A model in the fashion industry appears to have one of the most glamorous professions in the world. They are rich, beautiful, and have some of the most exclusive merchandise at their fingertips. However, these perceptions are part of the reason why the dark underside of modeling and the personal struggles of the day-to-day lives of models are often overlooked.
Eating disorders and drug addiction are some of the most prominent issues facing models today. They are completely immersed in an industry that creates an ever increasing pressure to lose more weight, a society where “you look healthy” is not a compliment. Many professionals suffer from anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders that stem from inferiority complexes due to the competitiveness of the industry and the insecurity that instability causes. Model Kim Noorda has herself struggled with disordered eating and written about her issues with body image white continuing to be treated for it.
Noorda was identified as a candidate for treatment by her agent due to the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) Health Initiative. This pervasive program, started in 2007, works to promote awareness and support in the industry for the young models in it. They partner with the industry and health professionals to create a safety net and an environment of acceptance, as well as guidelines for the hiring of models and the hours they can work. For instance, models under 18 cannot work past midnight, and those under 16 cannot work runway shows.
This is an effective first step towards the treatment of these issues, but true eradication can only be achieved when the industry works toward prevention. The designers and agents need to develop a healthier standard and expectation of beauty for their models. When models are getting fewer shows and jobs when they gain a couple of pounds, the problem is just compounded. This modeling culture needs to be slowly over-hauled.
Many other countries have their own regulations for the health of models, and all the countries could to learn from each other and create more well-rounded and effective prevention techniques. Madrid was the first in the world to issue a ban on models who are too thin in 2006. Model who have a BMI under 18, the bottom of the range for normal weight, are not allowed to participate in Madrid’s Fashion Week shows. Milan took similar action and Israel took the initiative a step further when it banned models with an underweight BMI from catwalk shows, photo shoots, and advertising campaigns in 2013.
With these restrictions, models will be encouraged to maintain a healthy weight and not feel pressured to lose more which could lead to personal consequences. If the US can combine these precautionary measures with the support and treatment program that they have already put in place, models can finally attain a health work environment.
Anubhuti Kumar is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.