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Size wise -- Catherine Lippincott '85

By Nancy Bartosek

Catherine Lippincott's favorite color is leopard. As in leopard carpeting, leopard upholstery. She admits that exotic spots aren't for everyone, but she thinks they go well with her big personality. So she confidently splashed it across the floor of her New York townhouse -- and sometimes drapes it from her shoulders.

"I think anyone can get away with anything (style wise) as long as they're comfortable with it," says the New York fashion model and consultant with a penchant for big jewelry and big hats who just happens to be a size 16. "It's just a matter of knowing what feels right."

Easier said than done, admits Lippincott, the vivacious author of Well Rounded, an epistle of encouragement and acceptance directed at the 47 million "plus size" women in America. It's a mindset the once-size-24 public relations specialist arrived at after years of believing happiness only came in one size.

"I was living in New York, which I adored, had a job I was crazy about, an incredibly supportive circle of friends and was dating someone I thought was great," she said. "Suddenly I thought, 'Gee, I thought these things couldn't happen unless I wore a size 6. That's when I began to realize happiness and size are not connected.' "

So the part-time, plus-size model slowly shed her diet mentality and focused on being, "well-rounded in every sense of the word -- spiritually, emotionally and physically." Last year 50,000 copies of her eight-step program to personal acceptance spread that insight across the continent. In April, the paperback version will hit the racks.

"This is a real movement. It's not about being thin or fat or anywhere in between, it's about being comfortable with what you have," she said, adding that good health is the top physical priority. "We're really on the cusp of acceptance of all body shapes. I'd like to open Vogue and see clothing not only on a six, but a size 16. Just some diversity."

It's not too surprising that Lippincott, national spokeswoman for Lane Bryant plus-size clothiers and writer for Mode magazine, a new publication featuring large models, is one of the movement's divas. After all, this is the ambitious girl who headed straight to New York after finishing her degree (skipping commencement), even though she had no job, no friends and no place to stay. "I figured it's a city," she said. "What can it do to me?"

She landed a PR job with a publisher, moving from there to entertainment and fashion, spending five years as manager of Nickelodeon and Nick at Night's public relations department. And although she admits to occasional fear about "stupid things" like airplanes, she never shies from opportunities or challenges, learning along her journey to "step up to the microphone."

The gal who wears technicolor kaleidoscope glasses has taken her own advice: she keeps in shape through a dance class, reads and travels for her mental development and stays emotionally grounded in a relationship with an Italian physicist who gets around on a motorcycle and in-line skates -- and just for fun, moves every so often so she can redecorate.

The self-effacing promoter said she finds real satisfaction knowing that, perhaps in a very small way, she might have opened a window in someone's mind.

"I think that even little changes in your life reverberate from you every morning," she said. "If you wake up happy, feel good when you pop out of bed and have a positive outlook, every other part of your life is going to adjust and fall into that same pattern. It all lines up.

"Once you change your head, the rest sort of follows."