Recently, I came across an video of former model Ali Michael being interviewed on The Today Show about not being cast for any shows for the Spring 2009 season due to the fact that she was, in her words, “too fat”.
*View in blog for video
Okay, I’ve mentioned in a previous post that my stance on fashion models in general is that their purpose is to be a moving mannequin for the designers. Since the designers are working on budgets and the clothes made on dress-forms (or mannequins) and not actual human beings, the clothes are sampled in a smaller size and are made to fit one body. When designers (and their teams) cast models for the show, they are looking for models who most closely resemble the shape of the dress-form (below) so that when the clothes are fitted before the show the alterations that become necessary are not drastic because all skinny girls essentially have the same body. By cutting down the time necessary for alterations, and by using smaller girls, the designers streamline their runway presentation while also saving money on expensive fabrics. It’s all business, and being a model is, above all else, a job.
dress form, sample size 0-2-4
Modeling, at face value, may seem like a very glamourous and easy job to do. You wear pretty clothes, get makeovers constantly, dance in front of a camera, and walk in a straight line. Piece of cake, right? WRONG.
Modeling takes tons of hard work. Models have to commit to their bodies keeping them up to the standards their job requires. Furthermore, they have to know how to nuance every muscle of your body to carry off various attitudes and looks while wearing clothes that are not always the most comfortable or easy to wear creations on the planet (i.e. the 12-inch-high monster heels below). This being the case, not every pretty girl can be a model.
Alexander McQueen S/S 2010
In the case of Ali Michaels, she should have stopped modeling as soon as she developed an eating disorder.
When it comes down to it, being a model is a very specialized job. In the way that only certain people have the ability to sing opera even though there are plenty of singers in the world, modeling is a career that can only be attained by a select few girls. These girls, like models Coco Rocha, Karlie Kloss, Kate Moss and Giselle Bündchen, have bodies that naturally happen to be both tall and skinny. Coco Rocha has been quoted as saying that she used to watch what she ate, but even though she “eat[s] a hamburger if [she] wants to eat a hamburger” and doing so has caused her to gain some weight, she still books runway shows and photo-shoots with big name magazines. Giselle even went through pregnancy and did a photoshoot shortly after and her body had snapped back to its previous glory.
For Ali Michaels, who was discovered at the age of 15 and became very in demand during her teenage years, the moment she began to feel adverse effects to being in the modeling world she should have quit. Instead, she, like many other models now complaining about the horrible things they felt they had to do to keep their jobs, was too vain to just move on.
Now, after being shut out of the industry, Ali Michael shouldn’t be calling for a change to the fashion world to allow fuller-figured models. Ali should be thanking the fashion world for not allowing a girl who, despite being popular a year or two ago, turned out to not be genetically able to perform on the level required to book jobs while still remaining healthy. Her exclusion from the runways kept her out of a world that turned out to be detrimental to her developmental health. It’s nothing personal and it doesn’t mean you are a cow or that you’re ugly. It just means that you can’t work in this industry anymore.
And at age 18 you still have Ali has entire life ahead of her. Not getting booked for one season is nothing to run to the news networks about. All that will get you is a flash-in-the-pan treatment and lead to media sensationalism further keeping the public ignorant as to the actual motives of the decisions of the fashion industry.
Things like “loosing weight to keep your job” turn into “pressure to be super skinny on the catwalk” and all of a sudden the fashion industry is “evil” for promoting anorexia and eating disorders when the truth is that designers are just trying to put on the best show they can.
This news piece is a pile of flaming trash ignited by the hurt feelings of a teenage girl. Ali won’t own up to that though. She instead blames her decision to put herself through eating disorders on the fact that she’s a “perfectionist” and that she was pressured by her agency to loose weight. The thing about that is that she said her agency told her to “tone up”, and the last time I checked “toning up” didn’t require loosing weight. Instead, “toning up”, as in exchanging weight in fat for weight in muscle, would actually make you gain weight.
Coco Rocha, Flare Magazine
The news piece referenced how the CFDA is regulating how skinny hired models are, but what it failed to also mention, and which I believe to be vastly more important, is the restrictions on age that CFDA is going to start enforcing. In a short while, girls won’t be able to enter the industry at ages 14 and 15, and by keeping out younger, more ignorant, more impressionable girls the CFDA is guarding against girls like Ali Michael. Girls who think that modeling is some sparkly pretty world where you get to do nothing and be beautiful all the time. Girls who then learn that modeling is a full-time, fast-paced, and unforgiving profession, but who would rather hurt themselves than give up being a mini-celebrity.
So girls, if you hit puberty early and shoot up to 5’9” or 5’11” by the time you’re 14, decide to model, and find that (as your body begins to fill out) you are not genetically gifted with the ability to remain “modelesque” without going so far as to loose your period for a year then WAKE UP. You not booking jobs is not your fault and it’s not the fault of the designers who are trying to keep down their costs while still putting on the best show possible. Yeah, you don’t get to wear the pretty dresses and have your picture taken all the time, but at least you aren’t on the verge of death.
Modeling is just not something you are able to do.
Get over yourself and go find something else to do.
