So. In light of another conversation being had in another space on the blog – that aches my head and my heart far too much for me to draw more attention to it by linking it here – I am reminded of the necessity of hammering home the point of stop looking at models for fitness inspiration.
There’s something in our culture that, despite our common sense being fully aware of the “those pictures aren’t real”ism of it all, still expects us to look like (and, by extension, live like) women who are photographed – and photoshopped – for a living, and to shame those of us who will not and do not. Even though we know better, the sheer normalness of it all is both overwhelming and overpowering.
If you think that’s melodramatic, don’t worry. It gets even goopier.
No matter how many before-photoshop and after-photoshop images you see…
…no matter how many before-photoshop and after-photoshop images you see…
Don’t worry, baby. Mama’s got you covered. Here’s five plain and simple reasons why you might need to let that go:
1) Let us never forget the degrees to which these people are photoshopped. Bodies, chopped and screwed beyond recognition, to the point where we’re ignoring the fact that ol’ girl’s leg is detached from her hip…
…because we’re so focused on the fact that “Oh my gosh, it looks like she’s had a rib removed, she’s so skinny.”
2) Eating disorders. And, at this point, I’m not entirely convinced that this isn’t a chicken-and-the-egg type conversation. Are girls developing eating disorders to get in – and stay in – the fashion industry, or is the fashion industry actively pursuing eating disorder patients to model?
Oh, you didn’t know about that? Let me update you:
Modeling scouts—known for weighing young girls in public like cattle and targeting down-and-out families, but perhaps not for exploiting the life-threatening delusions of sick teenagers—were gathering—in the plural, so more than one person thought this was okay—outside of Sweden’s largest eating disorder clinic. They were there to recruit anorexic girls to their agencies, because where else would you search for perilously skinny young women who are unlikely to put on weight? Anna-Maria af Sandeberg, chief doctor at the 1,700-bed Stockholm Center for Eating Disorders, told the Metro newspaper, “People have stood outside our clinic and tried to pick up our girls because they know they are very thin.” “It sends the wrong signals,” she added.
The Local reports that the clinic had to change when and where patients could take their daily walks around the grounds because girls kept getting approached. One 14-year-old was handed a business card; an agent interviewed another girl who was so emaciated that she had been confined to a wheelchair. When care coordinator Christina Lillman-Ringborg tried to explain to the scouts that her charges “suffered from a serious illness,” the article continues, quoting Lillman-Ringborg, “They claimed that they approach healthy, normally slim young people and that they never urge anyone to lose weight; that’s how they defended themselves.”
A remedial business ethics lesson: If you’re looking for “healthy, normally slim young people,” you may not want to start at a medical center designed to treat women whose low weights have resulted in their hospitalization. On the other hand, if you’re committed to “never [urging] anyone to lose weight,” collecting a stable of anorexic models is probably a good move. The eating disorder will do all the urging for you! [source]
Necole Bitchie recently posted an article about Bria Murphy – Eddie Murphy’s daughter – and how she slammed the modeling industry for some of what their girls do in order to stay thin:
She recently sat down with ABC’s Good Morning America to dish on the ugly side of the modeling industry, while revealing the extreme things that girls will do to stay thin.
Lots of girls get addicted to drugs and anorexia, it’s – there’s a whole list of things, because it’s a lot of pressure to be perfect.
I’ve heard of people eating the cotton balls with the orange juice … they dip it in the orange juice and then they eat the cotton balls to help them feel full, because the cotton’s not doing anything. It’s just dissolving. And it makes you think you’re full, but you’re not.
When asked if she has personally felt the pressure to stay thin, she responded:
Oh yeah, absolutely … I’m a small girl naturally, but I can gain weight. And I’m going through little hormonal changes and my body’s changing and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m gaining weight this week, I’m losing weight next week.
It’s your job to go into a room … and some people will just say no without an explanation, and some will be like, ‘Oh, your nose is too big. Your butt’s too big. Oh, your legs are flabby.’ Like, they’ll just go in on you, ‘Oh, you need to tighten that up. But that’s their job. You can’t take it personal.
Eating disorders – and disordered eating behavior – are unbelievably dangerous. Don’t even think about trying this at home and, if you do, you may need to consider seeking out help.
3) Booty paint. Oh, so you think that, since the Victoria’s Secret Runway Show shows the women moving in real time, that there’s still something to idolizing them?
Let’s revisit that:
When the Victoria’s Secret Angels strut the runway Tuesday in $3 million bras, larger-than-life wings and barely there lingerie, what viewers won’t see are the countless hours of work that goes into making the most beautiful women in the world look so ethereally sexy.
The show, airing on CBS at 10, was shot at the Lexington Armory.
