A Letter from Shortstack’s Founder & Program Director

A Letter from Shortstack’s Founder & Program Director

By: Olivia Mignone

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to model. The glamorous life of traveling the world, wearing designer clothing, meeting thousands of people and having your face plastered on billboards and magazines – sounds exciting, right? I believe most of the world has thought about this career choice at least once in their life, but for many, like myself, it becomes a passion. Yet years ago, I learned more about this world and industry, and why I couldn’t be a part of it. And now let me tell you – it’s not really as glamorous as it seems at first glance.

In order to model, there are strict rules and requirements which everyone must oblige to. According to Ford Models – one of the top modeling agencies in the world – as a 14 to 15 year old female, you must be 5’7” to 6’0” tall; a 16 to 22 year old female must be 5’8” to 6’0” tall and a 15 to 35 year old male must 5’11” to 6’3” tall. Plus, for all of these ages and heights, you are contracted to maintaining a certain weight at all times. In fact, anything above a dress size of 4 is considered plus size by some. Now how realistic can this really be? Or for that matter, how fair? When the average height and weight for a woman in the United States is about 5’3” and 165 pounds, as measured by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, what kind of image is the world-wide modeling industry sending to our society?

We can’t deny that the images magazines and media impose on us have an effect on us. How many times do you look through a magazine, see an advertisement of a super-tall, super-skinny model wearing Prada shoes or an Armani outfit and say to yourself “I wish I looked like that” or “I wish I had that”? Truth is, we all may do it at some point or another, but there are those who are affected by such images much more than others. According to Professor Sarah Murnen from Kenyon College, “The promotion of the thin, sexy ideal in our culture has created a situation where the majority of girls and women don’t like their bodies, and body dissatisfaction can lead girls to participate in very unhealthy behaviors to try and control weight.” Such unhealthy behaviors include eating disorders, which is a growing epidemic among adolescents, not only female, but male as well – and models. In addition, these media images are causing low self-esteem, low confidence, and bad body image among society.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand why designers choose to use size 0 models – they only make one sample size and must find a “mannequin” to fit into it, and just because this is the size they portray on the runway or in advertisements, it doesn’t mean they won’t sell larger sizes. But still… why not just make a larger sample size? Seems pretty reasonable and easy to me. In fact, if by any chance designers are trying to save money, materials or time by making smaller sample sizes, won’t making them for smaller heights but larger weights be equivalent to what they’re spending now? Why not have an average male or female walk down the runway? Doing so may save a lot of lives among models and young girls trying to live up to these ridiculous standards.

And yet, there’s also the argument that such actions and media images aren’t the reason for low self-esteem or eating disorders. True, eating disorders are a mental disorder that some people cannot control, and some even believe it to be genetic in certain cases, so we can’t put the blame entirely on the fashion industry. As Katie Ford, Chief Executive Officer of Ford Models once stated, “Both obesity and anorexia stem from numerous issues, and it would be impossible to attribute either to entertainment, be it film, TV, or magazines.” However, as much as we can argue and prove that not all body image issues stem from media’s images, we can argue and prove just as much that there are many body image issues that do attribute to media.

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