The Women's Equality Party recently launched a campaign demanding that models with a BMI of less than 18.5 should be seen by a medical professional from an accredited list to assess their health, an insistence that designers at London Fashion Week create two sample sizes - one of which must be at least a size 12, and for fashion magazines to include one (or more) features on plus size models per issue. Apparently regulations already exist in France and Spain to ensure that painfully thin models are not employed or utilised on the catwalk.
Although I think aspects of the WEPs campaign are sound and progressive trying to regulate a model's BMI is a step too far.
I am 43-years-old with two children, I am a former model (although I still do model shoots on occasion) and weigh about 47 kilos, but before the children I was approximately 50 kilos. My weight has stayed roughly the same since I was a teenager. I have the body type known as an ectomorph. My BMI will never be 18.5, for my BMI to reach that I would have to eat continuously and copious amounts, and even then I am not sure the weight would stay on.
Naturally my limbs are just very slender, it's not just about being thin or fat, it's about your body structure, some people have larger or slighter bones for example. Asians on the whole have slimmer and slighter frames than Europeans therefore the European BMI model doesn't apply to them because they just have a different frame that is not comparable. For some of those of Thai, Indonesian, Chinese and Cambodian descent, for example, their BMI would be under the recommended guidelines even though they have no eating disorder and to achieve it would be arduous.
Just as there is an outcry over girls starving themselves don't expect naturally thin girls to stuff themselves either.
Of course there are some models who are verging onto anorexic or already suffering from an eating disorder and probably should veer away from a career in modelling - then there are others like me who are just skinny.
When I was modelling the opposite occurred, I started off aged 16/17 at a Manchester agency -Model Team (now no more). When they weighed me, I was around 7.5 stones and they thought I was too thin, and encouraged me to put on half a stone. Shortly after that I was signed with a London agency Gavin's (now no more) and they never once told me to lose weight, in their eyes I was fine. I once did a casting for a job in Japan, it is common knowledge that in Asia they revere the thin physique and I was told that my hips at 35 inches were too big - personally I thought they were being ridiculous. My measurements have always been 33, 23/24, 34/35 and stayed that way even after two children. The last time I checked my BMI it was around 17, which is considered underweight, but the fact is I am healthy. All my friends know that I can eat what I want, I adhere to the 80 per cent healthy and 20 per cent bad stuff rule because life is too short and I like cake, biscuits and ice cream far too much.
I also cycle a bit and teach Pilates on and off, but I don't religiously go to the gym, I do believe in being active, and I am constantly moving, seldom ever still. Since I have a cleaning lady just once a week I do a lot of domestic work on top of my own work as an artist/writer as well as taking care of the children. Not being sedentary is the key to keeping fit - not necessarily going to the gym everyday.
There are others like me who have naturally slim builds, who are fairly tall with low BMIs; If the Women's Equality Party enforce this rule, many girls will be excluded from the profession through no fault of their own apart from genetics. If I was starting out I would be excluded, too and let's face it there are hardly any Bangladeshi models working in the industry. I see this anti-thinness as another form of discrimination.
Personally, I think clothes just hang better on women who are slimmer, I am speaking as an artist, as someone who appreciates beauty and form. I, of course, admire the woman with the fuller figure, who is voluptuous and with curves, but for designers it's about the way the clothes hang and flow and glide.
However, at the same time it is sad that young girls feel pressured to be thin, to attain a thigh gap, I never even knew what that was until I realised that I have always had one. Genetically, I got lucky and other girls have got lucky too, they shouldn't be penalised for being naturally skinny.
Recent photo taken of me in London by street fashion photographer Stuart Tingini who literally ran down the street and then persuaded me to do an impromptu street photo shoot on Bethnal Green Road. I told him, 'I am 43 with two kids' to which he replied, 'You still got it!'.
It would be good to see models of different shapes, heights, ages, sizes and critically to see models from different nationalities. This to me is more crucial than this notion of thinness and beauty because however hard people harp on about it, we will continue to see thin models. Many of the images we see are artificial with the models caked in make up and airbrushed - we should perceive them as works or art, not as anything real or something to aspire towards. I know this too well since I understand the power of make up and image and how lighting and Photoshop can create the illusion of beauty and perfection when we all know there is no such thing at all.
Let's stop this tyranny against thinness, let's see more girls with different body shapes alongside thin girls and more importantly let's see more diversity in the fashion industry, too.
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