Friday, December 08, 2006

Modeling Is Not A Sickness...Anorexia Is

There is an article today in the Fashion section of New York Times by Eric Wilson, about what Paris, Italy and the New York fashion industry is doing about the issue of models’ weight. With the recent deaths of 2 models with eating disorders, there has been focus on this problem of models being too thin.

I must reiterate. Modeling is not a sickness – anorexia is. (From my article, To Eat or Not To Eat: Pain or Pleasure, Nov 19, 2006)

In my day - in Paris, Milan, Rome, New York and Tokyo – we were fed, ...and fed very well. I have no reason to believe that this practice has changed.
Sometimes, the food backstage was even better than the food I could have at home. In Paris, the table spread backstage, complete with uniformed waiters and linen napkins, can sometimes approach what a 5-star restaurant would serve. Provision of good food for everyone involved backstage, was the norm.

In Paris, Rome and Milan, no matter how early in the morning, there is always freshly squeezed orange juice, milk, water, coffee, tea and champagne served. Croissants, smoked salmon, petite finger sandwiches and bite-sized pastries from Laduree or Sant’Ambrose fill the food table. Make no these cities, we were spoiled rotten by the designers.

Press shows in Paris were big long affairs. A model was asked to report 3 to 5 hours before the show because of the intricate hair and make-up per individual show. There were days when I had 7 or 8 press shows in one day, and I know it is going to be a long, ‘work like a dog’ kind of day. During this crazy 2 weeks of shows, I would sometimes be fitting till 1:00 a.m. and have to be in the tents, six hours after, by 7:00 a.m. the same day. I have to partake of what the design houses were offering backstage because there is simply no time to eat before leaving home nor was there time to leave the Cour Carree du Louvre to sit down for lunch in a restaurant.

I would jump from tent to tent (of the shows I was involved in) and check out what was good to eat. I remember Saturdays in Paris; one of the big days because you have such heavy hitters like Montana, Jean Charles de Castelbajac, Issey Miyake, etc. in the line-up.
Being Asian, even though I still had shows to do before the Issey Miyake show, I would always go to Issey's tent where there was Western food and Asian food. I would go there because they had bento boxes for the models and all the dressers. The Issey Miyake production crew was very accommodating and I, of course, would choose what the Japanese dressers were eating – rice and fish. Out of kindness, my Japanese dresser would even offer me her bento box. All those years, the Miyake people knew I 'ate and ran' only to be back after 2 hours to finally do their show.
The question was never "Where will I get food to eat?" You can pace yourself and the likely question you are going to ask yourself is, "At what show will I eat?".

In New York, where the bookings are by the hour (as opposed to bookings by the show), the fashion houses make sure that models are comfortable; assistants of press agents or assistant designers run around offering us something to drink and eat, the moment we arrive.

As for putting the blame on agents, I must say all my reputable agents (Elite, Diva, Cosa Nostra, Why Not, Agence Presse), made it a point to feed us well - especially in Italy. When we are done with our shows, our agents would picked us up in SUV’s and vans, to cart the models to a restaurant where we will be seated in a long table of 20 to 30 girls. We would eat full meals – antipasti, pasta, main course, dessert, wine, after dinner drinks. Sometimes there were 2 different agencies in one popular restaurant. Models were allowed to invite their girlfriends, even though they were with competing agencies. Our agents were only too happy to oblige.
My agent in Paris, Jean Louis Dumas of Diva, who was more a manager for select girls, would take me to dinner after the shows and even take me to jazz clubs and places with music, if my schedule would allow it – just to get our minds off the fashion shows.

The Europeans who pride themselves on a good quality of life, would never sacrifice the pleasure of eating. The good design houses and the reputable modeling agencies treated models very well and this means they fed you very well.

In New York, where we were sometimes booked for the day, the girls would leave during lunch and go to good restaurants in the area, even if food was provided for us backstage. Models eat. Some of us could eat a lot. Or, we would go to this small place besides Parsons and order carrot smoothies. Really, no one is twisting anyone’s arm not to eat.

There is really no excuse for getting sick. Perhaps, the only excuse models can have for not eating or providing themselves with the necessary energy requirements to get through a hectic and adrenalin-filled day, is low self esteem.

We cannot fault the organizers of the fashion press shows nor the designers, for the bad press. Models have always been thin. However, beauty was never equated with being the thinnest. Beauty was equated with being en forme. There is a big difference. Too thin looks sickly. En forme (in form) means –just right.

