and Anna Wintour started this health initiative in 2007, a handful of designers have really begun to move away from the unhealthy industry standards. Prada recently had a show with all curvy women, and Michael Kors always shows with different kinds of models, not the ones we saw on TV that were so shocking. I definitely see a change. It’s more interesting and more fun for people to see an athletic girl or a curvy girl on the runway. . . . We’re all individuals and beautiful in our own way. Everyone is different. If all models looked the same, I don’t think women could relate at all.

What do you think of the modeling industry now? Right now, models don’t bring any character to the runways — no personality. It’s not like with Cindy and Linda and Naomi, who owned the runways! Today’s models have become interchangeable and disposable. They are scared of doing something wrong and losing a job, so they are afraid to show personality! Fashion Week used to be so exciting because it was like a reunion for all us models to see each other again, but now there’s a constant rotation of new people every season. It’s not as fun now!

How accurately do reality shows like America’s Next Top Modelportray the industry? These shows are entertainment. They always add a bit more drama. I saw a modeling show in Holland, and the contestants had to pose naked on a horse. I never had to do that! It attracted lots of viewers, but it’s still TV — not reality! I do think it’s good that shows likeANTM don’t show the misconception that the industry is always glamorous, because it’s not! We have to work really hard. I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and now I’m getting some of the glamorous side. But in the beginning, it’s taking the subway to go to castings, running around. . . . It’s really hard work! In the beginning, you don’t get to fly home and visit family whenever you want because you don’t have the money, and you can’t miss a moment because the next opportunity could be waiting.