Category Archives: fashion

what is it like to be a male model?

Let me begin by saying that I am not at all opposed to the idea of modeling or to the industry as a whole. I do, however, believe that we can do a better job at creating a safe environment for these men and women and abolish unrealistic expectations that oftentimes push models to engage in destructive and dangerous behaviors in order to meet expectations and, quite frankly, to make a living. Sara Ziff addressed some of these issues in 2011 by founding The Model Alliance, an organization that looks out for the safety and wellbeing of models. My hope is that the industry continues to gain momentum towards empowerment.

Photo by Mathius Brandt

Photo by Mathius Brandt
(courtesy of Ryan Murray)

In a recent conversation with my friend, Ryan Murray, he matter-of-factly mentioned something about being asked to stay “bulked up.” It made me wonder what it must be like to be a male model. I recall sparks of concern for male models after an emaciated YSL male model walked the runway this past January. We hear so much about what it is like for women to be in the modeling world but times when I’ve heard about the experiences of male models don’t come to mind as easily.

Ryan agreed to answer some questions about his experience in the world of modeling. Thank you so much, Ry, for sharing your experience!

How did you become interested in modeling? How old were you when you began?
My family entered my brother and I into a Modeling runway show when I was about 12 or 13 for Neiman Marcus and we both walked the runway, modeling Neiman’s hot fashion of the 90’s for youngsters!  I guess you could say that is where my interest began.  Then a few years later, in High School, I auditioned in a line of about 1,000 people at a cattle call for a Ralph Lauren runway show sponsored by Bloomingdale’s and Seventeen Magazine.  I was shocked when I was one of the 7 that were chosen from the crowd.  They said they liked my walk and that I had a stand out confidence!  I also had long-ish surfer hair and a pimpley sophmorish face… guess confidence really does shine thru!

under ladder

Photo by Gian Andrea Di Stefano
(courtesy of Ryan Murray)

What do you like about your modeling career? Is there anything that you don’t like?
I like the different experiences it brings to my life, when the jobs do come around.  They are few and far between sometimes because the supply of “good looking male models” is WAY above the demand of jobs!
Things I don’t like:  I wish I worked MORE! 🙂

What do you like/hate about the modeling industry?
I like the opportunity it provides and the trends it sets!
I don’t like how the industry is so narrow minded. It is very hard for some to think outside the box and many models get the short end of the stick because we don’t “look” a certain way, weigh a certain amount, stand a certain height… beauty is subjective and when you do not get jobs because of one person’s idea of the “beauty” they are looking for, it can be hard to swallow.

We’ve all heard about the tireless scrutiny and pressures for women in the modeling world. What pressures do you encounter as a male model?
There are definitely pressures as a male model.  Staying in a specific weight class depending on the “type” of modeling jobs you want to get; underwear, sportswear, bathing suit, lifestyle, runway, etc.
Body image is a very HUGE part of the job and I find that I am always comparing myself to other male models and thinking that I must need to look like “that” in order to book more jobs.

Photo by Mathius Brandt

Photo by Mathius Brandt
(courtesy of Ryan Murray)

What pressures do male models encounter to alter their appearance? Bulking up, slimming down, losing body fat, etc.?
ALL OF THE ABOVE!  Before many photo shoots I will not eat, or not drink water in order to “shrink wrap” my skin and muscle per se.
Oftentimes, if a job listing calls for rock hard abs or something of that sort, I know there will be a handful of other male models that will have more or better abs than me so I make sure to work out even harder… then it will all come down to the type of look they want as well. “Ethnically ambiguous” is VERY popular right now!  So there are so many factors but when it all comes down to it, if you don’t look a certain way, whether beauty is a factor or not, you don’t get the job.
I always feel if I can just get bigger biceps or a bigger chest or a harder butt, maybe THEN I will be what they want. It’s a lot of pressure, self-inflicted some of the time I will admit, but pressure nonetheless!

Many female models have shared the experience of having to compromise their principles in order to get jobs. Do you encounter this same pressure as a male model?
Well there is definitely a “sex sells” mentality and it is NOT just with regard to women!  There are times I have been on a casting or even a job and advances are made and the thought goes through your head, “if I say no will I get the job?”  More often than not though this happens when models are trying to update their books and looking for good photographers to shoot them. Many times they will make advances or want you to be a bit more suggestive than you had planned on!  You never quite know, in the beginning, what is acceptable, a true threat, if it will get you hired, or if it’s just the “way of the biz.”

