We know firsthand that models have a powerful influence over girls and women in this country. In our work we've spoken to thousands of girls and young women about our own experiences with eating disorders and the fashion industry. Magali is one of the world's top models. She's appeared on the covers and pages of virtually every fashion magazine in the world, including Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and Elle. She has walked the runways for designers from Versace to Gaultier, and has done international advertising campaigns for L'Oreal, Pantene, and Banana Republic, among others. Through the height of her career in fashion, she suffered in silence with bulimia. Beautifully re-touched photos hid her ugly reality. Claire is a writer and expert on girls' and womens' issues. As a teen, she was a straight-A perfectionist who secretly devoured images of models in magazines, starving herself and binging and purging for years. She got help, and went on to become the director of the American Anorexia Bulimia Association.
While we both recognize that the fashion industry didn't cause our eating disorders, we also know that the massive doses of unrealistic and unattainable images of beauty we get in this culture are seriously harming girls and women. Companies are making billions of dollars by perpetuating the myth of perfection. Women buy clothes because they hang so nicely on those human clothes hangers coming down the runway. Girls buy moisturizer because they want flawless skin like the model's in the ad. But there's a good chance that runway model isn't naturally so skinny. And that model in the ad? Well, she has pores in real life, and maybe a few pimples, too. They've been re-touched right out of the picture. You've had your own share of recent experience with Photoshop... Magali has also spoken openly about how images of her have been altered through her career. Her teeth have been whitened, her waist has been trimmed, and her B-cup breasts have been inflated to D-cups for the cover of Cosmopolitan.
Girls today compare themselves to images that are unhealthy, and in many cases, make-believe. Should it come as any surprise when they tell us how much pressure they feel to be the thinnest and the prettiest? Thinness and beauty do not guarantee happiness. But it's hard to get to that truth through all those images of glossy perfection.
Magali Amadei & Claire Mysko
Two readers who saw Katie's Notebookon too-thin models have written to us about their own experiences. Here's part of their e-mail:
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