A Curvier Trend

Recently, a small phenomenon has hit the world of fashion. One by one, fashion designers and magazine editors have taken note of the outcry of the public and have started paying attention to larger models. Just last year designer Mark Fast sent size 14 models down the runway at his catwalk show. He has since clinched a deal with Topshop. Newly engaged model-of-the-moment Lara Stone has hit the headlines many a time for being “the fat one” at a healthy size 8. When Madrid Fashion Week decided to weigh all girls before shows and ban any with a BMI of below 18 from walking down the catwalk, society rejoiced in appreciation of the fact that the skinny model obsession, which markedly cost the lives of Uruguayan sisters Eliana and Luisel Ramos, was finally being recognised. And Alexandra Shulman, editor of Vogue UK sent a letter to designers accusing them of forcing magazines to hire models with “jutting bones and no breasts or hips” due to “minuscule” garments provided for use in photo shoots. She even added that Vogue now frequently retouches pictures to make models look bigger. The letter was not intended for the public domain, but The Times squeezed a look at it and the story reverberated around the world.

But these few examples are not yet widespread across the fashion world. When Lizzie Miller bore all for US Glamour, stating that she was considered too big to be a plus-size model, despite being 5ft 11ins and 12½ stone, there was outrage. She has since been booked for many jobs, as readers spoke out against the prejudices of even the plus-size side to modelling. To further back up the situation, American model Crystal Renn made headlines with her book “Hungry”, detailing how her struggles with eating disorders coincided with her career success, showing that a super skinny model will always get more bookings that a larger girl. V Magazine in America has also recently featured four plus-size models in a designer spread to raise awareness of the issue.

However, these recent positive steps do have their counterparts. In 2009, Ralph Lauren airbrushed a model to the point that her head was bigger than her waist. The original plus-size supermodel, newlywed Sophie Dahl famously lost all of her extra weight to become the slim icon she is now, and Lara Stone has stated that she is “fed up” with being “the fat one” and has made a new year’s resolution to tone up. And with super slim icon Kate Moss stating “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, it seems that we still have a long way to go before society can change. Moss’ throwaway comment was snatched up by pro-anorexia websites as an excuse not to eat. Yet, whilst it may be unfair to blame the supermodel entirely for this, it simply goes to show that the war against skinny rages on.

Supermodelling: The Dream Job?

“What I wouldn’t give to be a supermodel!” How many of us have thought that in our lifetimes? Some are still chasing the dream, with thoughts of Tyra Banks screaming “You’re fierce!” in their faces and being catapulted to stardom, stomping the couture runways in Paris and filling every billboard from here to Japan with their faces on the latest campaigns. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?

Well, unfortunately, that isn’t really the reality of the lives of most of the models you see on the runways. Streams of plain nameless faces who may look fabulous in the clothes, but whose ability to keep a serious, moody look may just be easier for them than we think. I am not saying that travelling the world and experiencing the wonders of the fashion world isn’t something that they are lucky to have, but for many there are many harsh realities that they have to face, particularly on the way up. Many start very young and have to travel alone to the other side of the world, staying in cheap hotels and getting lost in big unknown cities where they don’t speak the language. They work long hours and have immense pressure on them to stay fresh and healthy and slim. Many crack under this pressure. I don’t usually write about things so serious on this blog, but this is something that I feel strongly about.
Uruguayan sisters and supermodels, Luisel and Eliana Ramos (above) both died within a year of each other of conditions linked to anorexia. Luisel, 22, had heart failure when her body couldn’t take any more strain that she had put it under through starvation. Eliana passed away a few months later of malnutrition. She was just 18. Their family blamed the pressures of an industry that survives on looks. Imagine being rejected day in day out by people, solely because of how you look. If you aren’t right for a campaign, you won’t get it. After a while, you begin to take it personally. How can you not?

Perhaps even more shocking is the story of 20yr old Ruslana Korshunova (pictured), who threw herself off of the top of her swanky New York apartment block last June, as she could no longer deal with her lifestyle. She shocked friends and family who thought that she was living the dream in The Big Apple, modelling for huge campaigns such as DKNY and gracing the covers of major magazine, including French and Russian Vogue. She was highly successful, yet had a secret. Ruslana must have felt trapped in her life. She was undoubtedly tired and lonely. And nobody noticed. She wasn’t the first and she won’t be the last. This is why I believe that it is so important that agencies support the girls that they manage, so that the self-esteem of these young models is kept high. It’s a difficult business. Even when successful and earning lots, their lives become very busy. Many cope and even flourish, but others do not and they are the ones that need looking after.

This is why I think that the publication of a supermodel self-help guide is a step in the right direction. A Model for Living: The Aspiring Supermodel’s Self-Help Guide by Julian Short is being backed by huge industry names including the founders of big modelling agencies, such as Storm and Premier. The book helps girls build self-esteem and learn how to deal with being away from home and friends and family, as well as coping with rejection and lots of travelling. It’s a small thing, but hopefully part of a bigger scheme and could prove invaluable to girls who may be on the road to feeling how Luisel, Eliana and Ruslana felt and they need to be reached out to before it’s too late.
photo credits: supermodel.nl, thecelebritycondition.com