Eimear Kelly discusses the modelling industry and its effects on body image and self-esteem.
As you may have heard, the French government has passed a new model health law, whereby models must obtain a medical certificate declaring that they are fit to work. Each model's age, weight and body shape will be taken into account in order to determine whether or not they are healthy enough to work. Models whose BMI (body mass index) does not meet the requirement will not receive a model certificate and any company who hires them may face a sizable fine of approximately £50,000 along with a possible 6 months’ worth of prison time.
The law has many obvious advantages. It promotes a healthy and positive body image, which will hopefully decrease other women’s chances of viewing their own bodies negatively. We must remember that young girls often look up to famous models such as Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, Alessandra Ambrosio and Taylor Hill, to name a few. Being a young teenager is often tough enough without the pressure to look like the models who are often believed to have the ideal body type and be the most beautiful people. For young girls, models can sometimes promote a body image which leads to extreme and unhealthy decisions in an attempt to resemble the models.
Eating disorders are a major issue amongst young people today, and I think that the promotion of unrealistic body types is an unnecessary addition to this problem. People are trying tirelessly to lose weight and to be as slim as possible in order to become what society promotes as beautiful, but they often become underweight and overly obsessed with the idea. I am all for eating healthily and exercising often, but there is a limit. Those who don’t recognise the limit may develop eating disorders, which can be detrimental to both mental and physical wellbeing.
People try extreme diets or food fads in order to lose weight (eg. cutting carbs or completely avoiding fats) but these actually have a negative effect on our bodies. I am not a dietician but I know that our bodies need carbohydrates and fats to function as well as they can. Each nutrient that enters our body has a function. Following quick-fix diets like models may do is not healthy and is a sure way to become harmfully underweight. The possibility of developing an eating disorder isn’t the only risk here. Being underweight has major risks such as lowered immunity, nutritional deficiencies, a lack of energy and compromised fertility, according to Healthyliving.com.
Charli Howard, a model whose agency dropped her because they believed she gained weight and was no longer skinny enough, describes modelling as a fantasy. In a YouTube video posted by StyleLikeU, she states that ‘size-wise, we say that unless you are a certain size, you are not a model’ and believes that we should question why the modelling world keeps portraying this message again and again without considering the effects that it has. The model also says that ‘beauty isn’t measured by a number’ and speaks about the negative effect it has on young girls and their self-image.
I understand that some of these models are naturally slim and have genetically obtained this appearance or a fast metabolism, but I also understand that some of these women go to extreme lengths to look their best on the catwalk or for photoshoots. Fasting for 24 hours before a show is just one example of this.
It is for these reasons that I believe that the new model law is a wonderful idea. Italy, Spain and Israel have already passed this law and now that France has followed suit, I hope that other countries do too. The law also states that pictures that have been altered in any way must be labelled as touched up. This law is a hugely important step forward within the modelling industry. I hope it means we will see increasingly realistic and obtainable figures. I wish that young girls would begin to idolise healthy body images rather than some of those unhealthy and altered images we are surrounded by in our everyday lives.