Back in 2002, at the peak of my brief and ill-advised foray into the World of straight-size modeling, I was called into my agent’s office one morning and asked in solemn tones if I had an eating disorder. ‘Of course not’, I lied (fairly transparently). After all, I was a size 10 at that particular moment in time, which is monsterously fat by model standards and I didn’t want my agent to think I couldn’t hack the weight-loss pace.
‘Good’, she replied. And that was that. What I didn’t know was that around that time, the media, gawd bless ‘em, were putting increasingly aggressive pressure on the fashion industry to ensure that models who were known to have eating disorders were not paraded on the catwalk. The problem was, and continues to be, that no one is sure a) how an eating disorder is detected and b) how this rule should be enforced (and by whom). The concept has its heart firmly in the right place, but, much like communism, it doesn’t work in practice.
Eating disorders are, by their very nature, secret. Despite all the speculation in celebrity glossies about who might or might not have one, no one really knows for sure. I know one might find this difficult to believe, but it is entirely possible that your favourite fashion model does NOT have anorexia. What IS, however, empirically evident is the fact that uber-skinny celebrities are being used as ‘thinspiration’ and, however unwittingly, encourage unhealthy behaviours in the people who idolize them.
I have therefore reached the conclusion that perceived health is what must be enforced.
‘Perceived Health’ can be summarized thusly: If you look anorexic, you cannot be a model. This might seem unjust – You might find yourself feeling sympathetic towards all those people who might naturally exhibit protruding bones and a gaunt physique. Well, to the less than 1% of the population for whom that organically applies I am afraid I have to say what the fashion industry has been saying to anyone over a size 6 for years: Tough. Find another profession.
The firm line I have taken on this issue was further reinforced today when I saw shocking pictures of Rosie Huntingdon-Whitely, ribcage on display for all to see, in a news feature alongside a description of her as “one of the World’s most beautiful women”.
Plus size super model Crystal Renn makes an interesting observation in her book ‘Hungry’ – She says that when Kate Moss debuted in the fashion sphere in the 1990s, she set a new standard for skinniness - standard which went on to be perpetually exceeded. I happened upon the pictures of one of Kate's first shoots with Calvin Klein just the other day and contemplated how true Crystal's statement was. Compared with Rosie’s latest pictures, Kate looks positively Rubenesque.
It's little wonder, then, that society’s perception of beauty is woefully skewed and we must crucially devote time and energy to setting a new, visibly healthier standard. Deciding the criteria for this standard will be time consuming, difficult and expensive, but it will save lives.