The fashion and modelling industry was long affiliated with eating disorders, substance abuse and overall unhealthy habits. In the past few years, the number of former models who opened up about the struggles they have been through while trying to make it in the industry has encountered a concerning rise. With eating disorders affecting millions of women all over the world, it’s no wonder that 62% of models have declared they were asked to lose weight, despite the fact that they were already, medically speaking, underweight.
Bulimic episodes are no news to the fashion industry, but what concerns most is the impact it has on young girls who, at any cost, try to mirror the image they see on the runaways or in magazines. But is the industry really the one to blame, or is it more of a corroborative guilt of today’s society?
The effect eating disorders have on individuals goes far beyond the body heath. Disorders like anorexia and bulimia affect the emotional and mental stability sometimes more than the physical appearance. Especially if, despite turning to such dangerous methods, the physical appearance is not changing as fast as desired. The common misconception about these unhealthy habits is that they won’t affect you in the long term. Young girls start dangerous diets, believing that they will only do it for a short period of time, until they reach the desired weight and then they could return to the same habits without repercussions. Truth is, it doesn’t often work that way. After subjecting the body to such invasive diets, returning to normal eating often has the reverse results, like gaining more weight or developing digestive disorders. David Goodlad Counsellor, an expert in treating eating disorders, explains that the issue most commonly comes from the inside, having more to do with the way individuals perceive themselves, rather than how others perceive them.
The disorder most commonly associated with the modelling industry is anorexia. Characterized by a deep fear of gaining weight, individuals who suffer from anorexia have a distorted body image, causing them to resort to extreme diets and starvation in order to maintain a thin figure. The two most common types of anorexia are the restrictive and purge type:
While individuals who suffer from anorexia are typically underweight and the issue is easily signalled by their appearance, those who struggle with bulimia are usually people of normal weight.
Bulimia is an emotional eating disorder, referred to as a binge and purge kind of disease. Individuals who suffer from bulimia eat an exaggerated amount of food over a short period of time, which is immediately followed by a sense of guilt and often shame, leading to self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse. Another notable difference between anorexia and bulimia is the number of calories consumed by the affected individuals. While people who suffer from anorexia consume fewer calories than healthy diet would recommend, people suffering from bulimia can end up consuming over 3000 calories in an hour.
When trying to link these types of disorders to the fashion industry, what concerns most is that models don’t openly discuss these issues until after they have retired. And the confessions are alarming. Not only do they employ over-the-top methods, like eating only three apples a day, but they often struggle with mental disorders like depression and anxiety or develop an addiction.
Another alarming issue that surrounds the fashion industry, from designers to photographers and models is substance abuse. Speculations were always there, especially after the “heroin chic” look popularized with Kate Moss’s Vogue photoshoot in 1993, which promoted pale complexion and dark undereye circles. But fashion’s affair with Class-A narcotics was first brought to the public eye in 1997, when photographer Davide Sorrenti died from heroin overdose. Numerous confessions raised after the event, exposing the unknown events happening behind the scenes at photo shoots and fashion shows.
Actress Jaime (James) King, openly discussed about the struggles she went through in her teenage years, when she has quite a promising modelling career. But her career wasn’t easy, because being exposed to such habits at a young age, when you can’t exactly distinguish good from bad, can send you downhill in an instant. What promoted the image even more, was the secret battle between the pale, skinny and androgynous-looking models, like King and Kate Moss, and the healthy, vigorous-looking supermodels like Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford. The supermodels often claimed they only heard rumours about substance abuse, but were never exposed to it. But with numerous photographers, designers and other people in the industry linked to narcotics, their statements were often called into question.
The issues persist even today, but because of the increasing tolerance of substance abuse in present society, they are often overlooked. Addiction is not a joke and should not be seen as one, be it from class A narcotics, alcohol or any other substance. There are numerous clinics providing addiction counselling in Canterbury that can help individuals who are struggling to live a normal life.
Times are changing and the industry seems to have become more open to the idea that beauty comes in various shapes and sizes. A large wave of new models is rising, breaking the beauty standards and revolutionizing the industry. Winnie Harlow, Melanie Gaydos, Madeline Stuart and Jilian Mercado are just a few examples of people that, despite their unusual appearance, have made it into the fashion world and their time is just beginning. They became role models for people all over the world, proving that the standards can be changed and confidence matters more than appearance.