How does not succumbing to these pressures impact your career?
It puts you on the slow track, a more moral track, a more freed conscience sort of track!  Good things come to those who wait, or at least to those who stay true to who they are.  There is such a need to feel wanted, to feel talented, to feel like you have an equal chance, and it is hard not to do “whatever it takes” to obtain those things.

Modeling is one of the most objectifying and sexualized careers out there. Has this ever impacted your self-esteem?
Constantly!  Even today, I woke up feeling puny, untalented, out of the loop, all because I have not been able to muster up the energy to lift weights after all of the spinning I teach.  I sometimes feel like I will never get a job again!  “Bulky muscles” are the key to being attractive and getting noticed, the voices in my head tell me. It is a constant battle I face because my body is my package and I am constantly having to “reinvent” in order to feel relevant, attractive, etc.

What advice would you give to someone who was interested in a modeling career?
Be happy with who you are and remember, confidence and self worth REALLY DO SHINE THRU!
Even though I had a horribly red and pimple ridden face and long hair when I went to stand in a line of 1,000+ people for that Seventeen Magazine/Ralph Lauren runway show, it didn’t matter to me because I believed in myself and KNEW I could do it!  (I should take my own advice!)

Photo by Charles Victor

Photo by Charles Victor
(courtesy of Ryan Murray)

what do you think about these mannequins?

Swedish department store “Åhlens” made a splash when they brought out curvy, natural looking mannequins! (see here for photo). “Awesome,” “It’s about time,” and “Finally!” were only a few of the positive reactions that have been buzzing around the internet. Thank you for keeping it real!

What do YOU think?

NY Fashion Week 2013


And we’re off! NYC fashion week has begun! Over the years, many have begun to actively work towards activism and protection of our models. In 2010, Coco Rocha penned her infamous letter to the NYTimes and in 2011, Sara Ziff created The Model Alliance (more on both here). Amazing strides towards a better and healthier industry. Meanwhile, around the world, Madrid and Israel have imposed industry mandates and government enforced regulations, respectively (more on both here). The United States’ fashion industry continues to be self-regulated. In 2007 the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) took a step in imposing industry guidelines of their own (see here).

This year, however, the CFDA teamed up with Organic Avenue, a juice and health-food retailer well known for their juice cleanses, and is offering models a 50% discount during fashion week. While it is true that the 50% discount is for anything in the stores, not just juice cleanses, paired with Sara Ziff’s report of a Model Alliance survey (that showed 64% of models who responded had been asked by their agents to lose weight, 48.7% had done cleanses and 31% had suffered from an eating disorder), my guess is that the message the majority of models will take away is for them to lose weight for the runway.

We must acknowledge that the CFDA is working to uphold their health initiative guidelines but I wonder if this is effective or if it is a confusing mixed message that perpetuates unhealthy behaviors. What do you think?

Israel bans underweight models

Passed in March 2012, on January 1, 2013, Israel’s ban on models with a BMI of less than 18.5 went into effect. This is the first government enforced weight-influenced regulation on the fashion industry. Models will also be required to produce a medical report no more than three months old (thus, requiring a quarterly medical evaluation). Additionally, advertisers are required to clearly identify any images that have been digitally altered. I say, “Bravo, Israel, taking this courageous step in the fight against eating disorders!”

At this point in time, the United States has no intention of following suit. The United States’ fashion industry is self-regulated. Steven Kolb, chief executive of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), is quoted to have said that the CFDA has, “never had an approach of mandate or enforce. We create awareness and education.”

To my recollection, the modeling industry began to take sharp notice of these industry dangers back in 2006. To refresh your memory:
Luisel Ramos, the 22y/o Uruguayan model, suffered a fatal heart attack in August 2006. She was 5’9″ tall and weighed 98lbs at the time of her death. She had a BMI of 14.5.
Ana Carolina Reston, the 21y/o Brazilian model, died in November 2006. She was 5’8″ tall and weighed 88lbs at the time of her death. She had a BMI of 13.5.
Eliana Ramos, the 18y/o Uruguayan model, died of malnutrition in February 2007. She was 5’9″ tall and a size 0. Her weight was not disclosed at the time of her death. She was the sister of Luisel Ramos (above), who had passed away the previous August.

In response, in September 2007, the Madrid city council, sponsor of Madrid fashion week, imposed mandates upon runway models. Ultimately, these more stringent mandates would have kept 40% of the models who participated in the 2006 fashion week from participating.

