NEW YORK -- The Duchess of Windsor gets credit for the remark, 'You can't be too rich or too thin.' Mary Duffy, not thin, is an authority on the 'too thin' syndrome in America.
'Most women seem to consider happiness the loss of 5 to 20 pounds,' said Miss Duffy, who heads a model agency specializing in big beauties.
'It's so easy to pounce on weight as an excuse for a lot of other problems,' said the former model. 'I know women who say, 'If I could just lose 4 pounds...
'What is big? Size is a state of mind. The national average for women runs around 12 and 14.
'But a lot of women size 8 consider themselves large. The consensus I find is that almost everyone wants to be one or two sizes smaller.
'Else why would the diet and exercise industry be doing $10 billion annually?'
Lest all of you less-than-thin specimens despair, Miss Duffy offers opportunity -- to model 'realistic' fashions for the show runways, catalogs, stores and photography.
'A fat cell does not replace a brain cell,' said the 38-year-old Miss Duffy, who runs the Big Beauties-Little Women agency in New York.
The brains and size both belong to the vivacious brunette. She calls herself a size 18, weighing 180 pounds ('175 when I starve myself to death') and measuring 42-34-43. She is about 5 feet 6 inches tall.
'I've been tested with an I.Q. of 145,' she said. 'And being plump hasn't spoiled my social life. I've never lacked for dates.'
Miss Duffy, born in New York, grew up in Massachusetts, graduated from Mount Holyoke in Hadley, Mass., and for a while ran an art gallery.
'I was into speech and theater,' she said. 'I once sang in piano bars. Then a friend told me that Jordan Marsh (a Boston-based department store) was looking for larger sized models. I remember it was during a snowstorm in February 1978 when I slapped on a new coat of nail polish and applied.
'One fashion buyer later told me, 'You were born to be a model.' I did 21 advertisements in one month for Jordan Marsh.'
Finding this demand for the larger model, she returned to New York and opened an agency.
'America doesn't always glorify the skinny,' she said.
Her agency now has about 80 models ranging in age from 17 to 60, with an average age of 25 to 30 years. 'Models size 12 to 14 get most of the photographic assignments, and sizes 16 to 18 do most of the runway jobs.' They will earn from $125 to $200 an hour, sometimes $750 a day, and lingerie assignments go up to $350 an hour.'
Her 'Little Women' section specializes in petites. They're the ones who are 5-foot-4 or under and run between 135 to 150 pounds, she said. This model usually measures 37-28-39.
To accent the fact that beauty and attractiveness are not all skinny, Miss Duffy has launched an early spring beauty search with the requisite: 'No one under size 12 need apply.' Sizes up to 26 may enter.
The search ends Feb. 28 and assorted awards will be made in April.
Miss Duffy said shopping by the larger women often posed problems but that, increasingly, stores and specialty shops recognize her as someone who spends billion on clothes, accessories and cosmetics.
She suggested the larger woman seek to select a personal style and color and establish her own fashion image.
More important, though, she said, is concentration on your attitude. 'If all a girl thinks is that she has only her looks and sex appeal at age 14, she's going to have to pay for that attitude later. Looks alone fade. You have to get it all together.'
And what about an exercise program to keep in shape? 'Well, said Miss Duffy, 'I get out of bed.' She paused then added, 'I walk a lot.'
The entry rule for Miss Duffy's contest for larger women is a complicated one, but for further information write to her at Big Beauties-Little Women, 159 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.