By Natasha Leduc
It’s definitely not news that the modelling industry sets ridiculous and unhealthy standards for women, but few people inside the industry talk about this openly. It’s true that after models started dying from anorexia, some parts of the industry set weight minimums on the women they would hire, but not all countries and agencies have taken up this new rule. Anyone can open a magazine and find the editorial photo shoot featuring models with stick-thin legs, but the blame isn’t on those girls. Many have been working towards their modelling goals for most of their lives; the idea of being as small as possible is just a necessity. It’s how they get work.
I started modelling when I was 16, in the hope that it would get me to come out of my shell. I can’t say it didn’t accomplish that, but there was a price. Throughout high school, I was wrongly accused of being anorexic on multiple occasions, so I thought I must be thin enough to fit in with these other models. A lot of people talk about models’ waist sizes, but to me, the most obvious giveaway that someone was forcing themselves to be thinner than they should be was their legs. I saw girls who had been in the business much longer than me with bones almost visible through their skin. It was heartbreaking.
The worst part was that it was all normal and accepted - even expected - in that world. I couldn’t count the number of times we were told about an upcoming casting call and warned that the designer would be brutally honest about whether or not we needed to lose 10 pounds. I remember looking around the room and thinking none of the girls around me should lose any weight, but everyone accepted the idea that we might be told we weren't skinny enough. Most of us were teenagers, a time in our lives when we shouldn't have been worrying about how our natural weight changes might affect our career.
Of course, agents don’t care about their girls being too skinny until it affects their ability to work. It’s bad for business if a girl in the middle of a photo shoot is so weak she faints on set. The agents are concerned with molding their talents into what designers are looking for. That’s why I think the blame rests with the designers: they’re the starting point in this destructive mentality. It’s hard to explain what needing two assistants to help you pry off a pair of jeans in the middle of a runway show will do to your self-esteem.
The most memorable experience I have with this issue was when my workshop group was introduced to a model in the company who had been on a designer’s reality TV competition. She was the model for a man known to make ridiculously small clothing, and the model always needs to fit the clothes, not the other way around. No one ever said he was wrong, they just found this model to be his mannequin. As she spoke to us, I couldn't help my thoughts from drifting to how sickly she looked. All I could see was a young woman who looked like she would break if you hugged her. If that’s not a sign that there’s a problem, I don’t know what is.