In light of the recent Ashley Judd article regarding body image, I thought it would be interesting to write about body image as it relates to the modeling industry and how it has affected the lives of young girls and how they perceive themselves because of it. Growing up in a country where being thin was considered the norm and anything more was subject to criticism, I would not realize the impact of this perception until I had a daughter myself.
Weight gain doesn’t matter to a lot of people, but in the modeling industry, it is the determining factor of being hired or fired from a job. In this country, so much emphasis is placed on how much one weighs or how much one should lose in order to be eligible for this profession. The modeling industry is just one business that has strict conditions as it relates to weight.
Body image was something that affected me as a teen even though I was thin growing up. For someone who grew up exposed to magazines and billboards touting images of very thin models, it wouldn’t occur to me how those images would affect how I saw myself in comparison to them. While I was not overweight, I was not 5’7″ nor Caucasian and while it never bothered me that I didn’t look like them, their images still affected the way I saw myself. As a teen, I couldnt relate to the models who always looked perfect because I was short and Asian. While I was thin, I didn’t feel like that was enough to be thought of as acceptable, especially when I wanted to be one of the “popular girls”.
Fast forward to 2012 and the images for models have not changed very much. Women in the modeling profession are still projected as ultra-skinny and is thought of as normal, with no room to feel like that should not be the norm. Girls who want to be in the modeling industry are deliberately starving themselves to potentially have the right look that agencies might want to get hired. A recent case of Danielle Segal, a model who was hospitalized twice for malnutrition after being turned turned down for a job became a catalyst for a new law that is being implemented in Israel.
This new law in Israel requires models to submit medical proof of their weight before they are hired. The proof has to indicate that a model’s BMI must be no lower than 18.5 in order to be hired. In addition, any ad published for the Israeli market must provide written proof whether their photos have been photoshopped to make them appear thinner. What a concept!
It is hoped that passing this law will relieve undue pressure for models to starve themselves in an effort to be hired.This groundbreaking law has spread to Spain and Italy, requiring models to have a BMI of no less than 18.5 (Milan) or 18 (Madrid). While there are criticisms that the legislation is focused on weight instead of health, it’s still a step in the right direction.
As a mother of a teenage girl who happens to be thin, I am in favor of this legislation. I do worry that the images she is bombarded with by the media are influencing the way she sees herself, but in Shaina’s case, part of the reason she’s thin is her intolerance to certain foods, especially dairy products. She chooses to eat healthy meals and snacks because her body can’t process dairy products and processed foods. While she loves looking at fashion magazines, it’s the clothes and accessories that attract her, not the models themselves. While she has expressed an interest in pursuing modeling in the future, it is only an idea for now. I’m hoping that by the time Shaina does decide to go into this business, the legislation in Israel will be applicable here and girls don’t have to starve themselves to get the job or believe that being ultra thin is the only way to be accepted by society. That’s my take on this, what’s yours?
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