In 2007, the CFDA instituted the following guidelines:

  • Educate the industry to identify the early warning signs in an individual at risk of developing an eating disorder.
  • Models who are identified as having an eating disorder should be required to seek professional help in order to continue modeling. And models who are receiving professional help for an eating disorder should not continue modeling without that professional’s approval.
  • Develop workshops for the industry (including models and their families) on the nature of eating disorders, how they arise, how we identify and treat them, and complications if they are untreated.
  • Support the well-being of younger individuals by not hiring models under the age of sixteen for runway shows; not allowing models under the age of eighteen to work past midnight at fittings or shoots; and providing regular breaks and rest.
  • Supply healthy meals, snacks, and water backstage and at shoots and provide nutrition and fitness education.
  • Promote a healthy backstage environment by raising the awareness of the impact of smoking and tobacco-related disease among women, ensuring a smoke-free environment, and address underage drinking by prohibiting alcohol.
    • Diane von Furstenberg, president of the CFDA, explained that the CFDA has no intention of policing or regulating a model’s weight or her body-mass index (BMI).
    • Diane von Furstenberg: “We create inspirational images and it’s important that we don’t encourage unhealthy behavior. We can promote health and encourage it, empower women and give them role models not by how much you weigh but by de-glamorizing models. Few women can become models and it lasts for a short time. Yes there is a problem and because we are in the business of fashion and image we can help.“ Ultimately, von Furstenberg explained that the responsibility lies with the agencies, not the designers.

What do you think about all of this? What do you feel is the appropriate way to address the dangers of the modeling industry? Should there be mandates? Who is responsible for making them?

Dancing at the Shame Prom

Shame is an internal, insidious experience that lives in the body. It can be one of the most devastating emotions because it often leads to isolation, which can then increase the entrenchment. Shame and bodily shame have been strongly associated with eating disorders and, in my experience, oftentimes prevents those suffering from seeking the help they so desperately need. Unknowingly, the dust of shame can sprinkle for generations to come.

Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter compiled stories of shame in their new book, Dancing at the Shame Prom (available now through This honest, vulnerable and beautiful collection recognizes the impact of shame on self-esteem, self-worth and the way we move through the world. Twenty-six courageous women shared their stories of letting go and breaking through the shame that has blanked them for too long. I can’t recommend this book enough and believe that everyone can relate to the suffocating grip of shame. I encourage you all to bump this book up to the top of your list and when you’re done, consider writing your own shame story.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a mother, Kristine, and daughter, Kate, who shared their individual stories of going through Kate’s battle with anorexia. Below are their interviews.

Kristine Van Raden stumbled upon a bit of a miracle 15 years ago with her best friend Molly Davis. A shared idea led to an interesting project, which led to a dinner party with a slightly inebriated and highly enthusiastic publisher. Soon Kristine and Molly were interviewing strangers on street corners, produce sections of grocery stores -even on an elevator trip up the Eiffel tower- compiling a collection of letters from women around the world which became Letters to Our Daughters (Hyperion,1999). Since then, they formed Matters That Matter (LLC), offering workshops around the country, building upon the honesty and transparency of the women they have met throughout this experience. They have come to understand that we are all more alike than we are different, and that if we can get past the differences, there are common threads that connect us as human beings (taken from Dancing at the Shame Prom). Here is Kristine’s interview:

What made you decide to share your story?
It was a bit of a miracle, the way I met Amy Ferris and in the past few years, when life overwhelmed me, Amy seemed to intuitively know to reach out, call or email. She listened, empathized and was able to make me laugh at times I thought impossible. I shared with her, our family’s ordeal regarding Kate’s eating disorder. Amy never judged. Instead she shared her own pain and vulnerability. Through exposing our shameful stories with one another, we developed a safe and trusted friendship.

We had spoken of a potential project (Shame Prom) that she and Hollye Dexter had dreamed about. I wanted to do what I could to support them, initially thinking I could introduce them to women I thought might have something incredible to contribute. That’s about the time Amy asked if Kate and I might consider writing a co-op piece about life with an eating disorder.

For the first 2 years of dealing with Kate’s anorexia, we as a family made a pact to honor her request that we didn’t tell people about her struggle. She was ashamed, embarrassed and lost as how to navigate her life with this all consuming disorder. There were so many secrets, so much avoidance. In time and with great caution she started speaking about therapy, what she was learning, how she was relating to food and how anorexia effected her life.

I considered what I might have to say about Shame. I have never known the-likes-of such darkness; the shame of failing my child…the shame of not being able to make things right for her, the shame of being such an inadequate mother. I asked Kate how she would feel about me submitting a piece for consideration in an anthology about shame, exploring, from a mother’s perspective, what life with an eating disorder is like.

