Models should be tall and skinny

By Amber James |

She was tall and blonde with long legs, a great chest and flawless skin. I watched as she strutted her way from our line in front of the scouts. They too were watching her like a hawk. Some scribbled down notes, others concentrated on her steps.

It was ‘us’ against ‘them.’ We all loved to hate them. They were too uppity, too northern, too trendy, too gay. But we all wanted to be part of their world– the modeling world.

To this day, I still remember the blonde. She was such a sweetheart and spent a lot of money to be told she was too “fat.” Finally she signed with an agency in Miami, after shedding some weight and spending some more money.

In high school, I did a little bit of bit of modeling. It was mostly local shoots for local photographers. I’ve been on the cover of a magazine, in a Seventeen magazine ad and countless of stock photos. There’s probably still poloroids of my profile floating around at some agency in New York City.

In my limited experience modeling, I was exposed to a lot. Many of the girls who showed up to castings were told to lose weight. At 5-foot-7 and 110 pounds, it  seemed like I was in the clear. But my advisor always told me to tell the scouts I had a size eight shoe, as to appear that I was still going to grow inch or two. I might have been slender, but I was still considered short.

Fashion is a strange world. It is a fantasy. Runway clothes are avant-garde, not wearable. And the models fit the same mold. They’re not a realistic depiction; they are an ideal, a fantasy.

The average American woman is 5-foot-4 and 164.7 pounds, according to the Center for Disease Control. The average model is 5-foot-11 and 117 pounds.

Designers want a walking coat hanger. And I don’t disagree. It is a model’s job to maintain her body. She is hired based on her appearance. No one wants to see a pudgy stomach sticking out of this season’s mint green cardigan or a muffin top spilling over what is supposed to be tailored high-waisted trousers.

80 percent of fourth grade girls have been on a fad diet, according to the Social Issues Research Center. Many people think that fashion advertisements and models have contributed to this obsession with weight loss.

But models are supposed to be thin, long and lanky. They are part of a designer’s art. So I wish people would cut the crap and stop blaming the media for making young girls have eating disorders. No one is making anyone starve themselves.

Instead, there needs to be programs put in place to encourage young women to love their bodies and understand that the ladies in magazines aren’t the real deal.

Children should be educated on photoshop and airbrushing. They should also be taught to stay away from processed foods and stick to the perimeters of the grocery store instead of going on crash diets. With healthy eating, the body shrinks to its natural frame, which is a beauty in itself.

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last thirty years, according to the CDC. I think this has a bigger effect on health and body image than fashion.

I am a big fan of Dove’s campaign for real beauty. In a viral video, they show a model’s transformation from a normal girl to a professionally made up, photoshopped vision.

Although I was aware of the powers photoshop and airbrushing, they literally changed the model’s neck length and bone structure. She wasn’t even the same person after the makeover.

And this year the Council of Fashion Designers of America has set up health initiative guidelines to help raise awareness of eating disorders among young women.

I have to applaud the CFDA for their efforts to combat eating disorders in the fashion world.

It’s courageous for the Council to take on this trend of unhealthy tactics head on, instead of ushering it under the rug and trying to hide any bad publicity.

And even though deterring bad publicity is probably one of the CFDA’s main concerns, it seems like they really do care about women and sending the right message through the creative and powerful medium of fashion.

“We each have the power to impact the lives of women. Together, we can let the world know that diversity and Health Is Beauty are what we stand for,” Diane von Furstenberg and Steven Kolb wrote in a letter on the CFDA’s website.

Models now have to be 16 or older to walk the runway. Providing healthy snacks and a smoke free environment during shoots and fittings are other objectives. They are also working on developing workshops on eating disorders and having models seek professional help if they have an eating disorder.

By helping women love their bodies, teaching them about advertising tactics and by transforming the way they eat, future generations will be educated enough to understand the dynamics of shape, instead of just pointing a finger at a blatant fantasy world.

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