Recently, the Advertising Standards Authority of Britain banned a Gucci ad that’s said to have featured a model looking “unhealthily thin”, who, in all probability, was suffering from anorexia. And this was not the first
When the famous Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston died in 2006 due to anorexia, it created a buzz in the modelling industry. Carolina had become the face of the fashion world’s obsession with thin models. Later, Isabelle Caro, a 28-year-old French anorexic model and actor, also publicly warned against anorexia through her popular photo campaign where she was seen posing in the nude. She died in 2010 in France, after spending about two weeks in the hospital suffering from acute respiratory problems.
Anorexia nervosa, or simply anorexia, is a serious eating disorder often associated with malnutrition with an unwarranted fear of being overweight. It is also characterised by distorted body image where the person desires to be thin and goes on a self-imposed starvation.
The craze in the modelling industry to have the best body and the best looks, is only ever-increasing. Most young models do not get enough time to cope with the demands set by the industry. The run for the ideal body weight and size force these models to undertake rigorous workouts, and in cases of no-results, self starvation becomes the only resort. This is not the case only with female models, many cases of male models suffering from anorexia too have been reported in the past.
For many, anorexia is not a disease. There are those who can hardly differentiate between being skinny and being anorexic. According to the Norwich-based Eating Disorders Association survey, between one and two per cent of young adult women worldwide suffer from the eating disorder and mostly between 15-25 years old. This disease is said to have killed somewhere around 13 and 20 per cent of its victims.
The professional demand is one of the factors behind this growing disease among young models. But when it comes to India, we have the fine example of well-known model, Carol Gracias, who had made headlines for walking the runway with her baby bump for Gaurang Shah’s fashion show.
When the famous Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston died in 2006 due to anorexia, it created a buzz in the modelling industry. Carolina had become the face of the fashion world’s obsession with thin models. Later, Isabelle Caro, a 28-year-old French anorexic model and actor, also publicly warned against anorexia through her popular photo campaign.
Indian models do not face such pressures, as was told to Guardian 20, by some from the industry. Alesia Raut, a famous Indian fashion model, who has been in the industry for fifteen years says, “In India, we as models really don’t face such problems like anorexia. Even curves are encouraged here. In this profession, you need to have the perfect body but it does not mean one has to be unhealthily thin. Too much of skin show is not entertained here, hence not the obsession with being skinny. There are, of course, definite requirements, like one’s body should measure between 8-10. Below this, is not really encouraged. And there is no such thing as size zero.”
“Also, workouts and going to the gym regularly can help toning the body. Not self starvation. There will not be overnight changes but one needs to keep patience for preferred results. And personally, I feel designers should also encourage models to take the right path towards getting the right size,” Raut adds.
Another Nigerian model, Ugochi Igwilo, who has been walking Indian fashion runways says, “I really do not support anorexic bodies and there should be strict campaigns and awareness about this disease. There is a vast difference between being skinny and being unhealthily thin. A skinny body can be thin but healthy. When it comes to modelling, there are runway models and commercial models. Runway models require definite body size and it depends on which type of model you are. What is important is, do not starve your body in your attempt to become thin.”
“I think social media, fitness and health care sectors should take the responsibility of educating aspiring models,” Igwilo adds.
A fresher in the modelling industry, Aishwarya Sushmita says, “There is a pressure to get a definite body type. Fashion is a garment show. So, for this, you need to look beautiful and attractive. But you need to be fit and being fit should be the motive. Super skinny is in demand which leads sometimes to anorexia, and that must be seriously avoided.”
“But one must also realise that sometimes being skinny is genetic, so associating skinny with unhealthiness can be wrong too,” adds Sushmita.
Anorexia can be avoided, if designers work in tandem with the models to break barriers. Kiran Uttam Ghosh, a fashion designer who recently designed her “Big Beautiful Women Collection” says, “The models in fashion shows are nowhere close to most of the women you come across every other day. If bigger sizes are focused upon in fashion shows, it will be a silent moral boost to all the women who don’t feel good about themselves. Plus, it will also change the mindset of the society that judges beauty on the basis of the size of a woman. Size is not really important.”
Shilpa Sharma, co founder and design head of jaypore.com says, “We try to represent real women. These women can be college goers, office goers or home-makers. Being skinny is not a pre-requisite to showcasing a design. The design fraternity should take the responsibility to not promote skinny models by conforming to international standards. There is a very thin line between being thin and being anorexic, something that needs to be taken care of. These representational models are not the ideal body type and that needs to be considered by the designer fraternity and by audience too.”
Anorexia is a serious disease, and if not taken care of at the right time can lead to other psychological issues often leading to death. Growing pressure on models is a strict no-no. We must realise that the modelling industry can only flourish if we have beautiful, as also healthy and fit models to pull off a design, for a label is as much about the garment as it is about the person wearing and walking in that garment.