As we talked about it Kate started to consider her own shame…what it had been, and how it had evolved. We realized how closed we all were for so long, and how we had started to open as we all continued to heal. Kate was strong and confident enough to agree. It felt right; the time, the opportunity, the women involved. Kate and I agreed that sharing our perspectives had merit, not just for ourselves, but for those who might be struggling with similar issues. We both knew it was time to come out of the darkness and offer a little light for others.

What was the most challenging part of writing your essay?
All I did for weeks, every time I tried to write, was sob…sob and sob some more. I had worked so hard for so long, in secrecy and shame. My only priority being to protect and encourage my daughter. That often meant being strong, showing little to no emotion…doing anything it took to move her forward.

Once I got passed the avalanche of emotions, I started to get in touch with my experiences. Remembering was hard on so many levels, but remembering also helped me to realize how far we have come.

I thought I had reconciled that Kate’s anorexia was not my fault. But as I started to write, all those feelings came right back and suffocated me for a day or two. It was Kate, again, that assured me, that I was not to blame.

Exploring and expressing my shame, my failure, and my shortcomings as they relate to Kate’s suffering was both unbearable and freeing.

Did you learn anything about yourself by going through this writing process?
Oh, where do I begin? Because I loved my children with every ounce of my being, I assumed that their lives would take a certain shape, look like a particular “thing” that I had in mind. Love doesn’t create a specific outcome. Love does provide constance through life’s challenges. I have learned to let go of my expectations and I have learned to do so with so much less fear.

I think most parents live under the assumption, that at least on some levels, they are in control of their children’s lives and therefore their destinies. Trying to hold onto that premise represents constant heartache. Of course it is a parents job to love, protect, educate and nurture, but that has to all come under the umbrella of letting go…of recognizing that their lives are just that: Their lives. Just as our parents couldn’t prevent the heartache, suffering and times of agony for any of us, so it is with parents today.

I have worn out the expression, “Life is hard, gear up”, with my children. I knew it would be hard. I just never expected it to be this hard.

How has sharing your story helped you?
Kate, and therefore our family, has struggled and worked so very hard to understand and tame the eating disorder that haunts her. While we have celebrated every victory, no matter how small; pizza in a restaurant, the end of diet pills, a first date with an interesting young man, ice cream, when we finished our Shame Prom contributions, we literally screamed for joy, danced like crazy and felt more free than we had in a long time.

What did you find most helpful throughout Kate’s recovery process?
What I found most helpful was Kate’s attitude and willingness to try, fail, try, fail and try again. While she was getting educated, so were we. We read everything we could get our hands on. We sought out professionals on all levels who had experience and were willing to share information. We worked with Kate to create safe food, safe meals. She was courageous enough to teach us what she needed. We were eager to learn. Kate started individual therapy right away, as well as family therapy. With guidance and education we learned that this was no one’s fault. When we all stopped blaming ourselves treatment became much more effective.

We had the privilege and opportunity of walking along side Kate every step of the way. Were there times I wanted to run for the hills? Hell yes! But I know that our family, united in her wellness and recovery was our strongest asset.

The book that I recommend to anyone who asks is Brave Girl Eating, by Harriet Brown. Harriet tells her story in such a way that I felt like I had found my path, my voice for the first time in this agonizing process.

What did you learn about yourself through Kate’s recovery and being a loving and concerned parent?
As I mentioned, the hardest thing for me to come to grips with was that all of the love, devotion, time, investment in my child could not spare her from such devastating heartache…at that when under full attack, I couldn’t protect her from it. Raising children, we learn to solve so many crises; big ones, small ones. I think we fool ourselves into thinking that we have power over what causes them harm. I have learned that I have the extraordinary power to love my children, come what may.

Having gone through this experience, what message and/or advice would you give to parents of those struggling with eating disorders?
Trust your instincts. At the earliest sign of concern, seek help. If the help you have isn’t right, seek a different solution. This often means coming up against an angry, unwilling child. So be it! If they don’t agree to help, start the process for yourself. Get educated. Get informed.

Do you have anything else that you would like to say to your readers?
I continue to remind Kate of her progress…where she started and where she is today. A person who lives with an eating disorder loses sight of their accomplishments, because in the world we live in they may seem trivial. But like Harriet Brown so appropriately titled her book, Brave Girl Eating, everyday having to face the “enemy” and make peace with it..understand that the thing you hate is also the thing that will keep you alive, will insure your future…so so brave.

