The Peacock Press

Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students

Dangerously Thin: Skinny Models Still Trendy; Eating Disorders on the Rise in the Modeling Industry

By Francesca Rizzo, Class of 2013 — 


Her pale hands are folded daintily on her kneecap, one of her bony legs crossed over the other. Her fingers are so slender, the silver ring she wears on her middle finger almost slides right off. Her collarbone protrudes from her loose black-knit sweater as a heart shaped pendant rests on her chest. She doesn’t look tired, but there is something about her eyes that make them look sunken and worn.

“It’s not that I want to be skinny. It’s more of a matter of I have to be skinny or I’m out of the business,” she says softly, her eyes finding their way to the ground.

The business she is referring to is the modeling business.

But since when did the word ‘skinny’ become synonymous with ‘skeletal’? And since when has being skeletal become attractive? Kate Moss broke out into the modeling scene in the ’80s with her skinny yet grungy signature look. The look exploded in the modeling business, emphasizing that the skinnier and grungier looking the girl, the better and more attractive she was. This is still true of agencies looking to book young models today. Moss has even been notoriously quoted as saying “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

“It’s hard for younger girls, especially since they’re at that age where it’s like, ‘okay I have to be skinny and pretty to fit in or I’ll basically just be a failure’,” she adds, clearing her throat as if to defend herself. “I started modeling when I was 14. I noticed that the tinier girls got the better offers and promotions.”

This source, who requests to remain anonymous, admits she has a problem but finds it acceptable due to the fact that it’s helping her stay in the business.

“I was diagnosed with bulimia when I was 15,” she says softly, crossing her legs tighter and fixing her gaze upon the ground. “I mean, I don’t see why they have to diagnose. I don’t quite see how it’s a disease, either. I’m conscious of what I’m doing and I’m aware it’s not healthy. But it has to be done, at least that’s the way I see it.”

In today’s society, a trend is becoming more and more evident: younger girls striving for the limelight and wanting to fit in are doing whatever it takes to make them look glamorous in the public eye. Aspiring female models are especially notorious for developing the unhealthiest of habits: eating disorders. With the stakes high and the pressure even higher, these young women will do whatever it takes to make it in the industry. Unfortunately, it has known to come at a price.

“I tried the whole dieting and going to the gym and being healthy,” she confesses. “I was really good about it. I still try to go to the gym, I just either refuse to eat or puke up whatever I put down.”

Another aspiring young model named Kelsey, 17, has been enduring a struggle of her own.

“I don’t want to do this to myself,” she said. “I know it’s not healthy, I know it’s not right. But if going without eating as much means that I can fit in the smaller clothes and get the better offers, I’ll do it. This is my dream, and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep it a reality.”

Young girls don’t exactly have the best role models to teach them otherwise. Celebrities are often known for their stints in rehab or trips to the hospital due to lack of nutrition.

“It’s just ironic when every single person you try to look up to in this business does exactly what you do,” Kelsey explained. “It’s also kinda confusing. I’ve idolized Demi Lovato for as long as I can remember. When she announced her eating disorder, I was like ‘well duh, go figure’. But now she’s getting help and getting better and encouraging her fans to do the same. It’s just…I don’t know. Confusing.”

Confusing as it may be, the number of young women with eating disorders or serious illnesses due to lack of proper nutrition is on the rise. According to a study done by Women’s Health, one in five females have or will be diagnosed with an eating disorder and has doubled to almost 18% in the last five years alone.

“In the modeling world, it isn’t seen as a disorder. It’s almost treated as an accomplishment,” said the anonymous source. “They scare you into being skinny. Gaining five pounds could mean the termination of your contract.”

Aspiring young female models have a very tough standard to meet, set at an almost impossible reach. It is to the point where they are harming themselves in order to be accepted. Yes, there are opportunities for them to receive help and treatment. But when the life of a model is the childhood dream of a young girl, help and treatment is deemed out of the question. They’re so determined to make that dream a reality that they’re jaded towards the dangers of their behavior.

“I’ve been offered help,” Kelsey admits. “My parents tried forcing me into some help group, but I fought it. This is me, this is who I am, and this is what I do.”

Efforts have been made to prove that you don’t have to be skinny in order to be beautiful. The brand Dove advertises and promotes that women should love themselves no matter what their size, shape, or color. Plus -sized models are also seen more now than they ever have been before. Although there is an effort being made to promote health and self love in young women and girls, it is hard to break the mold that has been set for what is deemed acceptable in the modeling business.

The modeling industry is a tough one to break into, and an even harder one to stay in. Young girls put their health and even lives at stake in order to achieve their dreams.

“I don’t think I’ll like, die or anything trying to do this,” the anonymous source shrugs, her collarbone practically piercing through her sweater as she does so. “I know I’m skinny. I eat now and then, and when I do, it’s really healthy stuff. Maybe someday if I ever decide to get out of this business I’ll load up on cheeseburgers and French fries. But for now, salad, celery sticks, water and fruits it is.”

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