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March 14, 2008

Body Size, Body Shape: 6 Women's Stories

tall red headed woman and short brunette in suits

Cleo Glyde and Bobbi Brown

Photo Credit: Henry Leutwyler/Henry Leutwyler

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When, at 14, I shot up to my adult height of 6' 1 1/2", the usual teen-girl angst went into overdrive. (My father is 6' 10", so being tall was inevitable.) Being supertall seems to give strangers carte blanche to stare, point, or comment. ("How's the weather up there?" Hilarious, right?) Rather than stoop to conquer, I adapted to expectations and developed into an extrovert, taking on a class-clown persona. Becoming a runway model in Paris at 17 allowed me to really embrace my oddity — I didn't have to play the apologetic Lurch in ballet flats. As for men, if I try to be leading lady to a 5-foot guy, he's automatically playing Danny DeVito. So I tend to date up: I'm drawn to strapping males — who don't need a damsel in distress — with whom I can see eye to eye.
FAVORITE LOOK: A Grecian column gown that showcases height.
DO: Buy suits big, for shoulders and length; then re-tailor if they're too baggy. Calvin Klein has a great range of sizes.
DON'T: Frilly little-girl details.

I fit just fine into my Russian family, with a 4' 11" grandmother and a 5' 2" mom (I'm 5'). I only noticed I was short when I moved to New York in the 1980s and got into the fashion world. One day I was doing the makeup on a shoot with a quartet of big supermodels — Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, and Christy Turlington. They were all towering over me, wearing tiny bikinis, and there I was pregnant! I actually had to sit down at one point and ask myself: Are you even going to go there? Are you really going to compare yourself with these long-limbed Barbies? No matter how I dieted or exercised, I was never going to have that body. It just wasn't in my cards. Even today, I've achieved everything I've wanted — I have a very big foot in the corporate world — but, of course, I'm still short. When strangers stop me on the street after seeing me on TV, they're always surprised to see just how little I actually am. I guess my big personality makes me seem taller. But even with my success, there are days I'm insecure (and pull on my highest Manolos), and days I just laugh about it. Funny thing: As a makeup artist, I find that even many of the supermodels and famous actresses who sit in my chair confide what they don't like about their looks. Obsessing over our flaws is ultimately self-defeating; like everyone else, I get the most compliments when I'm feeling confident and comfortable in my skin.
FAVORITE LOOK: A custom-made blazer and body-hugging boot-cut jeans that elongate the leg.
DO: I love Theory and Tory Burch, and I'm comfortable all night in Steve Madden's amazing platform sandals.
DON'T: Stripes and high-waisted pants — too overwhelming.

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