I tell people that drug and alcohol addicts can live without their vices and dependencies, but people with eating disorders cannot live without food.

Kate Van Raden is a self-taught photographer who pens both a fashion blog and poetry blog: She is also a twenty-seven year old woman who has struggled with the trials and tribulations of anorexia for the better part of five years; throughout college and modeling in New York. She is currently juggling a zoology degree, a full time job and her continued pursuit of wellness. Kate continues to attend treatment and therapy for her mental illness; making great strides towards increasing personal capabilities for love, growth and self-acceptance; all the while, passionately and vigorously committing herself to her work with endangered species. Kate lives with her three-year old hedgehog Rosebud in an apartment in Portland, Oregon (taken from Dancing at the Shame Prom). Here is Kate’s interview:

How did shame contribute to your eating disorder and/or seeking help?
We all live with shame. Some of us try to make up for the things we are ashamed of, some of try to change; and some of us try to hide these things. As a beloved partner faded from my life, I reverted to the feeling I knew best and felt most comfortable with: shame. I punished myself for failing the relationship. I loathed the things about myself that I perceived as the flaws that were unlovable. I threw myself into ‘improving.’ I thought if people couldn’t see my imperfections, that they would accept me, like me, not be disgusted by me…not leave me. The harder I worked to perfect my appearance, the more ashamed of myself I became. The harder I worked to seem perfect, the more magnified my flaws became to me. As I spiraled into Anorexia, I became increasingly engulfed in a shame that was so overpowering, I pulled further and further away from anyone who could get too close; eventually moving to the other side of the country from my entire community of family and friends. As if slinking away to a cave, in NY no one knew me and no one noticed me. The more shame I felt about WHO I was, the more I starved my body, and the more I starved my body, the more I starved my life. I won’t go into the extremes that my disorder reached (that is fairly well detailed in the book, if interested), but I began to deteriorate so quickly that it wasn’t long before I couldn’t work and felt convinced I couldn’t leave my apartment; as ashamed as I was of myself. I guess I would say that the shame of failing to achieve this perceived perfection through my resolve to be “thin,” and failing to manage my illness, made me feel ashamed. When I realized I couldn’t manage it myself, I had to come clean with my physical and mental struggles and accept help. That meant surrendering; accepting and putting on all the self-loathing and disgust I had been running from for years. I would often feeling dependent and weak, humiliated, worthless…leaving me convinced I had failed myself and the people I love. The only way I could salvage respect for myself, was to make a commitment to fight. I decided one late morning in fall, sitting in the car with my parents in our drive way…to fight.

From the time I was young I wanted my family to be proud of me…on so many levels. I’ve been blessed with a loving family and have always wanted to feel like I measured up, contributed. I have always worked hard at the challenges before me; school, college, scholarships, foreign exchange, relationships, etc. I guess you could say I am a pleaser. I wanted to please those who loved me and I wanted to feel successful in my own right.

What did you find most helpful in your recovery?
Honesty. When you are living with an eating disorder, your life becomes a lie; the lies you tell others about your health and weight, the lies your eating disorder tells you about your self-worth, your body, your perceptions, the lies you tell yourself about listening to the influence of the eating disorder…at least in my experience, giving myself the gift of honesty was the moment I saw hope. To this day, being completely honest and candid with myself and those I love is one of the most important tools I use to maintain my health. In my family, we don’t lie. We don’t let things hide in the dark anymore…we stand up and bare the horrible, terrible, unacceptable truths about ourselves, and give one another the chance to love us anyway. It is the greatest gift you can give yourself in this life. Without question, the unconditional love and support of my family kept me afloat many times when I couldn’t see my way clear to the next step. We have done it all together: family therapy, group therapy, individual therapy, nutritionists, psychiatrists, psychologists and hypnotists…read all the books, talked with experts, traveled to clinics, sought help and support where ever possible. I had committed to recovery, and I would NOT fail at that.

Early in my recovery, I was encouraged to attend a week-long intensive program led by Geneen Roth, author of When Food is Love. While I was the only participant suffering with anorexia, I came to understand that food is a struggle for so many. It represents how we value ourselves, how we love and care for ourselves as well as our perceived self-worth. I left with more tools, and a gentler perception of myself and my struggle. I had begun to feel less shame around my personal struggle by sharing it with others and allowing them to share theirs with me.

