Underweight Models Spark Further Criticism

(Published In Rebelicious Magazine June/July 2012)

As criticism over the use of underweight models hits the press yet again, Thomas Mitchell talks to model Alice La Vie to find out what’s really going on.

Many young women today are concerned with their weight and turn to the media as a means of deciding what looks ‘good’

Findings released by the London School of Economics found that 90 per cent of people with eating disorders are women, suggesting that the media is partly blamed for these latest figures.

Eating disorders are not always based on slim models in the public eye. They can also root from family issues, a bad relationship or being bullied. I don’t think it is fair that there is an idea that slim models should be blamed,” La Vie says.

The study of more than 3,000 young women in the UK and the rest of Europe backs up previous claims that the media plays an important role in influencing people’s opinions and choices, with young woman desperately attempting to gain the perfect womanly figure.

“When I see a model that I think looks beautiful and has a perfect figure I tend to get inspired by them and just accept that they look amazing and that is why they are on the TV or in a magazine. Not every model should look the same but I understand why slim models sell products well and that is why they are used so often, especially within fashion and beauty.”

Released last month, the study also suggests that young women feel social and cultural environments hugely influence the way they look, suggesting that the media has created certain ideals which young woman are constantly reminded of.

If someone is feeling down or wants to lose weight, then they will see women in magazines and on the TV in a different light to someone who is comfortable and content with who they are. Whilst some people feel like models are too skinny, there are benefits to using them. If there is a healthy eating advert the model is usually an average size, with a good figure, and looks healthy. This could be something to aim for and an inspiration to women who are not happy with their bodies.”

Figures released by Natural Health Magazine found that around 44 per cent of their readers who are average or underweight thought they were overweight. Whilst the average women’s dress size in the UK is a 16, compared to a size six found on a clothing mannequin.

Last month, High Street store H&M came under fire after using a ‘corpse-like’ model to promote the clothing giant’s MARNI collection.

The 26-year-old model triggered a series of negative reactions amongst British fashion editors and parents, after she was seen pictured with pale skin, hollow cheeks and dark eyes.

The reason fashion models are all relatively the same size and a certain look, is because of the designer’s preference to how they want to show off their products. They are all the same size to make it easier for the designers to design the clothes over various promotional platforms, and some models can suit particular jobs better than others.

A model used in an Iceland advert compared to a model for a Topshop advert is going to look completely different. Companies hire models for specific reasons, not just because they are slim. There are so many reasons behind who they hire for each job,” she adds.

More recently fashion magazine Vogue promised to remove underage and underweight models from the catwalk and their pages, after persistent criticism forced editors to project the image of healthy models.

The models in Vogue are high fashion models, so are going to all be roughly the same size. It is very rare that I see a model in Vogue and feel shocked at how slim they are, but it really doesn’t seem to bother me unless they are shockingly underweight.

I was watching a catwalk on TV last month and all of the models looked the same sort of size but they all looked healthy, toned and did not look underweight apart from one model which shocked me, as she clearly was. I don’t think it is as common to see underweight models these days as there has been a lot of press about the subject. I believe that there is a TV advert and a magazine advert suited for all sorts of shaped women, not just slim models.”

A recent survey carried out by a British magazine found that 79 per cent of the 200 women surveyed believe that their social lives would improve if they were slimmer, whilst 86 per cent feel the need to look ‘perfect’.

Furthermore, the shocking figures also found that 70 per cent of young women believe overweight people are seen as being less intelligent and attractive, whilst 60 per cent say their appearance is their biggest concern in life.

This research comes just weeks after Israel became the first country to introduce a new law on underweight models. The law, passed by the Israeli government, sees the banning of skinny models in advertising and catwalks.

The move now requires models to provide medical proof of their weight and for adverts to say if it has been modified to make a model appear slimmer.

In 2007, The British Fashion Council recommended that models should provide health certificates from doctors to show that they do not have eating disorders. However the idea was never introduced in the UK. 

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