Shane Dawson, a very popular Youtube star, decided to take to the mall with his friend to talk to people about how magazines (or, as the video shows, the entire clothing and advertising world in general) negatively affect the self-esteem of young girls. While I understand where these fine people are coming from, I can’t agree with the actions or opinions they are promoting.
First of all, Shane is walking around with Elle Magazine, a fashion magazine who’s sole purpose is to report on the collections of fashion designers while reinterpreting and analyzing the different collections to create different trends for the seasons (all in order to inspire people’s sense of style). The magazine is obligated to run photographs of the designers’ runway shows in order to promote the designer’s vision for the look that goes down the runway (the look including the model, her hair and make up, as well as the clothes and any accessories).
The picture Shane and his friend keep showing people is of a model from Marc Jacobs’ Spring collection, and they make comments about how the model MUST be “anorexic” or “bulimic” and how “impossible” it is to obtain her look. The thing that Shane and his friend fail to understand is that for a FASHION MODEL it is her job to fit into the designer’s clothes. Clothes made out of fabric that costs a great deal of money to buy, and (basically) if a girl takes up more space, her clothes will cost more to make. And if her clothes, and all the other model’s clothes, end up costing more, then that drives up the cost of creating and presenting a collection (which is most likely financed by the designer in the hopes that his/her line will be picked up by a store and allow them to make back the money they spent putting the collection together).
For the high-end designers (like Marc Jacobs), who have financial backers that allow them to be free from most of the worries of having money shortages, the whole ordeal of a fashion show becomes more focused on the theatricality of the world the designer creates for his collection. The choice to use skinny girls is made in order to focus as much attention as possible on the clothes and the craftsmanship involved. Since the bodies of skinny girls are less curvy and (sorry) don’t ‘jiggle’ when they walk down the runway, this goal is achieved. Also, different girls gain weight differently, since a designer cannot custom make each and every garment to suit the type of weight gain for each and every girl he casts, his job is then made easier and simpler by hiring girls whose bodies all have the same shape as the dress-form/mannequin he constructed his clothes on.
The public should view a fashion show (and its coverage in a magazine) as a moving presentation of clothes on mannequins from a department store display. It’s about the designer’s vision, not about hurting or boosting the self esteem of girls.
That being said, I believe that if Shane and his friend were to truly have achieved their goal they should have taken around a tabloid and talked to people about what is being said in those types of magazines. Tabloids follow celebrities, and young girls most often look up to celebrities, not fashion models. Also, tabloids broadcast about the bodies of celebrities constantly, praising the skinny and muscular and defaming any celebrity that may be considered mildly pudgy. It’s gotten to the point that tabloids are making up ways to call people fat just out of thin air and completely without validation (read this)
THOSE are the magazines hurting the self esteem of little girls.
Think about it. What kind of magazine do little girls see when they are checking out of Wal-mart with their mom? Yeah, there are fashion magazines there, but the fashion magazines don’t print “WORST BEACH BODIES” in bright yellow, all-caps letters across a picture of Tyra Banks (who we all know is considered skinny even if she does have a butt). These pictures and the judgement that goes with them from the TABLOIDS are instantaneously affecting how girls view themselves. To girls, the tabloids say: “If you look like THIS, then you are gross”. THAT is what Shane should have been showing people.
In summation, it is the job of the fashion world to display and promote the artistic and creative visions of the designers in such a way as to inspire art and style. The fashion world does NOT present itself as a representation of what a girl SHOULD look like, but instead depicts the work and essence of the designer’s collection in as focused a way as possible. TABLOIDS, on the other hand, are judgmental and unrealistic in their expectations of the bodies of celebrities and are, in turn, the main cause of the negative self-esteem of young girls (as far as magazine publications are considered).
Honestly, it should be the job of the parent to talk to their children, starting from a young age, about the difference between what is unattainable, what is unrealistic, and what is to be ignored.
Shane Dawson should not go about promoting disgust for fashion magazines (and thereby the work of millions of people around the world), but instead should have focused his argument more. Also, I believe his friend should re-evaluate what she says before she goes around accusing people more petite than her of being ‘anorexic’ and ‘bulimic’. This is a two-way road, and I’m sure she offended every naturally skinny girl who just so happened to be subscribed to Shane’s channel when this video went up.
Upon further research, she might have found that the modeling world is changing as each season goes by. More and more girls are being hired that are fuller-bodied, and designers have begun to depart from using girls who are obviously anorexic. Some designers, and even some magazines, are beginning to feature full-figured girls as well as the girls who are naturally skinny.
In short, the fashion world is not to blame, and this girl needs to redefine what she is attacking before broadcasting a shoddily constructed argument on the internet.
PS: I find it rather biased that Shane and his friend chose only to interview people who were obviously not as ‘good looking’ or as ‘skinny’ as the model in the picture. I wonder if they even interviewed anyone that would be considered ‘model perfect’. Maybe they did and they didn’t get the answer they wanted. Maybe then that shows that it’s only ugly and unsatisfied people who are in dissension against ‘perfect people’. Too bad they don’t realize that nothing and no one can make you feel ugly and any negative feelings you may have are your own fault.
Accept and love yourself for who you are and what you look like. And if you want to change something about you, then make the change for yourself, not to prescribe to an unattainable ideal. This is the message parents should be sending their children, not to hate an entire industry for doing its job.