What made you decide to share your story?
For the first three years of my recovery, I asked my family to keep my illness secret. In earnest, for the first year that I was back in Oregon and going to day treatment 8 hours a day, I insisted that they keep even my presence in Portland a secret from all but grandmothers and siblings. I didn’t want to be “that girl.” The girl everyone pitied and watched for signs of mental illness. As I have gotten stronger and more confident about my recovery and about my self-worth in general, I have opened up a bit at a time. After almost 5 years battling my illness, I began feeling that I wanted to reach out and help someone else. I could finally understand that I really had accomplished significant progress in recovery; more than had ever been promised to me, or expected. I was ready for a next step. The next step for me meant that I would no longer live with the “shame” of hiding my eating disorder. There are still shockingly few resources for people struggling with eating disorders. As hungry as my family and I have been for knowledge and research, it has always been an ordeal to seek out new materials. For all these reasons, when The Shame Prom landed in our laps, my mother and I felt compelled to participate. I don’t mean to say that I felt no apprehension about publishing my most shameful moments alone, but I felt deep in my heart that I was being called to do so.

What was the most challenging part of writing your essay?
The most difficult part of writing my essay was being willing to look back. I have worked so hard to move past the constant sense of self-loathing; it was scary to conjure those thoughts and feelings again, relive the darkness that threatened to swallow me up. I hesitated weeks in starting my piece, purely because I felt an excitement in my body; my Anorexia, sensing an opportunity, and clambering to push me back under the tyranny of hateful self-talk. When I sat down to write, I told myself ‘Remember everything you have learned. You have earned the right to expose this ruthless disease…don’t spare one drop of blood’.

How has sharing your story helped you?
My mom and I spent months writing, reading and editing together. We laughed and sobbed over the trials and tribulations we have experienced together through this process. We sent our pieces together. When we pushed the “send” button I had an overwhelming sense of freedom. “The truth shall set you free” rang true for me in that moment. I genuinely embraced the spirit of the project and decided, “You know what; this is who I am, YES I struggle like everyone else, and I am done pretending that I don’t. I will live an authentic life and embrace the consequences.” Realizing how far I have come, from secrets kept in the dark, to truth shared in the light…I much prefer the light.

Did you learn anything about yourself by going through this writing process?
Life with an eating disorder is a devastating experience. Day after day the battle to eat, or not eat consumes every waking moment. Even today with all the skills and knowledge I have ascertained, each day there is a spirit of deprivation inside me that would like me to believe I don’t deserve to want, need, or eat food. I know this about my brain and body, and there is a constant energy management happening in order for me to resist that feeling. Stresses of life and the occasional moments of insecurity can still be all it takes to unravel my ability to resist the self-flagellation. I felt for so long that I was an eating disorder…that it defined me and left me void of those parts of myself I once recognized as good and capable. Writing my story allowed me to see the difference between the eating disorder and ‘me.’ I am not my eating disorder. Anorexia and Kate Van Raden have different values, different perceptions, different experiences and different desires. I am so much more than some illness; and now that I am aware and informed, I can be more compassionate to other people’s struggles. I value the place I have chosen in the world, and can now accept the love that has always been available to me. I have a future that resonates with hope.

Are you still modeling? If so, how is that experience for you today?
Hell NO! I only began modeling because I was already ill and thin enough to make some money doing it. There was not one thing about that career that made me feel validated or beautiful. People are always surprised to hear that, but then I explain to them:
Imagine, if you go to a casting, you know they are looking for a model of your ‘type’. So you walk into a room of 200 girls who look eerily like you, but slightly taller, or thinner, or with fuller lips and better skin. A casting director looks at you once and says ‘Turn. Oh god no, her thighs are too thick for the pants. And her eyebrows are terrible. That mole splits her lip line…no no no, we can’t use this. NEXT!”

Living to please an industry that not only demands perfection, but seeks to annihilate diversity (in order to sell us all their image of what every person is supposed to be) was never something I could resolve with my personal values. I believe that beauty, real beauty, includes the entire range of shapes, colors and sizes…that is the spice of life!

How do you keep yourself healthy today?
I am still in regular therapy with someone I have a great deal of respect for. I look for opportunities to get more insight and more education whenever possible; be that a course in DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), mindful meditation or a new book about neuroplasticity. I try to be transparent with my family when I am struggling and welcome their support and guidance. But mostly, I now thoughtfully greet myself each morning with love. I take opportunities throughout my day to feel appreciation for my body; all I have put it through and how faithfully it continues to let me play, learn, feel pleasure, love, and yes, eat. When you are constantly making the choice to offer yourself this kind of compassion, the things about eating that can be hard, get easier.

