They say the things you really like about modeling when you're starting out are also the things you begin to hate about it. And that was true for me: I had an opportunity to graduate from high school and then be plunked down in Paris or Africa or Rome—it was so exciting that I would have done it for nothing. But about six years ago, I started to feel as though I didn't have a sense of balance or a routine in my life. I was exhausted, and I missed my family a lot. I had also just achieved the biggest accomplishment of my life—quitting smoking. I had tried many times but always went back to it. Finally I just got fed up for not keeping my promise to myself, and I quit cold turkey.
Six months later, I was in Paris doing the couture shows. You often need to be thinner for those dresses than you do for ready-to-wear collections. I had gained a little weight after I quit smoking, but I didn't think too much about it. I spent the first part of the week going to fittings and doing shows. One afternoon I went to Yves Saint Laurent's atelier. It was a very formal setting, and I didn't know the people there as well as I knew those at other houses. I was escorted to a back room where fitting women basically put me into the clothes. As they worked, I heard them grumbling in French about my body because the dresses didn't fit quite right.
I remember coming out of the fitting room and walking for Mr. Saint Laurent. While I was by no means fat, I knew I was probably more voluptuous than they would have liked. But that happens: You leave one place and feel bad; you go to another, where the clothes fit differently, and you feel good again. I just assumed I was still doing the Saint Laurent show, until my agent called to say that the company had decided not to use me. I knew exactly why—they thought I wasn't skinny enough—which hurt at first but I shrugged it off. Then a couple of days later, I heard rumors that a Vogue editor had asked if I was pregnant. It was a strange moment: I saw the distance between what people in the industry were concerned about and what I was concerned about. I thought, Why am I allowing them to pick me apart and criticize me and my body after I've done such an amazing thing for my health? I realized I didn't have to do any more fashion shows; I could remove myself from this environment. That was my last week on the runway.