I’m dedicating this blog to all people who have felt self-conscious about her or his or trans-gendered body. Although I talk about fashion models, this blog is not intended to ridicule any models or to place values on people based on their bodies. It’s meant to call out an industry that has done damage but still has a purpose. As a former lifestyle model, I’ve seen both sides of the industry and relate it to my personal early struggle with an eating disorder.
I believe that judgment of a person based on bodily shape and size is a learned behavior and one that all genders suffer. Like a lot of girls, I wanted to be a model as a kid. Afraid of cameras, socially awkward, graceless, and fat (to be defined later), I would be an unlikely model. I didn’t want to do it because of the good pay and benefits. I wanted to do it so I would look pretty and people would like me.
Most companies prefer models with scrawny bodies, because that is what we collectively value. Statistically speaking, if we see scrawny curveless women and men with zero body fat modeling clothes, we’ll buy the product. I’m convinced that’s why we went through a skinny jeans phase.
Because I still wanted to be a model, I starved myself on purpose as a teenager. Some would have labeled me as anorexic, but the anorexics would say I wasn’t anorexic enough. Bitches. My ribs looked like a xylophone through my skin, but my eyes hadn’t sunk into my skull yet, so I wasn’t considered a true go-getter.
Eating disorder books describe it as an illness in which we hide shamefully, frightened of our own condition and powerless to save ourselves. That inaccuracy is the failure to cure the illness itself. Like many, I loved the disorder! Where I had no power in the rest of my life, I felt completely powerful over my body. The boys finally flirted with me, and girls were jealous. Even middle-aged women told me how much they wished they looked like me. I had loads of positive attention, because we collectively value the images above. But I was not healthy.
Through the years, I found that I needed to eat to have the energy to get through college. Eventually, I had too much important stuff to deal with than getting people to like me, so I found power in other areas and eventually obtained a healthy weight and body image.
In my late twenties, I finally become a model, although I was short and fat. When I say fat, I don’t mean fat. I find the word as derogatory as the nasty words used to disregard people by race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. When I say fat, I mean a normal, healthy weight. I use that word because the employers who turned me down said that I was “too fat” to model for them. The first time a designer said this to me, I laughed out loud. I really did think it was funny for a grown-up to call a young woman “fat”. Later, I’d shrug and passive aggressively indicate that I’d rather model well-designed clothing. Luckily, I found a handful of jobs that actually wanted people to feel good about the products they sold. Being called fat was one of the more liberating parts of my life, because I really didn’t care anymore. Doctors said I was healthy. I agreed because I had been working hard to eat a well-balanced diet with regular exercise. That some companies still rate models based on their size tells me what a ridiculously infantile business modeling can be.
You might ask me why I did it, if I no longer did it to be liked. The answer is ART. Seeing how a different hairstyle or radical make-up could alter my own perception of myself intrigued me. I experimented with it, because I loved seeing the business woman in me, the mother I’d never be, the goth chick I admired, the rich person I did not, etc. Below are a few of my favorite modeling photos:
Today, the market is starting to favor the beauty of all bodies, and I’ve placed my monetary vote by supporting these businesses. So, the remainder of this blog will be dedicated to a few companies that have featured lovely models working in a more honest fashion industry. These men, women, and transgendered people are healthy. Like all models, they have to exercise and skip the daily donuts, stop chewing their nails, stand in awkward poses for hours on end, and fake smile while selling a product they may never use. It’s a business and a job, but it isn’t one that should devalue people.
What are your opinions on our fashion industry? How do you decide to choose what to buy?