As Fashion Week kicks off again here in NYC my attention has been grabbed by the reports of a new ‘Reality’ Show that is currently being cast by MTV. Called ‘MODEL MAKER’ the producers are seeking aspiring models to lose 30-80lbs on TV. In 3 months.
The casting call states the potential contestants need a “Great attitude, a pretty face and the endurance to sweat off the pounds during a 3 month boot camp style show.”
The winner is the young woman who manages to lose the most weight in the allotted time. This ‘lucky’ winner will ‘enjoy’ a prize of $100,000, a model portfolio and a personal trainer.
I don’t even know where to begin. I am without a doubt a cynical product of my profession, it is hard to shock me, I’ve had to become conditioned over the years of my career to accept that if you choose to be a high fashion model then you must accept the rigors of body fascism that exist in the industry. Or quit. Some of you know that my personal story contains drug sustained starvation and years of bulimia.
Even now as a determinedly healthy model I have to be disciplined in what I eat and how much food I consume. I’m used to it and it’s light years better than how I used to live, but it’s still not easy to maintain my little frame. And my body type is naturally slender. There’s a reason why not many girls can become models. We have an unusual body type. I have a weirdly narrow ribcage, narrow shoulders and bony boy hips. Most women DON’T have my narrow frame. Lacey, as stringently healthy and as disciplined as she is could never be as all over thin as I am: her skeleton is different to mine!! Believe me when I say that even WITH my unusual body type it’s STILL NOT EASY to be this small.
This proposed show is not ‘The Biggest Loser’ where even though there is an exploitative element at least the focus is on helping morbidly obese individuals become motivated to learn and implement a healthy lifestyle to improve the quality of their lives, their families lives, and in some cases actually save them from an early death.
No, this show will take normal weight, pretty, insecure girls and tell them that the more weight they lose, the more beautiful and ‘successful’ they will become.
Let me provide some quick facts here; I’m sure you’ve heard them. 1-2lbs a week is the recommended amount of weight to lose for sustained healthy weight loss. In the 12 weeks allotted for the show that would be ‘only’ 24lbs. Not even enough to get you cast, let alone to win the thing. Even if you were the most motivated individual on the planet and could manage to lose 3lbs each and every week of the show without hitting a temporary plateau, that’s still ‘only’ 36lbs. The show calls 80lbs a desirable possibility!!!!
Now this 1-2lbs a week is not an arbitrary number: health, nutrition and fitness pros don’t just say it because they think it’s funny. It’s the amount of weight you can lose without your body going into ‘starvation mode’ whereby it recognizes it’s being starved of what it needs and it dramatically SLOWS YOUR METABOLISM. Which makes it harder and harder to lose the fat it likes to store. Which means you must eat even less. And less.
As an expert Fitness professional Lacey would tell you that there’s not enough exercise in the world that could make losing more weight than approx 30lbs in 3 months healthy.
As someone who has had very personal experience of this I can tell you that this show will be encouraging young women (most of whom will be well within their healthy range of BMI) to starve themselves, to throw up their food, to use diet pills, drugs, ‘fasting’ programs, colon cleanses and anything else they can think of to lose weight they probably don’t even need to lose in the first place.
What breaks my heart is that the carrot (which is about all they’ll be eating) they’re dangling in front of these young women: the implied promise of success as a model, the supposed validation that will come; That “If only” they were a model, then they’d feel beautiful. The money, the fame. It’s not going to be ANYTHING like they’ve dreamed of.
The fashion industry is like every other business. It operates on the rule of supply and demand. The market is absolutely SATURATED with models. We come from all over the world to work in this industry. In fact, I know of only a small handful of successful models that are American, and I live in NYC. Even if you are born with an amazing face, even if you are born with an ‘alien’ type narrow frame, even if you’re really young and prepared to be permanently hungry, even if you have an amazing agent who believes in you beyond all else. Even with all those factors already lined up, your chances of hitting it big in the fashion industry and even getting close to the money and fame you may dream of are one in thousands upon thousands. I’ve never met a model that hasn’t been told how IMPERFECT she is hundreds of times. You don’t even know you HAVE so many flaws until you start going on castings. Talk about rejection; I’ve literally had thousands. And I’m a successful model with a profitable career and phenomenal agents.
I know that this is a new type of posting for SWEATCity, but I believe it to be so relevant to our lives, to the pressure we may feel under, and to the hopes and desires we have for our bodies, our lives and the lives of the people we love. If this show makes it to the air I will boycott it with a passion.
I made a conscious choice NOT to use an image of a super skinny model to illustrate this posting. You know what a starved woman looks like. She looks desperately unhappy and she is.
I haven’t even touched upon the horrendous societal messages that this show is perpetuating: I don’t have the space. Maybe you can contribute to that important part of the debate.
Just know this. Being thin, even if you’re healthily small, will NEVER be the golden ticket to happiness for anyone. If you’re unhappy bigger, and you lose weight but don’t address why you feel that sadness or lack of direction, then losing the weight may initially give you a buzz but we will all always still be the same person we were; until we deal with WHY we’re unhappy and stop pretending it’s our jean size.
True health and fitness is a FIT LIFE and that is so much more than thin.
As Lauryn Hill once sang: “How you gonna win if you ‘ain’t right within?”
Thanks for reading.