Having gone through this experience, what message and/or advice would you give to anyone struggling with food, weight and body image?
First, you are not alone. You may think the things you have felt and done throughout your experience are more awful, more disgusting, more shameful than anyone can imagine…so pick one person you love and trust most in the world and test that theory out on them. You must give someone the opportunity to know (and yes, I understand, possibly reject) the real authentic you, in order to feel that ‘authentic you’ authentically accepted, warts and all. I would venture to guess that those who love you will pleasantly surprise you with the depth of their compassion and understanding. Of course, there will be people on the path who don’t understand and cannot offer that compassion…but in my personal experience, those are the people who are probably not meant to walk your path with you. I have come to understand that the longer an eating disorder is in place, the harder it is to move beyond it. The sooner one can release the shame about this particular struggle, the shorter the climb is out of the darkness. I know now that just like anyone else, I am worthy of a life filled with peace, self-acceptance, love and kindness. So I encourage anyone who lives under the presumption that they are unworthy of these things, to make it their business to defy that thinking. Start by testing it. Allow some space in the iron clad will of your eating disorder, for some doubt. That cruel voice, she could be wrong (mine is a ‘she’).

Do you have anything else that you would like to say to your readers?
You are beautiful. There is no one on this planet who can replace YOU. You have as much right to have flaws as anyone else on this planet. You have the right to accept those flaws and not feel shame because of that. While it is wonderful to choose a path towards being the best human being possible, it should be a choice made out of self-love and not self-loathing; so be aware of how you talk to yourself and what is motivating your choices.

I am living with an eating disorder. I am not an eating disorder. I am an individual with strengths and weaknesses and I am going to spend the rest of my life celebrating those strengths, learning about those weaknesses and giving myself the gift of peace.

I want to express my deep gratitude to both Kristine and Kate for continuing their courageous contributions to the issues of shame and eating disorders. Without a doubt, your stories have already helped many. Thank you both!

And to Amy and Hollye, for embarking on such an important project, for giving these 26 women voices to express what has felt inexpressible and for inspiring countless others to begin their own journey.

skinny minnie

Women’s Wear Daily reported yesterday that Barneys teamed up with The Walt Disney Co. to create “Electric Holiday,” an exciting film for the upcoming holiday season. Merging the concept of Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade with high fashion, the film will feature Disney’s most famed characters on a Paris catwalk.

When interviewed about the project, Barneys creative director Dennis Freedman detailed the immense time spent reviewing, “The world of the Paris fashion shows, of fashion, of people in fashion, of the rituals, all of the idiosyncrasies. The important thing to me was always that it had to be authentic. It really had to hit the nail on the head in every detail… When we got to the moment when all Disney characters walk on the runway, there was a discussion,” Freedman recalled. “The standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress. There was a real moment of silence, because these characters don’t change. I said, ‘If we’re going to make this work, we have to have a 5-foot-11 Minnie,’ and they agreed. When you see Goofy, Minnie and Mickey, they are runway models.”

It seems that the bodies of the original Disney characters have been deemed unacceptable for the runway. These iconic characters needed to be turned into supermodels. In order to fit the mold, they were severely slimmed down (read: made gaunt and anorexic).

Needless to say, Electric Holiday has sparked generous amounts of controversy. What do you think about it? High fashion or highly disturbing?

if mother nature didn’t like curves, she would have made the world flat

Levi's Advertisement

Levi’s Advertisement

Entertainment, fashion, advertising and other industries have an uncanny way of making both men and women feel their bodies are unacceptable. They capitalize upon the insatiable desires to obtain the unobtainable, that is the ideas of perfection that are splashed before our eyes in film, television, magazines, the internet, etc.

Then… every so often a campaign that supports the idea of loving your self and your body comes along and makes some waves. Love the Levis copy “If mother nature didn’t like curves, she would have made the world flat.” And as the Lady Gaga Born This Way lyrics state, that thanks to the DJ’s that be have been deeply etched into our psyche, “There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are… So hold your head up… Just love yourself…”

It’s up to each and every one of us to be discerning about what we allow in and out of our psyches and to choose what we will believe. I say…

L O V E  Y O U R  C U R V E S

We’ve all got ’em and they’re not going anywhere. Some are bigger, some are smaller but they are all yours. Own them! Shake them! Embrace them! They make up the beautiful shape of your unique body. The body that you live in. The body that carries you from place to place. The body that asks only for nourishment, hydration, rest and respect.

