-Lisa Hilton, The Daily Beast

With New York Fashion Week kicking off tomorrow, expect the usual criticism of models being too thin. But the truth, says Lisa Hilton, is that
these models are powerful, professional women just like athletes and
that obesity, not anorexia, is the real health disaster.

Another spring, another show season. In the mercurial world of fashion, it's comforting to know that some things will never change—Anna Wintour's hairdo, an Olsen in the front row, and a tsunami
of earnest media coverage on how a conspiracy of evil designers and
foolish models are reducing women to jutting-collarboned wrecks, barely
able to lift their heads from the lavatory bowl to make it to Barneys
in time for the pre-collections.

What's Wrong With Skinny?

With New York Fashion Week kicking off tomorrow, expect the usual criticism of models being too thin. But the truth, says Lisa Hilton, is that
these models are powerful, professional women just like athletes and
that obesity, not anorexia, is the real health disaster.

Another spring, another show season. In the mercurial world of fashion, it's comforting to know that some things will never change—Anna Wintour's hairdo, an Olsen in the front row, and a tsunami
of earnest media coverage on how a conspiracy of evil designers and
foolish models are reducing women to jutting-collarboned wrecks, barely
able to lift their heads from the lavatory bowl to make it to Barneys
in time for the pre-collections.

Click the Image to View Our Gallery of Skinny Models

HP Main - Hilton Skinny Models 2

Getty Images (2); AP Photo

Let's be clear. Anorexia and bulimia are horrific psychological conditions, destroying lives and families, and carrying devastating long-term health risks even when not fatal. Sufferers deserve nothing
but respect and support for their condition. But is that condition
nearly so prevalent as the barrage of attention it regularly attracts
actually deserves? And are women really so pathologically stupid that
they are unable to distinguish the fantasy of the runway from the
realities of their own bodies? Arguably, the "size zero" debate is
merely another side of the infantilized, hysterical box women thought
they had clawed their way out of a century ago, an insidious means of
suggesting that though we can run companies and governments we're still
not quite rational creatures, too dainty and delicate to cope with the
dissonances between the Bambi-limbed aspirations of the catwalk and our
own wretched, cellulite-smothered carcasses.

That women can be beautiful at any size, age, or color is something no serious person would dispute. But the fashion industry is ultimately unconcerned with beauty, its objective is selling clothes, and the
consensus remains that in order to achieve this, models need to be
thin. Whether or not this is aesthetically desirable is a matter of
taste, not morality. The recent success of "bigger' girls such as Lara
Stone or Daisy Lowe suggests that it does not always obtain, as V
magazine's recent billboard campaign emphasizes. Even Karl Lagerfeld
has jumped onboard the biscuits and gravy train with his latest shoot
of Miss Dirty Martini. The fact remains that for girls chasing the big
money, skinniness is professionally necessary.

I spoke to one ex-model, Sasha*, who in her heyday walked for Tom
Ford and Galliano; "Sure, we had to be skinny. I lived on Diet Coke and
apples for two years. For the couture, we had to get up at 4 a.m. to be
sewn into the clothes and there was huge pressure to be thin. But I
made a million dollars by the time I was 20, I bought a town house in
Manhattan and put myself through Columbia. Does that make me a victim?"
For every Sasha, there are a hundred hungry wannabes who fall by the
wayside, but why are we so keen to dismiss the professionalism and
discipline of models who are prepared to make sacrifices to reach the
top? Is it a coincidence that modeling is the one profession outside
the porn industry where women consistently out-earn their male
counterparts? Are we just a bit angry that young women with no
qualifications other than what nature gave them get to be so powerful?

We rarely get hysterical about the weight qualifications required of male sportsmen. Jockeys, boxers, and wrestlers put themselves through torture to make weight. A survey published by the U.S. National Library
of Medicine lists a range of weight-loss methods for jockeys that would
make any model agency proud—69 percent skip meals, 34 percent use
diuretics, 67 percent sweat off the pounds in the sauna, 30 percent
regularly vomit and 40 percent use laxatives. So where are the angry
headlines and government initiatives to fatten up our jockeys? Perhaps
in sport, the sacrifices are viewed as noble, and the rewards (prize
money or prestigious college scholarships) seen as secondary to the
noble end of winning for its own sake. Shifting dresses is after all a
frivolous little multibillion dollar industry. Or is it that men are
considered psychologically robust enough to admire the buff beauties of
GQ or Men's Health without getting their tighty-whities in a twist?
Women, it is implied, are too fragile to make a distinction between the
Victoria's Secret catalogue and their own closets. Young women who
choose to conform to the demands of their industry in order to maximize
their earnings are portrayed as irrational and deluded, while young men
who make comparable choices are admired.

