The Ban of Underweight Models


Anja Rubik for Quazi Fall 2010

Underweight models are declared banished from advertising and runway, but is the backlash against the uber-skinny trend fair or even realistic?

This year several factions of the fashion world took the step that no one thought they ever would — they declared that underweight models, i.e. those with a Body Mass Index under 18.5, will not be allowed to participate in advertising and runways. While some declared, “Finally!”, others claimed this move against skinnier models is discrimination against the naturally underweight, a small but real part of the female population.

Among the countries participating in the ban are Israel, Italy, and Spain, who was among the first to ban underweight models in 2006. The countries’ bans vary — some say no to underweight models in local advertising, while others like Spain ban models in fashion shows, whose popular Madrid Fashion Week 2006 refused one-third of past participants who were declared underweight. Most notably, however, is Vogue Magazine’s ban in the summer of 2012. The editors of the well-respected international fashion magazine, known for launching the career of many a model, signed an agreement not to use models who appear to have an eating disorder.

Those involved say they have many objectives with this ban of underweight models, including:

  • Ensuring the health of models — being extremely underweight causes health risks and past models have died from complications of low weight.
  • Promoting a healthy body image — those in the modeling world understand that many young girls and women look to their models as the height of beauty and strive to look like them. Having very skinny models presents an unhealthy and unrealistic body image for women.
  • Working against eating disorders — in their quest to become “model thin”, models, and even women who are not models, develop an unhealthy relationship with food. An estimated 20 to 40 percent of models are thought to have an eating disorder and women who read magazines and watch runway shows are more likely to develop an eating disorder.

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