Friday, September 28, 2007

Why is No-l-ita Offering No-Information for Sufferers?

After all this talk about the "No Anorexia" campaign, I decided to show you a picture of another nude model--me.

This is from a 1999 article in Glamour, when I first went public about my seven-year battle with bulimia. I was healthy when the photo was taken, but my body didn't look much different from when I was very sick. That's the thing about eating disorders. They don't always look so shocking.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about the No-l-ita ad campaign. First, it is of no surprise to me that the campaign comes from Oliviero Toscani. After all his years at Benetton, he has become known for this style. I think he is a great artist in his ability to increase the visibility of taboo topics. He has certainly gotten people talking with this uncomfortable, extreme image of a very sick anorexic. After Ana Carolina Reston's death last year and the declarations and recommendations of fashion councils around the world, I am glad to see the discussion continue. However, it saddens me to see that, yet again, the focus is on the extreme. Yes, sensationalism works and gets people's attention, but it's such a limited view of what eating disorders look like. I appeared on a few billboards when I was so ill and depressed I thought I would die. That desperation never showed up in the pictures, though.

Finally, publicity for the sake of it is, in my mind, very selfish, irresponsible and money-oriented. When I came out and talked publicly about my eating disorder, I didn't just want to put myself in the spotlight--I wanted to make sure that my story helped and served a purpose. That's why I searched for an organization that worked to raise awareness and helped people deal and get treatment. Whenever I talk about my own experience, I make sure that there are resources available for anyone who needs help. Since No-l-ita is taking on eating disorders as the face of their campaign, it would be thoughtful for them to give eating disorder resources on their website. When you see that billboard, what next? How about providing some information on the issue they're using to get attention? Controversy gets people buzzing. But let's make sure this is not a case of all talk and no action.

Note: We have written to No-l-ita, suggesting that they include health and referral information as part of their campaign. We have not received a response yet, but will keep you updated.

Fashion Statement: Oliviero Toscani
Has the "No Anorexia" Ad Become Pro-Ana Thinspiration?

Photo: Michael O'Neil

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Has the "No Anorexia" Ad Become Pro-Ana Thinspiration?

The nude image of Isabelle Caro, a 27-year-old anorexic, is turning up on billboards all over Italy and spreading like wildfire over the internet. No-l-ita says they launched this campaign to "use advertising as an instrument to promote awareness of social evils." But many fear that while the image may shock most, it will likely be used as a source of "thinspiration" for those who frequent pro-ana websites, MySpace pages and message boards.

How could anyone strive to look like a startling picture of such serious illness? For starters, pro-anas are ill themselves. And they are looking for validation. Over at MamaVISION, there's an interesting debate going on. Shana, from the "post-pro-ana" site We Bite Back (an online community started by a former pro-ana who got tired of looking for thinspiration and decided to get healthy) had this to say:

"people turn to pro-ana because anorexia hurts like hell. and it hurts even more to think that what you are doing is twisted and sick and wrong and abnormal. so if they turn it around, make starvation holy, coveted and an ideal, it makes their illness almost a… talent. it’s a desperate attempt to feel good. and it can work, just very temporarily."

The image is shocking on its own. That's what severe anorexia looks like. Now imagine a girl or young woman who sees this ad and thinks, "I wonder how much she weighs. Do I have more 'fat' on my thighs? How long will it take before my ribs stick out like that?" For some, that's what anorexia feels like.

Fashion Statement: Oliviero Toscani
Why is No-l-ita Offering No-Information for Sufferers?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Girls Know What Girls Want

Calling all advertisers: Want to know what girls really think of your ads? Consult 3iYing. This "all-girl" agency has asked hundreds of teens and twenty-something young women to give their honest opinions about why most advertising completely misses the mark (and pisses off the target consumers in the process).

In a series of video and photo flips, girls take on the advertising industry and tell it like it is.

Maayan, 17, has a message for Godiva:

And Maria, 19, has some choice words for Close Up toothpaste:

The girls of the 3iYing also authored the "Girl Improved" column in Business Week, offering their take on the most common advertising mistakes and how to fix them. So now it's your turn. What ads would you flip?