Eating disorders, we are told, are on the rise, ready to grab the gut of any vulnerable teenager who spends too much time dreaming over Vogue. Except, actually, they're not.

The South Carolina Department of Mental Health claims that one in 200 American women suffer from anorexia, as opposed to the American Heart Association's statistic of 39.4 million women suffering from
obesity. So that's half a percent against 34 percent. EMJA, the medical
journal of Australia, concurs with the 0.5 percent statistic, noting
that anorexia nervosa is not common and adding, "Eating
disorders have captured the public imagination… This publicity tends to
obscure the continuing puzzle created by these…conditions." (Gilchrist
et al., 1998) Clinical Knowledge Summaries 2009, the statistics
department of the British National Institute of Health and Clinical
Excellence, says that 19 out of one million women are diagnosed as
anorexic, as opposed to 240,000 per million for obesity. The British
NHS survey of Disordered Eating noted 620 hospital treatments for
anorexia or bulimia (with some patients registered twice or more) for
2005 to 2006 as opposed to 17,458 for the same period for obesity.

There is simply no argument to be had as to the most prevalent weight-related threat to young women's health, and yet still every year someone vilifies poor old Kate Moss for suggesting that nothing tastes
as good as skinny feels. Well, right on, Kate. The hoary old trope that
models are statistically thinner than the average woman now as opposed
to 20 years ago proves nothing more than that the average woman got

Women have always gone to absurd and often dangerous extremes in pursuit of the beauty myth. Fourteen-inch waists and mercury-eaten complexions for the Elizabethans, pthisis- inducing sponged muslin for
Romantic groupies. One of the many rather creepy truisms trotted out in
support of "real' models is that much fashion is produced by men who
would prefer us to resemble adolescent boys. Yeah, we get that.
Fashion is about fantasy, about impossibility, about, dare we say it,
art. Most women can tell the difference. The suffragettes got us the
vote and they did it in whalebone corsets. Stop the presses, how we
look is not actually who we are.

Women recovering from severe eating disorders consistently report that their illness was not induced by the desire to look like Gisele, but by far more complex psychological issues. Is it not demeaning to
insist that such women were gripped by nothing more than vanity?
Feminism has created a world in which young women are safe and secure
enough to do a lot of stupid things as part of a rite of passage—they
can drink Jell-O shots and worship Robert Pattinson and grow up to
become accountants or lawyers or CEOs. Laying off the Krispy Kremes for
a few years in order to shimmy into Paige jeans is hardly on a par with
being unable to menstruate, but the rhetoric of the eating-disorder
lobby insultingly blurs the difference between harmless faddiness and
genuine disease.

Thin is a feminist issue because it grabs the headlines from more serious causes with which committed feminists might concern themselves. As the late great George Carlin put it, "What kind of goddamn disease
is this anyway? "I don't wanna eat!", "Well, go fuck yourself." If we
want to worry about malnutrition, why don't we get exercised about the
hundreds of thousands of women who starve slowly around the world? Thin
is a feminist issue because the well-meant anxiety over eating
disorders makes us look dim. It's patronizing and disempowering and
reduces legitimate concerns over body issues to juvenile whining. We
could just leave the models to get on with their job. Maybe the radical
way to look at this season's shows would be to enjoy the spectacle, buy
the frock and get on with something more interesting? Obviously, we're
not all brainless enough to starve ourselves out of existence because a
sinister conglomerate of designers and editors says we should. Sadly,
the current correlation between fashion and anorexia suggests precisely

* not her real name

I think this article brings up a lot of good points, personally.

Separating eating disorders from being naturally skinny is just as important as separating runway models from real life people.

I personally do not find fashion models attractive in the least. Give me a choice between Sports Illustrated girls and Calvin Klein, and guess who I'm going to aspire to look like?

The chick with boobs. That's who.

I can't honestly think of a single friend or co-worker...any female adult that I know in real life that wants to look like Cruella D'Ville from 101 Dalmatians. Sure, a lot of women want to drop a few pounds, but they also want a nice ass and chest.

When you model clothing, those are the first things you've got to give up. Those with a coltish body type don't have em to begin with. I know. I've been friends with girls that didn't weigh a hundred pounds, and ate twice what I did. (I'm a curvy girl.)