L O V E  Y O U R  B O D Y

How do you treat your body? What do you say to your body? Do you have a positive self-loving internal dialogue? Or is it more negative and damaging? Are there harmful mantras that you have whispered to yourself for so long that you don’t even realize it anymore? You are not alone (see here). But there is hope! You can consciously change those damaging whispers into empowering mantras that will lift you up instead of crush you (see here). We must all make our own choices about what we allow in and what we keep out, what we let impact us and what we disregard. Consider the external messages you receive and what you internalize. Take note of the messages to change, alter and tweak yourself to perfection and replace them with the reality that you can accept yourself as you are. There is nothing wrong with you!

I leave you with this. Y O U  A R E  P E R F E C T. Don’t change a thing!
(pass it on)

in honor of fashion week


In just a few hours, the ribbon will be cut to kick off New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and I can think of no better time to pay homage to the models who make these events possible. For upwards of the past decade I have listened to first-hand accounts of the fashion industry and the experiences of models, at large. The dehumanization and objectification of men and women and the expectation of compliance only chip away at self-esteem and wield extraordinary power to perpetuate personal problems and societal issues, such as eating disorders.

Over the past couple of years, it seems that the industry is gaining momentum towards empowerment.

Two years ago, Coco Rocha penned her concerns about the prevalence of eating disorders within the fashion industry in an impassioned open letter to the New York Times. She is one of the few models who have been outspoken about the ubiquitous issue of eating disorders within the industry.

Last year, Sara Ziff founded The Model Alliance, a not-for-profit organization working to establish fair labor standards for models in the U.S. Specifically, the initiative addresses healthcare, compensation, sexual harassment, working conditions and education, along with encouraging a “safe and healthy work environment that protects models’ mental and physical well being.” The Model Alliance is becoming a place where models can find support, voice their concerns and build a community.

Please visit their website, spread the word, share this post, do whatever you can to keep the conversation going, to support The Model Alliance and all of the men and women it protects! Thank you!

next top model contestant’s body likened to “overstuffed luggage”

Australia’s Next Top Model (ANTM) contestant, Alissandra Moone, is underweight, according to the Australian body mass index. Two weeks ago, the 18-year-old was criticized by ANTM judge, Alex Perry, when he likened Moone’s body to “overstuffed luggage.”

Moone feels, “it’s a very bad message to be sending to young girls who watch the show.” She explains,”I know this has happened to other girls in the past but I was shocked when (Perry) said I was too fat.” Moone warns, “I’m only a size eight. There’s going to be a lot of young girls watching this who are bigger than me, and how’s this going to make them feel?”

A spokeswoman for the ButterFly Foundation, which is aimed at educating and supporting people with eating disorders, said: “The (fashion) industry has a responsibility for portraying women of all healthy sizes and in playing a strong educated role in the contribution they make to the serious issue of negative body image. We encourage Top Model to be conscious of the example they set to their impressionable viewers.”

Alex Perry stands by his comments and has refused to apologize. He answered his critics citing “incorrect reporting.” Perry claims to have not commented on Moone’s body shape or body image. Instead, he says that, “[he] was talking about her modelling skills.”

Incidentally, this is just one of countless times that models of various shapes and sizes get feedback such as this. Simultaneously, there have been efforts to govern the participation of models in fashion weeks worldwide.

In 2007, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) set forth industry guidelines in response to the death of Eliana Ramos, a Uruguayan model who died of malnutrition in 2007.

Diane von Furstenberg, president of the CFDA, explained that the CFDA has no intention of policing or regulating a model’s weight or her body-mass index.

von Furstenberg went on to explain that, “We create inspirational images and it’s important that we don’t encourage unhealthy behavior. We can promote health and encourage it, empower women and give them role models not by how much you weigh but by de-glamorizing models. Few women can become models and it lasts for a short time. Yes there is a problem and because we are in the business of fashion and image we can help.“ Ultimately, von Furstenberg explained that the responsibility lies with the agencies, not the designers.

Does calling someone “fat” or “overstuffed luggage” promote and encourage health? Or does it crush self-esteem and create a war between self and body? What a dilemma this presents to models, girls and women! Don’t accept your natural body, don’t become emaciated and your natural body is one that needs to be fought. What do you think about all of this?

perfecting vs. accepting

The New York Times published this article on getting bikini-ready in their May 25, 2011 Style section

Which do you believe in and why… financially investing in the ever-changing notion of “perfecting” your body or emotionally investing in loving your ever-changing body?