Models Call For Action During NYFW To Stop The Industry's Promotion Of Eating Disorders

"Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to send the message that diversity is what makes us strong."



The body positivity movement which promotes beauty in body diversity is continuously gaining steam on social media, but the fashion industry hasn't quite caught up yet. Take one look at any New York Fashion Week (NYFW) runway and you'll see what we mean. 

New research published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders shows that "appearance pressures experienced by fashion models have been criticized as harmful to their health, as well as increasing eating disorder risk among youth by promoting ideals of extreme thinness." 

Models in the industry are saying enough is enough. 

Over 60 models have signed an open letter to members of the American fashion industry and an accompanying petition in an effort to "prioritize health and celebrate diversity on the runway." 

The letter and petition was published in partnership with the National Eating Disorders Association and industry advocacy group Model Alliance. Both straight size models such as Sara Ziff and Caitriona Balfe and plus size models such as Iskra Lawrence and Emme signed the letter. 

"Too often, models are being pressured to jeopardize their health and safety as a prerequisite for employment. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health concern and survivors often suffer irreversible damage to their health," they wrote in the letter. "Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to send the message that diversity is what makes us strong. We sincerely hope that all of you – from designers and editors to agents and casting directors – will collectively harness the industry's creative power to be forward thinking, inclusive, and do the right thing." 

The models even gave fashion designers an extra incentive for promoting diversity and health in their shows. They promised to recognize industry leaders who step up to this challenge on their social media channels, which collectively reach millions of people. Not only would they be doing the right thing, but they'd even get some free positive press in the process. 

In addition to the letter, many models are using the hashtag #DearNYFW to share their own experiences with the fashion industry's promotion of extreme thinness and their journeys to finding self-love with their bodies.

"I will never forget standing in front of my bookers in Paris, age 18/5'10/115lbs and being told I needed to lose inches around my hips," model Audra Callo wrote on Instagram. "I looked down at my already protruding hip bones. I will never forget being hospitalized after a terrible bout of food poisoning that sent my body into ketosis. My bookers relished and told me I looked amazing. More than ever we need to support each other EMOTIONALLY and send a message that all shapes/sizes/ethnicities are to be celebrated!" 



Kiara Ailene shared an Instagram post of herself, saying she's tired of being told her body is too curvy to be featured on NYFW runways. "I have been told to eat cotton balls dipped in orange juice to fulfill the hunger pain — to just focus on more of a commercial look and leave the runways to the 'perfects' (once told to me by an agent)," she wrote. "#DearNYFW, You will not break my self-esteem any longer. I may not be small enough for your runways but you haven't seen the last of me yet." 

"Let's show the world that diversity (race, age, height, size, shape, gender) is our strength and health is our priority," Lawrence wrote on Instagram

New York Fashion Week starts Feb. 9 and runs until Feb. 16. We're curious to see if any designers will take the models' open letter to heart and make changes to their shows. 

You can read the open letter the models wrote in its entirety below:

Dear Members of the American Fashion Industry,

As models, we care about each other's health and wellbeing. As we look toward New York Fashion Week, we strongly urge you to prioritize health and celebrate diversity on the runway this season.

Concerns about the fashion industry's promotion of extreme thinness are nothing new but a recent research study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders confirms that unhealthy weight control practices are a serious problem in the industry. Too often, models are being pressured to jeopardize their health and safety as a prerequisite for employment.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health concern and survivors often suffer irreversible damage to their health. That is why we have teamed up with the Model Alliance and the National Eating Disorders Association to address this issue. 

Together, we are challenging you to make a serious commitment to promote health and diversity on the runway. Through our social media platforms, which collectively reach millions of people, we will recognize the industry leaders who step up to this challenge. Specifically, we will keep an eye out for diversity of race, size, age, and gender status, and we hope to see diversity within and across all of those categories. 

No one likes the hassle or expense of increased regulations and paperwork. However, data shows that the American fashion industry has yet to prove that it is capable of following healthy practices on its own.

Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to send the message that diversity is what makes us strong. We sincerely hope that all of you – from designers and editors to agents and casting directors – will collectively harness the industry's creative power to be forward thinking, inclusive, and do the right thing.  

In solidarity,

Yomi Abiola
Kiara Ailene
Hartje Andresen
Olesia Anisimovich 

Caitriona Balfe 
Te'sa Ballanco  
Afiya Bennett 
Johanna Broughton 
Audra Callo 
Madison Caudill 
Yaris Cedano 
Ashley Chew 
Lily Cummings 
Lisa Davies 
Nikki Dubose 
Karen Elson 
Emme 
Dani Evans 
Kenza Fourati 
Miranda Frum 
Marianne Garces 
Alessandra Garcia-Lorido 
Briy Gilgeous 
Lily Goodman 
Javeonna Gordon 
Meredith Hattam 
Madeline Hill 
Sabina Karlsson 
Iskra Lawrence 
Amy Lemons 
Jessica Lewis 
Jasmine Lobe 
Brittany Mason 
Briauna Mauria  
Megassus McCabe  
Cameron McCartney 
Taylor McKay 
Lizzie Miller 
Chloe Nicole 
Alison Nix 
Michelle Olson  
Carré Otis 
Shivani Persad 
Renee Peters 
Marquita Pring 
Missy Rayder 
Madisyn Ritland 
Geena Rocero 
Jennie Runk 
Madison Schill 
Katie Schmid 
Tonya Sharma 
Sabrina Sikora 
Ingrid Sophie Schram 
Alyona Shishmareva 
Alise Shoemaker 
Jennie Thwaites  
Mathilda Tolvanen 
Austria Ulloa 
Bree Warren 
Monica Watkins 
Elettra Wiedemann 
Sara Ziff 
Industry Supporters 
Becca McCharen, CEO of CHROMAT 
JAG Modeling Agency 
Straight/Curve 
We Speak Agency 

The fashion industry has made many strides in the right direction in the past few years. In 2015, France passed a bill requiring models to have a medical certificate deeming them healthy and fit to work. The bill was passed in an effort to stop the use of dangerously thin models in fashion campaigns, and similar legislation could be beneficial in other regions, too.

In America, several fashion and beauty brands have stepped up to include diversity in their campaigns. In 2016, ModCloth released a campaign celebrating all body types in bathing suits by featuring employees and community members as models. Aerie has repeatedly shown diversity in campaigns and recently picked Lawrence to be their next spokesmodel

We're certainly moving in the right direction, but there is still more work to be done. If you want to help make a difference, sign the petition or share your personal experience with finding self-love on social media using the hashtag #DearNYFW.

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