[You Tube and Flickr] via [Jezebel]

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fashion Statement: Oliviero Toscani

Fashion photographer Oliviero Toscani is not one to shy away from controversy or shock tactics. Now he is taking on the anorexia epidemic in a new ad campaign picturing an emaciated anorexic with the tagline "No anorexia." The ad is sponsored by Italian clothing company No-l-ita and will be featured on billboards in many Italian cities--just in time for Milan Fashion Week. "I've been looking at the problem of anorexia for years. Who is responsible? Communication in general? Television? Fashion?" asked Toscano.

"So it is very interesting that in the end a fashion company has understood the importance of the problem, and with full awareness has found the courage to take the risk this campaign involves," he said in a No-l-ita press release.

While we don't think the media and the fashion industry are entirely responsible for causing anorexia, we are completely on board with the idea that they should take responsibility for promoting healthier images of beauty. The images in this ad clearly show what un-retouched anorexia looks like. No makeup. No designer clothes. No forgiving lighting. It's not pretty.

Toscani raises another important point, though. The industry does need to be aware of the gravity of anorexia. But what about other eating disorders? Public education campaigns (and celebrity tabloids for that matter) have long relied on the image of the emaciated anorexic because it is the most startling and visible of eating disorders. However, most sufferers do not wear their illnesses as skin and bones. Millions of people are caught up in dangerous, life-threatening eating disordered behavior. You wouldn't stop in your tracks if you saw their pictures on a billboard because they don't look skeletal. You wouldn't gasp or speculate about their health because they have pretty "normal" bodies. Too-skinny model spotting has practically become a media pastime, but there are plenty of curvier runway regulars who are suffering, too. [Reuters and AFP]

Has the New "No Anorexia" Ad Become Pro-Ana Thinspiration?
Why is No-l-ita Offering No-Information for Sufferers?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Our Top 3 Beauty Tips

1: Beauty Doesn't Guarantee Happiness
Everywhere you turn, the message is that physical beauty is the ultimate cure-all. It might seem like the perfect body or a flawless face would make life easier. Take it from us: that is one ugly lie. We both wasted countless hours obsessing about weight and making endless excuses to hide our secret behavior. In the end, we discovered that our disorders were masking much deeper problems--problems that had nothing to do with the numbers on a scale.

2: What You See Is Not What You Get
Stop comparing yourself to pictures in magazines. Seriously, stop it! You will never look as good as those models, because outside of the glossy universe, even the models don’t look that good. Thanks to the magic of retouching, the line between fantasy and reality is blurred just enough to make us all feel hopelessly insecure. Magali's B-cup bust was inflated to a D-cup for the cover of Cosmopolitan. Her waist has been trimmed, her teeth have been straightened, and her lips have been plumped-- all with a few clicks of a mouse. Perfection sells, and there are plenty of people buying. Here's the catch: there is no beauty product in existence that will work as well as Photoshop.

3: You Don't Have to Suffer in Silence
Sure, we're an unlikely pair, but our common experience has drawn us together. Millions of women and men share that experience. Eating disorders and body image issues have reached epidemic proportions. Plastic surgery rates have skyrocketed, and it seems like just about everyone is feeling the “makeover” pressure. We have met so many amazing, intelligent, compassionate people whose lives have been touched by these issues. Teachers, students, doctors, therapists, editors, stylists, agents, TV producers, the list goes on. We know that anyone can be affected, regardless of race, class, age, or gender. Reaching out is the first important step. Find your voice, and find help for yourself or someone you care about. You can’t do it on your own, but the good news is that you don’t have to.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Spectrum of Disordered Eating

Iowa researcher Pamela Kessl is exploring a "new" eating disorder called purging disorder. Purging has long been associated with bulimia, but for the women in Kessl's study there is no bingeing--just purging after regular-sized meals or even a small snacks.