Why don't we just understand as people and as a society that fashion models are not beautiful. They are simply a body type that makes clothing look good to investors. No more,  no less.

Feel free to go to town, folks. I know it's controversial. Just remember to keep it civil!

((sorry about the bad c&p last time. I fixed it for reading ease.))

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Nope, 'sorry skinnies you're not gonna have it all your way' doesn't ring of ANY bias ..

At the moment the bias IS towards skinny ... isn't it?

Or has the times achanged and I forgot to look?

PLUS the reality also includes plastic surgery ... lots of ppl DO wanna look very different and will go to tremendous lengths ... yeah so maybe that's a factor I hadn't considered before ... the thin body with enormous boobs eg Jordan ... a British glamour model famous for ... ummm .... well just that actually ... plus latest 'news' is her dressing her daughter as a sexy slut (think the girl is about 6 by the way)

All for now ... prolly ;)

Bysee for nowsee anyways ... peace n love etc
I remember Jordan from when I lived in the U.K. I remember asking who she was and why she was famous, and no one could answer at all. (Well, except that she was once married to a singer or something, right?) Great. Now she's getting more air time for dressing up her kid. That's nice. No.. seriously. Uggh.
I think the skinny bias is a LOT stronger in the U.K. From what I've experienced living in both places, Americans are a little more accepting of larger ladies. When I've brought this up, a Brit responded with 'that's because all Americans are fat.' -Seriously. Which isn't the case at all. I've seen weight being about equally distributed in Scotland/England and west coast America. Mind you, there is more to the U.K than Scotland and England.. and there is more to the U.S than west coast...but those are purely my observations. You get plenty of biased against skinny here in the states. Crack-whore, meth-head, tweeker....these aren't exactly compliments, you know.
Well there IS the class/money issue I haven't brought up ... YET!!!

Meantime, think we just 'bond' a little there over Jordan ... 'roflm(big)ao?'
Yes. I do think we just bonded over Jordan.
Which means she's actually DONE something (even if she doesn't know it.)
At the moment the bias IS towards skinny ... isn't it?

In popular culture, I suppose.

If we are looking at society on the whole, I suppose generalizations are always inescapable, but this is a subject that affects people on a very individual level. The impact is situational. In my opinion, the issue underpinning it all is, why do we think it's okay to tell other people how to look? To tell them what they should or should not do with their bodies?

Sure, there are concerns for both physical and mental health on a various number of body image issues, but just looking at a random stranger, you don't really know the back story. Really thin girls? Well, I've known a few girls who have simply always been really thin their whole lives, one woman who is supermodel thin because she's an ultra marathon runner, two girls who were professional models, and one girl who had to go through extensive chemotherapy and cancer treatment and lost quite a bit of weight in the process.

Just to look at them, you couldn't really jump to conclusions on their psychology or physical well being, so I have to say that I don't have a lot of patience for people that unduly and tactlessly criticize their weight or guys who tell them to 'eat a ham sammich' for any reasons. There's just something malignant in such behavior: at best a lack of respect, and at worst the will to degrade another human being.

To get back to the point, socially, we are frequently superficial to what I consider to be excess. Often it seems that we correct any superficiality by being superficial in the opposite direction. Let's use body modification as an example. Cosmetic surgery gets lumped into one group. Tattoos, piercings, scarification (etc.) typically get lumped into a polar group. Granted, everyone is entitled their own sense of aesthetics, and if we're talking sexual attraction, everyone has different limits, but I find it really disheartening when advocates of one group are so deeply judgmental of the other without even the slightest hint of irony. Push come to shove, there's a human being somewhere inside of those body mods and all the armchair psychoanalysis of visual appearance in the world doesn't alter a damn thing as to any beauty or hideousness in that human being's character.

If people want to look at health issues, that's commendable. Create awareness. Communicate openly with your loved ones and the people you know. If people just want to place mores on body image or cast judgment, it seems like a waste of effort to me.
For models, yes, but I didn't get that from the article regarding the population at large. It suggests a correlation, but that's about it.
Agreed, Kris.
Well just noticed item 1 of my original post crops up here ... 'no 21-year-old should be worrying about whether she fits a sample size' ... sample sizes are small ... it's cheaper that way and that's how i think the whole think originated ... and small sizes may be appropriate for a small woman ... or at least not for most tall women ....

Nothing wrong with skinny per se ... a lot of women are naturally skinny until they have children ... even Twiggy is no longer 'twiggy' ... although she still models in the uk for M&S and face creams ... is this progress?



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