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lights, camera, anorexia

Fame, admiration, lust, constant smiles and a different designer dress every day. I must admit, the life of a fashion model sounds pretty good when put like this. But when you throw in the thermogenics, diuretics, appetite suppressants, amphetamines, and a few ‘grey market’ bodybuilding supplements, it’s starting to sound a little scary.

Let’s put it into perspective: The average American woman is 5’4” and weighs 140 pounds, and yet the average American model is 5’11’’ and weighs 117 pounds. Fashion models are thinner than 98% of American women and a large proportion of them are not healthy, physiologically unstable and are promoting clothing that 98% of us cannot fit in.

Skeletal bodies strutting down the catwalk are thankfully becoming a thing of the past though, and despite the progress being painfully slow, health may one day be the new ‘in’ thing.

Over the last few years, fashion has been changing; they are learning how to reject bad health, anorexia and the illegal substances lingering in the model’s change rooms.

The realisation that things were getting dangerous came back in 2006, when the death of anorexic Brazilian model, Ana Carolina Reston, sent shockwaves through the fashion industry. She died from an infection caused by anorexia nervosa, where sufferers have an abnormal fear of becoming obese, creating an aversion to food. This was the same year that fashion model Luisel Ramos, 22, died from heart failure after reportedly eating nothing but lettuce and diet drinks.

But they tell us it’s all better now.

The Melbourne Spring Fashion Week, along with many other fashion shows worldwide, are adopting rules saying models must be fed, rested, counselled about health and nutrition, and banned from working before their 16th birthday.

Italy’s fashion world now has a self-regulating code that fights against unhealthy models by requiring them to show medical proof they do not suffer from eating disorders and calls for a commitment to add larger sizes to fashion collections.
Their punishment for not following the code? Less favourable times for shows.

France has a law making it illegal to promote thin models in the media.

And Spain are trying something a little different, weighing models before shows and requiring a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 18 or higher for models to be able to perform in shows. BMI calculates a measure of body fat based on height and weight. If you are under 18.5, you are considered underweight, therefore Spain are trying to curb anorexic models in fashion by adopting this policy. However, the BMI does not take into account things as muscle tone, cannot be seen to be an entirely accurate measure of health, and it is said that this policy discriminates against naturally thin models.

Whilst I am happy they are curbing eating disorders and extreme malnutrition in the industry, I would rather fashion models from every scale of the BMI to parade the catwalks. I would rather these codes and laws be enforced by something greater than just an unpopular time slot. And I would rather the fashion industry to have a different definition of ‘thin’.

The fashion industry is almost exempt from being a good influence on society, and I’m tired of seeing emaciated fashion models representing women.

An average of 2.9 million viewers turned over to watch the premiere of America’s Next Top Model, 2010. I guess the catfights and bitchiness were hard to resist… But what about the bad influence on those 2.9 million viewers who see young, beautiful girls being told they’re ‘curvy’ when they’re only a size 10?

It almost feels like if you want to become a fashion model, you have to give up ever feeling good enough.

What do you think? Is the ‘too skinny’ and ‘too curvy’ epidemics ever going to end?

(Image Credit)

3 thoughts on “lights, camera, anorexia

  1. This clip ends up trailing off into pretty irrelevant banter, but Carolyn Murphy’s advice to models at the beginning of it to finish school has always stuck in my head -

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUPWdQNRk-I

    You mentioned the age requirement that is now slowly being imposed by some fashion weeks and I think this would go a long way in dissolving many of the problems in the modelling industry (of course, this is coming from someone who has zero experience with it so perhaps it wouldn’t work in practice).

    Now that my friends and I are starting to ‘get on a bit’ (ha), many of us are experiencing changes in our bodies. It’s rather terrifying at times, actually. Some of my friends are still incredibly slender, but many of them are finding that they now have to work out to sustain those body shapes, or otherwise having to reconcile that they simply can’t be the shape they were in high school. If very young girls are building careers on being skinny (even if they’re not resorting to drastic measures at this point), then of course these changes that come about once you’re even just a little bit older are going to be distressing. And it perpetuates the idea that so many girls in the world are this thin and alienates those of us who aren’t.

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t really have a problem with models being thin, it’s just unfortunate that this can’t be seen as a job like any other. We all have different skills and attributes that make us better suited to some jobs over others and the fact that your appearance either makes you well suited to being a model, or it doesn’t, doesn’t trouble me any more than someone who can spin a tale becoming a writer (I realise the analogy isn’t perfect, but hopefully it gets my point across). But it seems to me that if it was just seen as luck of the draw, then people’s own self-concept and body image wouldn’t be so affected by not looking like someone whose job it is to look a certain way. My main issue with it is that 14 year old girls shouldn’t be made to look older for advertising campaigns. If an advertiser needs someone who looks like a 25 year old, then get a genetically blessed 25 year old, rather than lathering make-up on a prepubescent.

  2. There are so many interesting facts in the above blog and response-

    I must agree with Dunja when she speaks about it being a job- it is a pity that alot of people cant categorised it in that way-

    My little sister who is now 18 is in the modelling industry- now growing up at her age I was 5ft 7 weighing around 60kilos- I never saw myself as fat but always knew it was never going to be my forte walking down a catwalk- now on the other hand my sister is 6ft3 and naturally slim- it was like she was born to be a model unlike myself and many others whom have talent and hope in other areas-

    Now in the Fashion world I think we have come accustomed to the portrait of anorexic under age models but I also think that in this day in age that a healthy body and a woman with curves is well promoted. Once upon a time a woman’s mag was full of all the super underweight girls in clothes that we could not even imagine on ourselves as they were all around a size 2- but today as much as the skinny models are out there its rare to get a mag where you dont find articles promoting healthy eating and a good size 12 body!

    I like the issue raised about girls being hired to look many years older then them selves and its something I have encouraged my sister against when she decided which contracts to sign too- at 14 and 15 we encouraged her not to take those bikini shoot shots even if they were for Billabong and to go for jobs that promoted who she was and not what make up could create her to be- now that she is 18 she is branching out into some more mature work but I was always glad never to see her looking 25 at 15!

    The reality I think is the modelling industry will always be filled up with very tall anorexic looking girls and woman who appear they may or may not eat but we need to view this as what it is – their career and not ours and we need to encourage any youth to love themselves for who they are and not what they are not- Men love woman with curves and it something you really do discover once your out of school and being the skinny hot girl is not the daily issue-

    My weight fluctuates from 52 kg up to 62kg and i admit when I get to the 58 kilo mark everyone tells me how great and healthy I look and how the ultra skinny look just isn’t that attractive!

  3. Pingback: anorexia older woman | Bulimia Therapy

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