Patients with purging disorder face many of the same health risks of those suffering from bulimia. The illness is also linked to psychological problems and poor body image. Unfortunately, because purging disorder has not yet been quantified and codified (i.e. it falls outside of the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders), it is difficult for doctors to screen and treat suffering patients. And forget about getting health insurance to cover treatment if your eating disorder happens to fall into a gray area. It's hard enough to get insurance companies to pay up when an eating disorder diagnosis is spelled out in black and white.

The bottom line is that we live in a culture of disordered eating. Pictures of emaciated actresses on the red carpet are quickly tagged with "Have these Stars Gone Too Far?" headlines. But the truth is that millions of us have gone too far, even if we don't have a doctor's diagnosis or a skeletal frame to prove it. Disordered eating comes in all shapes, sizes, and behaviors. Unhealthy obsessions and self-destructive rituals go unnoticed and untreated every day (or worse yet, they are validated and praised).

The epidemic of disordered eating or "eating disorders not otherwise specified" is being passed along to future generations of women, too:

A 2007 study of 70,000 schoolchildren in the U.K. shows that forty per cent of 14 and 15-year-old girls had either nothing or just a drink for breakfast. Many also went without lunch. Half of 12-15-year-old girls named their physical appearance as their biggest worry in life.

On a 2006 episode of Oprah, Oprah interviewed the mothers of a three-year-old who was obsessed with her looks and a 4-year-old who was terrified of gaining weight. It became quickly and painfully obvious that these women were battling their own body image demons.

This new research about purging disorder has sparked some important conversations and debate, but it also draws attention to a larger issue. How do we effectively diagnose and treat disordered eating when our culture's disordered attitudes about food and weight have become the norm?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Extreme Mommy Makeovers

So much for cocoa butter and stomach crunches. Now mommies who are dissatisfied with their post-baby bodies can pay a visit to their plastic surgeon, who, in Extra correspondent Dayna Devon's case, also happens to be her husband. Hey, he's loving his wife for who she is on the inside (literally) while making a few adjustments to what she looks like on the outside. Not many guys can claim that feat.

It seems that plastic surgery is fast becoming the hot new postpartum trend. “When I first started [my] program three years ago, I’d see two to three patients a month and now I see five to six patients a week,” says Dr. Mark Schusterman, founder of the aptly named Makeovers for Moms program at Houston's Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Center. He offers package deals on tummy tucks, breast lifts and laser surgeries for new moms.

On top of the astronomical costs (hopefully women aren't choosing new boobs over college funds) and health risks of these procedures, there's also the question of how much time these patients are giving their bodies to "bounce back" after giving birth before they sign up for surgery. Is our celebrity mom watch culture stirring up an unnecessary and accelerated panic? When women compare their new mom bodies to the airbrushed, overexercised, and yes, nipped and tucked images on every newsstand and gossip blog, is it any wonder more and more moms are rushing to go under the knife? [MSNBC]

Monday, September 17, 2007

Tween Runway Queen

12-year-old Maddison Gabriel was selected as the official ambassador of Gold Coast Fashion Week in Australia, a decision that does not sit well with Aussie Prime Minister John Howard. "There should be age limits, I mean...we do have to preserve some notion of innocence in our society," he said. Many in the fashion industry would actually agree with him--age recommendations have been made and enforced in both Europe and the U.S. (although girls are still no strangers to the runways.)

What does lil Maddison have to say about the controversy? "I believe that I can fit into women's clothes. I can model women's clothes, so I should be able to do it." Her mom, for the record, is of the opinion that "[The Prime Minister] does not know exactly what 13 and 14-year-old girls are like. I used to vote for him. We're trying to get our teenage daughters to act older. I am so happy that I've got a daughter who has got a good head on her shoulders." Yeah, except that your daughter is 12. Last time we checked that number comes before 13 and 14. [Daily Mail]

UPDATE: Happy Birthday, Maddison! She just celebrated the big 1-3, so I guess we should let her mom off the hook now that she's officially a mature teenager prepared to deal with all the insane pressures of the fashion industry. Riiight.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Teen Model Shops at Forever 21. OMG!

