Curing the Catwalk

The industry-wide move toward healthier models.

With celebrities such as Mary-Kate Olsen and Nicole Ritchie more famous for their eating disorders than their careers, it is no wonder that today’s vision of the perfect body has become so tragically skewed. Gone are the days of the 1950s and 1960s when Marilyn Monroe’s size 14 curves were the epitome of beauty. In a society deemed as increasingly obese, why is it that those in the spotlight are facing the threat of fading away to nothing?
The debate over celebrity and eating disorders first began with the death of singer Karen Carpenter in 1983. Before Carpenter’s case, the disorder was not known, let alone discussed in the media. After suffering from anorexia nervosa
for almost 10 years, Carpenter was found dead in her parents’ home as a result of complications due to recovery from the disease.

Throughout the 80s and 90s nothing was more chic in the realm of fashion and couture than the ultra thin model; waif-like silhouettes commanded fashion spreads and advertisements. One could argue that these models were merely
products of their generation, falling victim to the endless cycles of runways and couture fittings. On the other hand, individuals claim that models should be aware of the profession’s physical requirements before taking their first headshots.
Recently, the skinny model debate has heated up as a result of the deaths of Uruguayan fashion model Luisel Ramos, on August 2, 2006, and Brazilian fashion model Ana Carolina Reston on November 15, 2006. Ramos, 22 when she
died, had reportedly adopted a diet consisting of lettuce leaves and diet coke. Her cause of death was heart failure caused by anorexia nervosa. She was 90 lbs and a height of 5’9” when she
passed away.
The trouble for Reston, who was 21 when she died, began in January 2004 when she was told she was too fat at a casting call in Guangzhou, a city in China. From there, the Brazilian beauty fell into the downward spiral of anorexia nervosa that would lead to her death. When Reston was laid to rest she was an astonishing 88 lbs. at a height of 5’ 8”.

Until the deaths of Ramos and Reston, the fashion industry had turned a blind eye to the models’ methods of staying thin. They are now ignoring the issue no longer. Designers who originally may have been at fault are now taking a stand against the skinny model and I, for one, feel that it is about time. It is time for the women of the runways to, for once, mimic the women of the world. There are very few women who are born to be a size 00 and it is only now in the new
millennium that designers and couture companies are beginning to take a stand. The truth in beauty and shape is out there and these designers are armed and ready to find it.
Ultra thin models were banned at shows during the 2006 Madrid Fashion Week and all models were subject to a medical exam prior to going down the runway. If these models had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 18 they were
banned from the show. Italian fashion designers followed suit in December of 2006 when they prohibited size zero models from their catwalks. One American designer taking a stand is Bradley Bayou. Featured in the April 7, 2008
issue of US Weekly, he has seen the errors of the fashion industry’s ways and is now vowing to make a difference.
“What [the ultra thin models] are saying is that if you want to be fashionable you have to be anorexic,” he told US Weekly. “Why would you want to look like a skeleton? It’s ridiculous!”

Bayou’s anger at the ultra thin look stems from his daughter’s six-year battle with bulimia, a fate so many young women throw themselves into as a solution to deal with their weight. His efforts for a healthier runway have not gone
unnoticed as he pushes his peers to follow the lead of their Italian and Spanish other halves. He advocates for mandatory medical checks for all models and hopes to one day stray the world from their size 0 vision of beauty. Hopefully, with the influences of designers like Bayou, the ultra thin model will be a thing of the past leaving those of us with curves to be desired in the eyes of mainstream media. Is the skinny model really off of the runway? Only time and an effort to alter the perceptions of the industry will tell.

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