Perhaps you’ve seen or heard of Coco Rocha. She’s a fairly well-known “supermodel” who has graced the covers of fancy magazines and all that other stuff that supermodels do. She recently created a bit of a buzz when she mentioned that at 6’0” 105lbs, she’s considered “fat” by the powers that be within the fashion world. She lamented, “I’m not in demand for shows any more. I’ve been told to lose weight even though I am really skinny.” Now today she’s posted a, well, let’s call it a manifesto since that word’s popular today, to her blog (A supermodel with a blog!) in which she basically bitchslaps the entire industry, comparing fashion big-wigs to child-labor sweatshop owners and tobacco industry executives.
I’m a 21 year old model, 6 inches taller and 10 sizes smaller than the average American woman. Yet in another parallel universe I’m considered “fat”… This was the subject of major discussion this week and the story that was spun was: “Coco Rocha is too fat for the runway”.
Is that the case? No. I am still used and in demand as a model. In fact I find myself busier than ever. In the past few years I have not gained an extreme amount of weight, only an inch here and there as any young woman coming out of her teenage years would.
But this issue of model’s weight is, and always has been of concern to me. There are certain moral decisions which seem like no brainers to us. For example, not employing children in sweatshops, and not increasing the addictiveness of cigarettes. When designers, stylists or agents push children to take measures that lead to anorexia or other health problems in order to remain in the business, they are asking the public to ignore their moral conscience in favor of the art.
Surely, we all see how morally wrong it is for an adult to convince an already thin 15 year old that she is actually too fat. It is unforgivable that an adult should demand that the girl unnaturally lose the weight vital to keep her body functioning properly. How can any person justify an aesthetic that reduces a woman or child to an emaciated skeleton? Is it art? Surely fashion’s aesthetic should enhance and beautify the human form, not destroy it.
As a grown woman I can make decisions for myself. I can decide that I won’t allow myself to be degraded at a casting – marching in my underwear with a group of young girls, poked, prodded and examined like cattle. I’m able to walk away from that treatment because I am established as a model and I’m an adult… but what about the young, struggling and aspiring models?
We need changes. I’d prefer that there would be no girl working under the age of 16, but if that has to be the case then I’d love to see teens escorted by a guardian to castings, shows, and shoots. The CFDA has set codes in place for their members and I’d love to see the entire industry follow. Society legislates a lot of things – no steroid use in sports is one example – its only reasonable that there be rules of conduct to keep the fashion industry healthy.
In the past, models have spoken out on this issue, only to be accused of saying something because their careers were on the brink of extinction. This is not so in my case. I actually first spoke out about this two years ago at the peak of what a model would consider the ideal career and indeed there was a reaction – those who were the worst offenders suddenly asked me to work for them! This was a public relations ploy and I wasn’t prepared to fall for that. I said “No, lets go a few seasons, lets see if you change, then I will work with you”. They didn’t change. I haven’t worked for them.
Of my generation of models I’m exactly where I need to be in my career and I’m grateful to use my position to actively speak out against this with the support of the CFDA and Vogue. My sincere hope is that through our efforts young models will one day be spared the humiliation, the risky weight loss, the depression that comes along with anorexia and the misery of abandonment by an industry ashamed to see them turn into actual women.
You go Coco! And here all along I thought the only girls named Coco were strippers!
Pic via Lani Biangco’s Flickr