“It’s all about creating the illusion of this amazing body on the runway,” says Selita Ebanks, who walked her first Armory show five years ago. “People don’t realize that there are about 20 layers of makeup on my butt alone.”
In addition to body makeup, which Ebanks estimates takes well over an hour to apply, the Angels prep in hair and makeup for three to five hours before hitting the runway, with an average of five people – hair stylists, makeup artists and manicurists, working on each of the 38 models. [source]
4) Racism. Want to know why you never see anyone who might could maybe possibly even sorta remotely look like you in magazines, print, or runway?
When asked if fashion has a problem with race, [celebrity model Chanel Iman] says:
“Yeah, most definitely. A few times I got excused by designers who told me ‘we already found one black girl. We don’t need you anymore.’ I felt very discouraged. When someone tells you, ‘we don’t want you because we already have one of your kind, it’s really sad.”
Though Chanel expressed she was proud to be include in Vogue Italia’s legendary All-Black issue, saying “it was a moment for everyone, [black] or not,” The Sunday Times Magazine notes that critics pointed out the 30% increase that issue saw in advertising relied mainly on campaigns with white models. That disconnect between the black faces featured in the magazine and those starring in ads is due to racism as well, according to famed photographer Steven Meisel. He said at the time: “I’ve asked my advertising clients so many times, ‘Can we use a black girl?’ They say No. Advertisers say black models don’t sell.” [source]
The man, Justin Peery, continues: “But for those lucky few girls who have white girl features…” and trails off. It’s clear that those are the women who get booked. “It’s kind of messed up, but that’s the way the industry is,” he says.
Peery represents the gorgeous Renée Thompson, a model who is originally from Jamaica but moved to New York from Toronto, and has been modeling for 10 years. At the ripe old age of 24, she is at a make-or-break moment in her career, and nearing an age when many models are forced into retirement. The film focuses on Renée, and her dream — to “kill” at fashion week.
Six minutes in, Maurilio Carnino, a fashion week casting director and producer, says: “Black models… they tend to [have] a little bit wider hips… And a little more round… Sometimes, even though the face is amazing, they tend to have a fit problem. ” He explains that white models have the “more skinny” look that the designers want. And: “One time one of my clients said, ‘I need a black model, but she has to be like a white girl dipped in chocolate.'” This is how people are talking about young women they want to hire for a job.
In general, though the subject here is clearly racism, the film — and the people in it — dance around the word racism. Jeanne Beker of FashionTelevision says, “Racism — I hate to call it that.” What else do you call a person being discriminated against for their looks and ethnicity? Beker admits: “Sometimes you do see a black girl on the runway and it’s sort of a tokenism.” [source]
5) It’s potentially hazardous to your self-worth. Aligning yourself with someone else’s standard of beauty becomes a self-esteem issue. I’m inclined to believe that having shoved down your throat – and continuing to swallow – the idea that you are imperfect and must, by extension, bend over backwards in ways that neither your lifestyle nor your finances allow for….becomes a self-hating type scenario.
For some strange reason, I’m also inclined to believe that’s mad unhealthy.
Someone benefits from us believing there’s only one way to be beautiful… it just isn’t us. Selling me a fantasy, and then leaving me to pick up the pieces when I realize just how far-away I am from ever being able to achieve that ideal – even going so far as to hide the fact that models are painting the stretch marks off their size 2 bodies and perpetuating the myth that only fatty fat fatties have stretch marks… I mean, c’mon. This is ridiculousness.
Nothing feels better than being able to learn the things that make us beautiful, all while simultaneously being able to acknowledge your polar opposite as being beautiful at the same time. “Beautiful” doesn’t need to be an exclusive club where only people who look like you are allowed in; if anything, it needs to be a space where we all can be, because it allows for more diverse images to sell, and the presence of more size and skin tone (and hair) diversity in media. People wouldn’t be so obsessed with restricting who can be seen where, and advertisers would no longer be able to claim “Black models don’t sell.”
(The extremely awkward thing about this is the two brands that very openly use Black women for advertising are Popeye’s and Pine Sol… so, Black models don’t sell products well, unless its Pancakes, fried chicken and cleaning products? Awkwarrrrrrrd.)
Seeing all of this, we should feel encouraged. There is hope; it doesn’t have to stay this way forever. Regard this stuff for what it is – artwork, beautifully – and carefully crafted – to perpetuate a myth, a false reality. Not fitness inspiration.
Those of us who have jobs and lives and responsibilities that require us to learn how to live healthily… we can appreciate the artwork, and set realistic goals for ourselves. I’m almost certain that our bodies – and our sanity – will thank us for it.