I Used To Be A Model & Hated It. Here's How I'm Changing The Industry
- Despite recent feel-good advertising campaigns, models are still being applauded (behind the scenes) for being severely underweight.
- Severe, unhealthy weight loss in models is encouraged by the very agencies representing them.
- Drug use, anorexia, bulimia, anxiety, depression and even suicide are common problems plaguing models today.
I know this because, not too long ago, I was the too-thin model being told, "Your legs are doughy, " "You have a big butt," and, "You should consider being a plus-sized model."
In the summer of 2012, at 20 years old, I moved to New York to pursue my modeling career. I wasn't thinking about the effect of media on young women — heck, any women, for that matter. I was out to fulfill a dream. I was bravely embarking on a journey. I had no idea that journey was about to change my life.
All I knew was that I came alive on the runway. I was ready to be everything the fashion world wanted me to be.
Within weeks of arriving in NYC, I lost 12 pounds. My agency applauded my commitment.
I was shaky and weak every morning. There were days I hardly ate.
At one point, I weighed 123 pounds (at 5'11") and was still being told to lose more. My agency told me, "You'll never be an international model unless your waist is smaller!"
My waist was 23" at the time.
The encouragement to lose more weight was just half of my battle. My agency consistently withheld my earnings, giving me only a small fraction of what I'd earned. As I struggled to get by financially, they continued to send me to jobs. They seemed secure in the knowledge I wouldn't break my contract because of the money they owed me.
Eventually, I did leave, and it was the best decision I made.
I remember thinking, With everyone talking about these problems, surely someone must be doing something about it. But my research revealed that no one actually seemed to be creating real, tangible change.
So, at 21 years old, I set about developing an agency business model to address health and diversity, solve the financial exploitation of models, and give consumers (who have the real power!) the choice to support a revolution.
The agency I've launched is unlike anything that's been done before.
It's not a feel-good campaign to trick people into believing change is happening.
It's not just a sensational headline — here today, gone tomorrow.
It's not another "plus-size" agency.
I've created an agency that hires only health-approved and drug-free models; promotes our models' mental, social, familial and financial wellness; ensures that models retain 100% of their earnings; pays its models as soon as clients finalize payment; looks beyond size and race to create a diverse model lineup; and gives consumers the power to create and sustain change.
It's true that the fashion industry shows signs of embracing change. More women are being encouraged to love their bodies. Some models are getting curvier, and the industry appears to be more willing to accept diversity.
But as long as stories about American Eagle running lingerie ads without using Photoshop; Vogue exploring big boobs; and the first plus-sized model in Sports Illustrated history are still making headlines, the signs of change are not enough.
Let's stop talking about the problems plaguing the fashion world and take action. It starts with you — the consumer. You have the power.
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Join me in creating an advertising culture the next generation can look up to with confidence.
Photo courtesy of the author