STYLE

Dear NYFW: Models Fight Back Against The Pressure To Lose Weight And Lack Of Diversity At Fashion Week

'Let’s open our eyes and widen the lens'.

10/02/2017 10:44 GMT

Models are sharing stories of the pressure they have felt to lose weight or the discrimination they have faced due to their skin colour with the hashtag #dearNYFW.

Their posts range from harrowing tales of casting calls, to inspiring messages calling for more diversity in fashion.

They come after as group of 35 models, including Iskra Lawrence, Ashley Chew and Carré Otis, published a searingly honest open letter to the fashion industry, calling for it to “prioritise health and celebrate diversity on the runway”.

Model Hartje Andresen has explained how this open letter has inspired so many to share their stories on Instagram.  

“#DearNYFW, as models, we care about each others’ health, so when we saw the findings from @ModelAllianceNY and @NEDAstaff ’s research study, we decided to stand together and use our platform to affect change.

“Please understand that it is part of the fashion industry’s responsibility to promote and encourage healthy bodies and diversity in age and ethnicity.”

“When I had my weight down to nearly 100 lbs, my hip circumference finally measured 34 inches, and I had my best fashion show seasons,” wrote Andresen.

“However, as an active person, I started breaking my ribs quite often, during exercise or by bumping into things. I was shocked to learn that being underweight had both caused my body to lose bone density, as well as affected my fertility.

“Even though the idea of gaining weight terrified me, I was very fortunate to have support through my agencies, who embrace who I am and see my health and fitness as an asset, as seen on the right.”

 Scroll down to see models share their stories.

“I am aghast at the accepted concept that [models] do not have the authority to speak on a topic that they overcame.”

“#DearNYFW I remember when I was 22 having my hopes and dreams shattered because I couldn’t participate in another season for what felt like the zillionth time. after constantly being turned away after my fluctuating size 35-36 hip was measured.”

* 02/02/17: #DearNYFW I remember when I was 22 having my hopes & dreams shattered because I couldn't participate in another season for what felt like the zillionth time. after constantly being turned away after my fluctuating size 35-36 hip was measured I finally caught the eye of a NY agency. unfortunately happiness turned to angst after a meeting about the size of my thighs pre-Fashion Week. as an agent flipped through the pages of my portfolio she said "I can't use any of these pictures to send to clients because of your size." she pointed out several pictures before stopping at this particular one here where my thighs have the slightest "thigh gap" as she proclaimed it was too small. she proceeded to tell me that if I really want this I should stick to this strict diet & drafted up a list of only yogurt, nuts & yoga 3xs a day at least until FW. in which she also recommended that I live in a model apartment with girls on a similar diet for motivation. as a woman of color, a woman of color over the age of 18 I looked at my hip size as another strike against me in this industry. before i could even become comfortable with my curves as a woman I was visiting body wrap clinics to shed extra weight & studying how to lose 2 hip sizes in two weeks. American Fashion Industry, who you accept as a model matters. a diversity in shapes, ethnicities, age & so much more should be present in your portrayal of beauty. your standards & representation of acceptability trickles down to our society (our youth 👶🏽), promotes horrible eating disorders & perpetuates a non-inclusive ideology of beauty standards. — #DiaryOfAnUncomfortableModel I signed the petition in agreement with the @modelallianceny to evoke a healthier & more inclusive fashion industry. http://modelalliance.org/open-letter-to-the-american-fashion-industry you should too! #DearNYFW x @modelallianceny

A photo posted by Já(y)-Ve•ōnna (@javeonnagordon) on

"We have to stop telling women what they should look like and start celebrating the diversity of womanhood and humanity as a whole. It is so beautiful. Let’s open our eyes and widen the lens.”

"I’ve been told numerous times that I needed to lose inches off of my measurements to stack up to the taller girls. And after this [relationship] breakup I lost almost 15lbs and many inches off of my hips. But no one noticed. No agents, no clients. I had finally achieved the ideal hip measurement and it didn’t make one difference to my work. My hips were smaller but I was on the verge of tears at all times.”

I did this shoot with my friend @peetigga about 8 years ago. I remember wanting to shoot lingerie with him because not only is he a really cool dude, but I was going through a very difficult break up and had lost quite a bit of weight. You see, my weight and measurements have always been a bit of a “thing” since I began modeling. I’ve been told numerous times that I needed to lose inches off of my measurements to stack up to the taller girls. And after this breakup I lost almost 15lbs and many inches off of my hips. But no one noticed. No agents, no clients. I had finally achieved the ideal hip measurement and it didn’t make one difference to my work. My hips were smaller but I was on the verge of tears at all times. I’m pretty sure I was crying right before Pete snapped this shot. After all of that and after my heart healed I decided that I was no longer going to allow anyone to tell me I wasn’t enough because of the numbers on a measuring tape. It hasn’t been easy. It’s still a struggle to not compare myself to others on social media, at castings and at work. But reading the stories of the other models on @modelallianceny has really inspired me to encourage others to take a stand for themselves and to encourage others to love the shape they are in. I work out and I eat healthy but I do so because it feels good. And I still have a serious sweet tooth. Because life is about balance. . . . . #dearnyfw #model #fashion #love #selflove #balance #fitness #health #healthy

A photo posted by Erin Williams (@erinwilliamsmodel) on

”#DearNYFW i love my hair texture, I love my roots, i love my ethnicity & you should too.”