It is absolutely true that a long silhouette looks better for the clothes. It is true that when the clothes hang on a model, one can fully appreciate the elegant lines that the designer has created. It is true that the thinner you are, as a model, the better. However, sickly does not cut it; it becomes unattractive. I think models should understand that they are in the beauty business. Emaciated, skeletal, cadaverous - does not make them beautiful. It is the elegance, the energy, their ‘projected’ well being – that makes them beautiful.

In my article, To Eat or Not To Eat - I confessed to the mistakes or wrong choices I made when I was young, but I never blamed anyone but myself.

There is no reason to ban models and make it a press grabbing campaign. Just don't book the sickly looking models...they'll get the idea and hopefully will get their acts together.
There is no reason to weigh models and make it a requirement. If the fashion industry does this, a precedent will be set in place. What would be the next step? Ban models who use drugs?

This is not the Olympics, nor is it a lightweight or featherweight boxing match. After all, it is only Fashion,.... it it not something to die for.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

amen....such enlightenment!
bravo Anna..only someone like you makes this argument of the matter credible. And that is why, my friends we need the Anna Bayle view.
love you love you love you,

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anna, I think it would be a great idea to ban all models who use drugs.

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,

Your namesake, Anna Wintour is spearheading a session to discuss these "increasing calls for laws to keep dangerously underfed models off the catwalks"...that's from today's NYPost.

Your thoughts on this incendiary issue is the first from a model's point of view that I've read and it is fantastic. The behind the scenes comments are superb.

And since this the first time I am sending a comment, allow me to tell you that I am a big fan. I have written to Ricardo Lo (from Philstar)about you a couple of times...more about my Anna sightings than anything else. I also live in NY and work in the industry. I've shared the elevator with you (some 13 years ago at 570 7th Avenue one early winter were probably going to a go see because I remember a French label had an office there) and saw you at a Michael Kors Resort show about the same time period, when Michael still had his office/showroom in Chelsea. I've seen you about a dozen times in the city since then but these two are the most memorable.

I think you're really great and I love how you have evolved into the classy woman/mother you are today. Whoever said that there's no life after supermodel stardom have not heard of you.

Brava Anna!!