Chanel Iman is fashion's It Girl (good thing she ended up with the bone structure to go with that name). But in between walking runways for Diane von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs and Dolce & Gabbana and shooting spreads for Vogue, you might find 16-year-old Chanel hunting for bargains at Forever 21 or chowing down at Roscoe's with her L.A. pals. Believe it or not, this top model acts her age when she's not on the fashion clock. Oh, and she's already been working steadily for three years.

In fact, a large percentage of the world's top models started their careers well before they could vote or even drive. It's sometimes hard to tell, though, when we see them all made up and decked out in couture. So what does Chanel think about the debate over runway models being too skinny? "I eat everything," she says. "People don't realize that we're so young. These models are coming in when they're like 13 or 14 years old. We're wearing women's clothes, but we're actually not developed yet." [LA Times]

photo: Kirk McCoy/LAT

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Fashion Statement: Jezebel

We've developed quite the girl crush on the Jezebel gals. Today we were practically swooning after we got a look at these two airline hostesses who showed up at at the Bryant Park tents to offer the "fashion weak" some good old-fashioned barf bags filled with Ex-Lax, tongue depressors, and tic tacs. Bulimia jokes don't usually make us laugh, but let's give credit where credit is due. This is an inspired stunt, complete with a catchy tagline: Fashion Week Make You Want to Hurl? We're Here to Help. Bonus: watch the video.

And for the record, if Fashion Week really does make you want to hurl, please get your help from a professional. Check out the column to your left and you'll find lots of resources.

Model/Actress Ponderings

Are you familiar with the snark-inspiring "model/actress" label? Well, I belong to that club. Guilty as charged. But in defense of all the other M/As out there, the benefits and protections afforded to actors make that SAG card look pretty darn appealing, especially since there's nothing that even remotely resembles a union for models.

We launched the 5 Resolutions network after Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston died from anorexia. As we started to connect with others in the industry, I started seriously pondering the state of models' working conditions. We released the findings from our latest survey, and I kept on pondering--mostly about my own journey from model to M/A.

I've been working as a model for my entire adult life. When I joined the Screen Actors Guild in 1994, I suddenly discovered this whole new world where workers had rights (gasp!) and companies had to follow rules (incredible!). There's a framework in place in Hollywood. It just hasn't quite made it to the fashion capital. Yet. The way I see it, models deserve benefits and protections, too. We should start demanding them.

Sure, models are financially compensated for our work. Some of us are paid very well. But even the most successful supermodels in the world (and they're a dying breed, according to Claudia Schiffer) don't come anywhere near the $70 million an actor like, say, Tom Cruise makes on the job. The truth is that most models are underage and underpaid.

SAG members get pensions and health plans that include medical, dental, vision, prescriptions, and mental health coverage (okay, so Tom is not exactly taking advantage of that one). To claim these benefits, we pay a premium (about $150 a quarter) and our dues–$116 a year plus a small sliding scale percentage based on our earnings. There's also a hotline, which members can call if they have questions about their rights, their health, or to report an unsafe work environment. Before I joined SAG, I had to fend for myself where health insurance and retirement savings were concerned. And there's no model 411, I can tell you that much.

Every time I start a movie, I have to make an appointment with a doctor, who assesses my physical ability and mental stability to do the job. While our survey shows that health and fashion professionals agree that yearly exams would be the most effective way to protect the health of models, it isn't happening because there's no organization to manage it.

As an actor, I get my own private changing room. Has anybody ever provided private changing rooms backstage at any fashion show? I remember changing in rooms with a hundred other people, rushing to cover up and avoid having the photographers' cameras invade my privacy.

When I shoot a movie or TV scene where characters are drinking, no actor is REALLY drinking anything alcoholic (though some of them might wish they were). There is no booze served on the set. How many bottles of champagne are emptied on a regular basis at fashion shows? Want to earn some extra cash from recycling? Just hang outside the Bryant Park tents and wait for the Dom Perignon bottles to pile up. Trade 'em in and you'll make a killing.

For acting jobs, I get a mandated twelve hours of rest between the time I finish work until my call time in the morning. Sounds pretty reasonable, but it's an extravagant luxury compared to midnight fittings when your first fashion show wants you there at 8 a.m. Or try flying into a city, landing at 2 a.m. and your call time is 6 a.m.

