Dying to Walk Fashion Week Catwalks


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 18:03 PM EDT, 7 September 2012

Skeletal ModelNEW YORK CITY, New York - Once again attention is being focused on professional models and their struggles with body dysmorphia, bulimia, and anorexia. To be fair the initial push for models to strive to become ever thinner was driven by an industry that desired to use them in the truest sense as mannequins versus actual human beings.

The women in the modeling industry are no longer emblematic of anything that most American women, indeed most women globally, could hope or want to achieve. The industry has strayed so far from functional fashion as to inhabit the milieu of performance art. The complicit victims of this macabre dance are the girls and women who model in a fiercely competitive industry which demands that they achieve a size “0” in order to grace the runways of the fashions centers of the world.

Unfortunately, the diet methods used by women who are 5’8” to 6’0” ft. (176 cm to 183 cm) tall is appalling and extreme by any measure. Diet regimes include excessive use of laxatives; self-induced vomiting (bulimia), extreme caloric restrictive diets including those that eliminate all forms of carbohydrates which sometimes leads to (anorexia), and using medication prescribed for ADD/ADHD because it is an amphetamine that also suppresses the appetite.

Then, there are some who try more drastic measures such as consuming illegal street drugs such as speed and cocaine, and more recently hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone found in the urine of pregnant women. This product has not been approved by the FDA which has issued warning to manufacturers against its sale and use.

There have been a number of high-profile deaths over the years. In 2006, Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston, 21, died of anorexia on the eve of a Paris photo shoot after existing on a diet of apples and tomatoes.’ (Source: Daily Mail UK).  In 2007 ‘Uruguanian model Luisel Ramos, 20, died of complications from anorexia. ‘Her sister Eliana Ramos, 18, also an anorexic model, died three months later from malnutrition.

All three had a  Body Mass Index (BMI) under 18, which is severely underweight, though this has been set by the industry as a minimum threshold. The World Health Organization considers a BMI of 16 to be starvation. Most recently, British model Bethany Wallace, 19, suffered heart failure in May 2012 after succumbing to anorexia and bulimia. (Source: The Sun UK)

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Published: 7 September 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

In an effort toward self-governance and to manage public relations, the industry established guidelines to ensure that models stay healthy during Fashion Week. This includes “models showing ID on the day of show to affirm they are at least 16 years old, supplying healthy meals and snacks backstage, educating the industry to identify the early warning signs in an individual at risk of developing an eating disorder, and encouraging models who may have an eating disorder to seek professional help while prohibiting any model from continuing in the profession without first being approved by a medical professional.” (Source: Fox News)

However, these guidelines are not enforced as designers strive to achieve the ultimate presentation of their designs at unimaginable cost to the models. Once someone develops an eating disorder and is body dysmorphic, the only way to treat the condition is with serious psychological intervention that includes overseeing food intake and supplements. This is definitely not occurring or enforced despite the fact that the girls present healthy meals and snacks to gain admittance.

And unfortunately in the case of the deaths of the models above, the designers callously absolved themselves of any culpability by claiming that the women had preexisting eating disorders. However, there are some signs in the industry that designers who target their clothing to average women are attracting models that have been scouted because they are healthy and more representative of the population.

It remains to be seen how long it will take for the industry to reverse this unhealthy trend, but it can only occur if there is a concerted effort by the female models to reassert their power and desire to control their bodies and their health. Let’s hope that no more models or the young girls who aspire to look like them die before this is achieved.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias