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FASHION

A Larger Model Alt Finds Success

September 11, 1997|BETTY GOODWIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Even in the highest echelons of supermodeling, the name Alt is big.

During her reign of glory in the 1980s, Carol Alt graced 500 magazine covers and possessed a prized contract with Cover Girl cosmetics. There's another Alt on the scene now: She has a face with angles in all the right places; flawless skin; thick, beautiful hair; neon blue eyes. And she wears size 16 jeans. Christine Alt is one of the bookable names in the "plus size" world.

It wasn't always that way. She once earned her keep in the "straight" end of the business, where skinny women rule. The summer before college, she had decided to earn some pocket money modeling in New York, where Carol took her in and guided her to the right agencies. But when they heard the name Alt, bookers thought they were getting a "Carol Alt look-alike at a cheaper rate," recalls Christine, for whom this seems a lifetime ago. (Christine says she is now "30-ish.")

But companies were disappointed when they saw Christine--gorgeous in every way, but as a blond, she looked little like her olive-skinned, dark-haired older sister. "There were so many blond-haired, blue-eyed models in New York--thousands going to one job."

But that wasn't Christine's worst problem. Just shy of 5 feet, 11 inches, she had always been a size 10 or 12. When she managed to whittle herself down to a size 4, she says her agency, Elite, weighed her in and said, "You're doing great on your diet. Keep it up." "I think they were trying to groom me for the collections in New York, but for that, you have to be a human hanger," Christine says.

Never mind the hanger. Christine had become anorexic. "One time I went 10 days without eating anything. I exercised an hour and a half a day, but if I had air-popped popcorn, I went back upstairs and exercised again."

She moved to Dallas, where she had more job prospects doing catalog work for stores such as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, although her eating pattern continued. "I used to save up all week to have something to eat on Saturday night." Her Saturday night treat? After 5 o'clock Mass, she would eat cheese and crackers.

Finally, in 1984, something clicked. She quit modeling and began gaining weight. She went up to a size 14-16, which she believed was her natural body size. The youngest of four children, weight-wise, Christine was always the biggest.

Her sister Carol, now a successful actress in Italy, never had a weight problem, Christine says. Their mother, a showroom model before she married, is also svelte.

"I was just born big, and that's the way I was supposed to be," Christine says. Now her size is paying off. The plus-size modeling business is a lucrative one. Even without the multimillion-dollar cosmetics contracts in Carol's world, successful bigger models can earn six figures.

Christine now models for large-size catalogs and is under contract to Just My Size, a manufacturer of casual large-size apparel--hosiery, jeans, bicycle shorts, T-shirts as well as underwear--selling from $2 to $25 at Kmart and Wal-Mart stores.

"It took me a long time," Christine says, "but I finally decided if everybody was a size 6, life would be really boring."

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