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Jaisen Tieg

Okay . . .? There is a fine line herein when it comes to "pressure to be thin in the modeling world and how much control 'MODELS" have in regards to a successful career . . .
I feel like I must be a voice again here Anna, as you said . . . modeling is not a sickness so let me discuss the root of what is and expose the myths and shed a little light on the cause of such cases as model anorexia issues.
First let me state that Anna is right . . .There is always an abundance of food catered to models and crew and shows as well is the case on shoots at the time you arrive, again and set break and then often again at wrap! Designers, production crews and the like happily provide very fine craft tables for ALL when working and in these cases of dying to be thin models it is the Model who is choosing not to accept an often needed Dinner. But why???
I can agree that it is not because a designer's holding models stomachs hostage with an imaginary threat of broken stiletto heels that would send a career tumbling like a fall in a Betsy Johnson show, there are no henchmen lurking in the corners with Golden Razer phones with your agents numbers on quick dial urging you not to eat until after shoots or shows . . .In fact I recall being at a fitting for Jean Paul at his studio in Paris in the beginning of my modeling years and at a time when I was just getting used to the whole french cusine and taste, being a little to thin myself as a male model and vegan at the time I can tell you that Jean Paul's first words to me as I approached him dripping in magnificent garments and fabrics that I could not keep from falling past my waist was this . ."EAT SOMETHING" Really, his words, and this was an instruction not a casual offer.
Nobody wants models to get sick and Die for fashions sake as were the cases of the two models mentioned by Anna ealiier, but nobody is booking thunder tooshes either unless its on the set of a JLo video!!!
So . . .is there pressure to be thin ? Yes . . .Too thin for you . . .in most cases No!
Aside from having been a model I have also been an agent as well as image Director for a top fashion agency in New York. During my time there I'd have never encouraged a girl to loose so much weight that she would risk her health or loose herself. Agents do comment on models sizes when they are too big just before a collection season and yes they want you to book . . .if you can drop the weight needed it is encouraged and not all agents are gifted in the matters of encouraging this but I can say that if a model was not the right size for that season or couldn’t be without risk to her health she is either put back into development and redirected for print and other markets until the next season or she is sent home.!
Is it the model who starved herself before getting signed for the season then gained her real weight back just before that season who's to blame in such cases of weight issues or is it the agents for expecting the model arrive looking like the girl they signed and invested in just months before . . .
I've spoken of Models responsibility in earlier Bogs and this is yet another case in which my point is prudent. MODELING IS A JOB . . .
Like all jobs, modeling too has its requirements, get the job and you have to continue to meet there requirements and expectations . Depending the agency and Market these requirements vary but all follow a general application process you might say.
1st, there is a height requirement, then measurements like hips, bust, waist and sometimes thighs which ends eventually with weight requirements. Don't think ahaa . .! because though I admit that these things are all dictated, it is the perspective MODELS job to be responsible for her or his self by looking over these requirements and submitting a true "resume" or description of ones ephemeral self if one intends to pursue perspective work in these markets. You must be honest with yourself . . . Am I 5"10 with 32 inch hips and a 24 inch waist naturally! Do I fit this requirement for that agent in that market . . . Do you? . . . REALLY!
If you don't and that is the requirement for that agent or market then you are not the right look for them . . .look elsewhere. Every market is different, Ford Chicago may represent a model who's 5"8 and a size 5-6 and she may work as often as the model in New York or Paris who's two inches taller and and two sizes smaller which is often a natural size for such models there. The only difference in the two is the type of client one is modeling for and that markets idea of an "en forme" model.
In markets like the mid west you model for department stores and thus the sizes your modeling are the sizes that buyer has bought for that regions store, Usually this is a larger size than a Milan based runway model would wear because in places like Milan and Paris or even New York where designer shows are just that . . . designer shows, a model must fit the designers sample which has been manufactured and tailored to a specific commonly used bust size.
So here it is then . . .Honestly if your going to be model casted pret a porte' in High fashion markets like New York, Asia, Paris and Milan then your going to be encouraged to maintan its required size by your agents, scouts and photographers who wish to see you rise . . .BUT keep this in mind, you would have never been selected had you not presented yourself as the Model type they were and are looking for, if you've misled them you've misled yourself and once there if your not the perfect fit your expected to be you have two options, Go home! or see a nutrionist, eat healthy, exercise often and if necessary and your agents willing re-image yourself according to that appeal you may find you have with the market. All else is a sacrifice and a dangerous life to gamble with. Seek that game and you’re likely to find other players and if you loose . . .well who are you going to blame!
Your Body is a temple . . .your life is a blessing and you . . .you manifest the life you live!
Love it . . .love you, Live well and be responsible for yourselves as best you can, if you loose your way, your body changes or you think maybe those aiding you have forgotten your best interests, it’s better you take the time to step out of the scene for a season or two and re-think plan and liasons for success. . . Best to ground "yourself" than end up in the ground.
Jaisen Tieg

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anna, who of the superb models of your generation do you keep in touch with? Iman, Jerry, Katoucha, Kirat? Would you consider them friends or more nodding acquaintances than anything else?
Did you get to keep some of the clothes you wore on the runways of Europe and NY?

Perhaps you should set aside a separate Q&A column on your blog as I know there will be a mass of people out there who love to pick your brain. I'm going to the Nan Kempner exhibit at the Met this weekend....I would love to hear your thoughts about that. Marilyn's at lookonline was great but I bet your take on Nan's legacy would be more interesting.

Brava Anna!

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anna, who of the superb models of your generation do you keep in touch with? Iman, Jerry, Katoucha, Kirat? Would you consider them friends or more nodding acquaintances than anything else? Did you get to keep some of the clothes you wore on the runways of Europe and NY? Perhaps you should set aside a separate Q&A column on your blog as I know there will be a mass of people out there who love to pick your brain. I'm going to the Nan Kempner exhibit at the Met this weekend....I would love to hear your thoughts about that. ……… Brava Anna!


1:26 AM  
Blogger bodkayelo said...

how do models maintain their thinness if they eat a lot? exercise?

4:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am really amazzed and happy to hear all these sorts of things, i mean i want to be a model its like my dream! I used to have self esteem issues because i was so thin, i ate and still do like two average people, i have a HUGE but healthy appetite and i think stereotypes are so wrong i've grown up a little now and rather like my appearance although im considered "underweight" ( im not im healthy i play hockey tee hee) Articles like these are really awseome to find, they help alot of girls with realizing truth in media hype. ove to hear more comments WOOT !

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi I love your view and that is the what I have been saying to my friends(and boyfriend) for ages!

Thank you for enlighting the muppets out there who think it i unhealthy to be a model!

Also it doesn't cost money to be a model, the contract costs i know but apart from that it doesn't does it?

Bye and Thank you again for enlighting the muppets out there

1:29 PM  
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