Move over Crystal Renn, there’s a new plus-size supermodel in town. In recent
months, voluptuous Robyn Lawley has graced the cover of French Elle and been
tipped as one to watch by Italian Vogue. But it hasn’t been an easy journey
for the 21 year old. For years, she fought against the body she’s now so
A statuesque 6ft, Robyn is a curvy 12st 7lb with a silhouette to stop traffic.
It’s a world away from the size-zero stick insects that usually strut down
the catwalk, and Robyn grew up with cripplingly low self-esteem.
“I’d always been naturally big, so I was uneasy about my shape,” she
remembers. “My older sister Jennifer was a size 8, and I always compared
myself to her. Skinny women got put on a pedestal and because I couldn’t
reach them, I felt I wasn’t good enough,” says Robyn. “I was a size 12-14
and I thought my body was offensive to people. Even on the hottest days I’d
swamp myself in a T-shirt and long shorts.”
Then, when Robyn turned 15, her teacher suggested she try modelling. “My jaw
dropped,” she says. “I hated my body and rarely looked in the mirror, so I’d
never seen myself in that way.” Other people did though. “Strangers in the
street would ask if I was a model. It was surreal,” she remembers. “Despite
having no confidence, I thought: ‘If everyone else thinks I can do it, then
Robyn nervously made an appointment at a modelling agency – but it wasn’t
quite the fairy tale she was hoping for.
“The scout asked if I’d consider dieting or doing more exercise. It was
like they were laughing at me and I felt stupid for thinking I could model,”
The following year, Robyn decided she was going to get the body she wanted –
whatever the cost. Desperate to slim down to a size 10, she trawled the
internet for advice.
“I stumbled across pro-anorexia websites and scoured them for tips,” she
remembers. “I began starving myself and making myself sick after meals. My
mum Janne was concerned but she had no idea how serious the problem was.
Plus, I became an expert at lying.”
In fact, Robyn was surviving on just 800 calories a day – too few for a woman
her size. She had zero energy and was constantly hungry, but her extreme
diet was working.
“I was having two slices of rye bread for breakfast, a protein shake for lunch
and a healthy dinner,” she says.
“I was starving and miserable, but I thought my world would change if I was
Within a year, Robyn had lost over 3st. When she reached her target of 9st 9lb
and a size 8, too small for her height and body shape, she entered a
modelling competition in Australia’s Dolly magazine. To her surprise, she
won and was signed by an agency.
But she still felt like an outsider. “I’d look at other girls at auditions and
think they were skinnier and therefore more beautiful. And casting agents
would say they wanted me when I’d done ‘what was needed’ to be the perfect
Drained by the pressure, Robyn took a gap year in France aged 17. After
starving herself for so long, she started binge eating. “I gorged on crisps,
cakes and chips,” she remembers. “I was making up for lost time.”
On her return to Australia, she was a size 16. She dieted again – this time
sensibly – and got down to 11st 11lb and a size 12. But modelling work dried
Then one lunchtime, aged 19, Robyn spotted plus-size model Crystal Renn in a
magazine. “She was gorgeous, with curves in the right places,” she recalls.
Inspired, she stopped dieting and let her body revert to its natural size –
12st 7lb and a size 16. Then she approached plus-size model agency, Bella.
“They signed me up immediately,” she says. Within a week, Robyn had shoots
lined up all over Europe, and has since modelled for Italian Vogue,
Australian Cosmopolitan, New Look and Evans. But she still has critics.
“Some people in the industry see plus-size models as a joke,” she says. “Some
‘experts’ have even said bigger models encourage obesity. How ridiculous is
that? What impression do they think size-zero models leave on young girls?”
Robyn is unrepentant – she’s finally found the self-acceptance she lacked. “I
love my body and am comfortable with it!” she beams. “I have days when I
think my thighs are too wobbly, but I eat healthily and exercise, so I’m
looking after myself.”
Her boyfriend of two years isn’t complaining, either. “I think men prefer
women who are comfortable in themselves,” smiles Robyn. “Men drool over
Nigella Lawson and Marilyn Monroe. They’re beautiful, curvy and confident. I
feel sexy at this size because I can eat and enjoy life, and a lot of men
appreciate that. Plus, I’m not ‘big’, I’m normal.”
As for other women, Robyn sometimes senses disapproval. “I can feel them
judging my cellulite or stomach. But it doesn’t bother me because I’m happy,
and their insecurities are obviously worse than mine. There’s nothing sexier
than someone at ease with their body – at any size.”
In April, Robyn graced the cover of French Elle. It would have been a coup for
any model, never mind a plus-size one – and now she seems on course to
conquer the fashion world.
“Some people think because I have a ‘plus’ in front of my model tag then I’m
not as good as the skinny girls,” she smiles. “But this shows I am.”
PHOTOGRAPHY: KIMBERLEY HOLCOMBE/GETTY IMAGES, TITO MEDIA HAIR & MAKE-UP:
JESSICA TARAZI ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY: GETTY IMAGES ROBYN IS REPRESENTED BY