In 1933, SAG was founded by an "action-oriented, motivated, gutsy" group of actors who risked their careers because they were fed up with unfavorable working conditions and grueling hours. Hmmm, sound familiar? As much as I love fashion, I don't think there is anyone who would disagree that the industry has its own share of unfavorable working conditions and grueling hours. So what are we going to do about it?

Models march down runways for a living. What would happen if we marched for our rights? I'll admit it's a ridiculous image, but I'd be willing to bet that with enough of the old guard on board we could make some real changes for the young models who are slaving away on runways today. And we could probably manage to do it without falling on our faces. Any action-oriented, motivated, and/or gutsy takers out there? Post your ideas or email us. 5resolutions[at]insidebeauty[dot]org

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

9 out of 10 Doctors and Fashionistas Agree...

According to our survey, both fashion and health professionals rated yearly exams including eating disorders assessments as the most effective way to protect the health of models.

Remember last New York Fashion Week when the CFDA Health Initiative panel discussion was the hottest event in the tents? There is less buzz about the too-skinnies this season (maybe because some of them couldn't get work visas?), but we want to make sure this issue doesn't slip off the radar.

To keep the discussions moving forward, we conducted an online survey and asked our fashion and health colleagues this question: "What do you think about the following recommendations that have been proposed to protect the health of models?" We got 234 responses from a sample that included models, agents, designers, editors, writers, creative directors, hair stylists, makeup artists, photographers, publishers, publicists, medical doctors, eating disorder experts, nutritionists, and mental health professionals. Here's how the two groups rated the various recommendations:

Fashion and Beauty Professionals
1. Yearly exams including eating disorder assessments for models
(66% said "likely to be effective"; 22% said "might be effective")

2. Require models identified as having eating disorders to seek professional help*
(59% said likely to be effective; 34% said might be effective)

3. Weight/body mass index guidelines for models
(54% said likely to be effective; 20% said might be effective)

4. Industry-wide education and awareness programs*
(51% said likely to be effective; 37% said might be effective)

5. Age guidelines for models*
(42% said likely to be effective; 32% said might be effective)

6. Regular breaks and rest for models
(42% said likely to be effective; 29% said might be effective)

7. Healthy food and snacks at fashion shows*
(32% said likely to be effective; 37% said might be effective)

8. Ban on smoking at fashion shows*
(49% said unlikely to be effective; 22% said might be effective)

9. Ban on alcohol at fashion shows*
(54% said unlikely to be effective; 29% said might be effective)

Health Professionals

1. Yearly exams including eating disorder assessments for models
(62% said "likely to be effective"; 28% said "might be effective")

2. Weight/body mass index guidelines for models
(55% said likely to be effective; 40% said might be effective)

3. Industry-wide education and awareness programs*
(55% said likely to be effective; 34% said might be effective)

4. Require models identified as having eating disorders to seek professional help*
(50% said likely to be effective; 42% said might be effective)

5. Age guidelines for models*
(40% said likely to be effective; 42% said might be effective)

6. Regular breaks and rest for models
(37% said likely to be effective; 47% said might be effective)

7. Ban on smoking at fashion shows*
(37% said likely to be effective; 33% said might be effective)

8. Healthy food and snacks at fashion shows*
(25% said likely to be effective; 43% said might be effective)

9. Ban on alcohol at fashion shows*
(38% said might be effective; 33% said unlikely to be effective)

*included in the CFDA Health Initiative Guidelines

If annual check-ups and eating disorder screenings got the highest marks all around, why aren't models required to get a clean bill of health before working? Mandatory health exams are not unheard of in other industries, but the larger-than-sample-sized elephant on the runway here is the question of how these exams would be regulated and paid for when there is no structure of accountability or union to protect the fashion worker bees. Yep, we said the "u" word.

And speaking of unions, Magali happens to be a member of one you might have heard of. It's called SAG. Here is her model/actress comparison of working conditions, rights, regulations, and benefits in the fashion and film worlds.