"It is hard to reset your ideal body image when it has gone too far. I hope that our daughters can one day see beauty in all figures and base happiness and success on inner strength and grace.”

"It is hard to remember that I am beautiful at my size and shape. I hope that with this fashion week clothing companies choose to embrace models of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and backgrounds. We are all beautiful! Let’s make sure the industry represents that.”

#DearNYFW When I was 14 I became severely ill with tonsillitis. To the point where I lost 14lbs in 2 weeks. It was terrifying! My fever was insanely high, I couldn't keep food (or even more importantly my antibiotics down!), I kept collapsing, my parents didn't know what to do. After I had my tonsils out my health improved dramatically and I noticed how different my body looked. So did everyone else saying how great it was that I'd lost weight and that I looked great. I desperately wished I could have put them through those two weeks where I genuinely had moments when I wasn't sure I was going to make it. After that scary time I started modeling in NYC, but it was a constant battle. I knew my hips had to be a certain measurement to be a straight size model and I just couldn't get them small enough. Once I broke down in the kitchen and cried my heart out to my Dad. Hating myself for having too big a bone structure. Then Wilhelmina had a Curve Casting. I never thought of myself as a curve model because I assumed you needed to be plus size aka 12+ which I wasn't and still am not. Despite being on the smaller end @marissamuscari signed me! It was a magical wonderful moment in my life! I remember how Marissa said that she wanted me to stay healthy. Eat and exercise the way I want, if my measurements change, they would change my compcards. I was stunned by this open attitude and was so happy I could celebrate my signing by eating a burger with my dad! My size is still an issue for me, because I am what is called "inbetween" I'm a size 8 and that is one of the least used sizes in the industry. At many castings I am told I am too big and then at others that I am too small. It is hard to remember that I am beautiful at my size and shape. I hope that with this fashion week clothing companies choose to embrace models of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and backgrounds. We are all beautiful! Let's make sure the industry represents that 💋💋💋#nyfw @modelallianceny #modelalliance #MessalinaMorley #inbetweengirl . . . . . #wilhelminamodel #wilhelminacurve @wilhelminamodels #beautybeyondsize #loveyourself #loveyourbody #bopowarrior #redhead #curves #curvy #curvesarebeautiful

A photo posted by Messalina Morley (@messa) on

"After educating myself and learning that most women are underweight because we’re trying to conform to society’s beauty standards and the weight I was at was actually my healthiest self, I finally accepted my body for what it was and losing any more weight would be detrimental to my health. Too thick to be straight sized and too thin to be plus sized. I just had to be me.”

 “The day this picture was taken, the photographer refused to let me return to set until I had eaten a plate of pasta—more than I had eaten at one sitting in months. I was so angry. Yet, he was the only person back then who pointed out I had a problem.”

The day this picture was taken, the photographer refused to let me return to set until I had eaten a plate of pasta—more than I had eaten at one sitting in months. I was so angry. Yet, he was the only person back then who pointed out I had a problem: I was eighteen years old, six feet tall, and weighed 113lbs. Based in Paris, I worked every day, often flying in and out of European cities for bookings. When—understandably—my body could no longer sustain this lack of nutrition vs. energy exertion and I started gaining some weight, I was taken into my agency director’s office and told to not eat for the next 2 days and to not eat much at all for the next 2 weeks. The next day, I was sent home feeling like a failure. I never heard from that agency again. A teenager, I had only been doing what was asked of me in order to succeed at my job. The damage all this did to both my body and mind is something that will never escape me. Last week @modelallianceny published results from the first ever study of its kind citing evidence of the prevalence of not only eating disorders in the fashion industry, but of those in charge verbally demanding it. This is harmful for both the models involved and those who view their images internalizing that this is how a healthy woman's body should look. Now is the time for change. No woman fits into one body shape, size, or color. It’s time for the fashion industry to reflect this and for women to stop suffering for the sake of an arbitrary, unrealistic ideal. #dearnyfw #modelallianceny #timeforchange #diversityinfashion #bodypositive #eatingdisorderawareness

A photo posted by Ainsley McWha (@home.sweet.idahome) on

"#DearNYFW my frame is fine. Extreme pressures to be bigger or smaller need to end.”

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