Originally published in Marie Claire, this is an account of the modeling industry and its culture through the eyes of a former model.
Here are some highlights of her musings, which are sardonic and whimsical, yet describe a poignant reality.
- I was deep into a green-grape diet (three for breakfast, two for snacks, six for binges).
- Last year both a Uruguayan and Brazilian model died of anorexia-related complications, asking the question: have we gone too far in the pursuit of thinness?
- Extra pounds are still grossly off-trend.
- I was discovered at 17 in Paris on a study tour in the late '80s. Soon enough, I was in the hands of a team of bookers whose job it was to turn me into a robotic goddess, onto which fashion fantasies could be projected.
- My dilemma: those pesky Celtic warrior genes that kept me from looking Park Avenue fragile.
- Some girls are meant to be slim-hipped and tiny. I'd watch them wolf down burgers and mud cake without gaining a gram. It's being unhealthily thin that's the bitch. At the beginning, I thought cutting out the crème caramels for life would be enough. Dream on.
- You become emotionally invested in the constant appraisal. As for the designers, they withdrew validation with one hand, while offering temporary superpowers with the other.
- The attention, the flattery, the heart-surgeon money, the city-hopping, the all-access social pass--the job is a hoot, and a parallel universe that constantly reaffirms the normalcy of weighing as little as possible.
- There were always more Marlboro reds and rancid champagne backstage than food, and we were all dieting together. Food deprivation was a badge of honor.
- My body became a battlefield where willpower and genetic destiny duked it out. Once I fixated on the goal weight, starving down was easy, especially when I discovered diuretics, which rid you of fluid, the lifeblood of the body.
- The more I punished myself, the more fashion rewarded me.
- Toward the mid-'90s, I was ready, even excited, to move on to other careers. But, my uphill battle with food wasn't over. Once relieved of trying to be an impossible size, my policy became, Say yes to everything.
- After all those years of deprivation, my body threw its own Mardi Gras: instead of being thinner than everybody else, I went bigger. Not that I enjoyed it, I just tossed it all down.
- There is such a thing as a healthy model, a girl who got dealt the thin card. But, as sunken-cheeked chic creates an undertow that drags regular-shaped women into a losing battle only models used to have to fight.
- Once you make peace with who you naturally are, life is an incredible feast.
The model in question has since settled into what she describes as a natural size 12.
The modeling world is a perplexing and often scary subculture. I attended a charity concert/fashion show just recently and was struck by how robotic it really was. While witnessing one unemotional façade after another gracing the catwalk, I couldn't help but wonder how many of these young women were abusing their bodies to achieve a look.
To what degree do you feel the super-model mentality spills into mainstream culture? Do you think the pursuit of unnatural and otherwise unhealthy thinness is getting better or worse? Did any of this models' thoughts resonate with you?