celebrity

Four years ago, Cassi's body made national headlines. This is what she looks like today.

She was the runner up of cycle five of Australia’s Next Top Model in 2009, but Cassi van den Dungen‘s weight has always been in the spotlight. Even by model standards.

Her fashion resume spans shoots of Vogue and Elle Australia, walking at Paris Fashion Week and appearing in campaigns for Australian designers such as Alex Perry and Zimmermann, but it was an encounter with then-Marie Claire editor-in-chief Jackie Frank that saw Cassi’s slight frame become national news.

“When I saw those legs I nearly died. I rang the model agent and said ‘Why is that girl walking down the runway when she’s clearly not healthy?”

Frank had seen Cassi walk the Alex Perry runway during Sydney’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in 2014 and was stunned by her dangerously low weight. Soon, Cassi’s waif-like frame was the standout story of the week.

“I looked at that footage and I recoiled from it and the images,” Alex Perry later said on breakfast television.

“That’s not the image that I think is a good one to put forward. It’s certainly not what I’ve presented my brand about.”

Four years on from the event that changed her life in the public eye, the 26-year-old has made a positive change for her health; she’s gained 10 kilograms.

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“I finally have a healthy BMI, it’s the first time I’ve been in the 18-25 range since I was 15.”

It’s something the model told news.com.au she’s “really happy about.”

“I’ve grown up my whole life with people telling me I’m skinny, even though I was healthy and doctors and health professionals told me I was fine and it impacted me emotionally every time.”

While she still models for labels like Aje, Asilio and Loobie’s Story, the mum-of-one said that her inability to gain weight really affected her after the birth of her son, Drake Saul, in 2012.

“I remember crying about it in the weeks after having my son. I was very emotional,” she said.

However, now that Drake is five, the model said that she’s made some major changes to her diet and lifestyle, from replacing her 1.5 hour workout session with 45 minutes of weight training and adding in a daily lunch time protein shake for the calorie boost.

“I need to make sure I don’t push my heart rate too high for too long… but build muscle.

“I love tricep dips and bench pressing. I never thought I’d ever say that.”

Ultimately for the van den Dungen, it’s about feeling stronger – something that she says shes achieved.

“I thought if I can’t hold fat very well, I may as well hold muscle,” explains the model. “I might forever be small-framed, but I can be strong.”

“I feel like I’ve achieved it. I’m really proud of where I’ve gotten to.”

This week on Mamamia Out Loud Rachel Corbett, Jessie Stephens and Mia Freedman talk about the Queer Eye reboot, why the Florida school shooting might just change US gun laws and dissect our new Deputy Prime Minister. Get it in your ears.

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