When Naturally Skinny Models Look Anorexic

Discussing naturally skinny models, the Models Direct team is reminded of the widely covered controversy surrounding the Codie Young Topshop tale.

The controversial image of Codie Young for Topshop
The controversial image of Codie Young for Topshop

Earlier this year, we revealed that the Spanish political party Convergence and Union (CiU) asked the fashion industry not to hire extremely skinny models.

CIU argued that the industry has created a “social stereotype of extreme thinness linked with beauty and success”. Since then, a huge debate around skinny models has exploded – is this skinny model stereotype sending a deceitful message about diets and inviting women to loose weight and focus on the body?

Discussing naturally skinny models, the Models Direct team is reminded of the widely covered controversy surrounding the Codie Young Topshop tale.

Stories that suggested anorexia was being glamorised swarmed the net back in July this year when Topshop used the skinny teen model for their lookbook shots.

Comments from eating disorder professionals, including Helen Davies from UK anorexia charity Beat and Karen Easthall from a Norfolk-based anorexia support group, were particularly accusatory.

Easthall was quoted as saying: “The girl looks ill… I dread to think what’s under her clothes.

“A disturbing picture of a stick-thin model can cause problems with young girls, who may try to copy them.”

Davies had a similar opinion, saying: “There are tens of thousands of teenagers battling to overcome anorexia who could be affected by seeing pictures of dangerously thin girls being glamorised.

“For girls to see pictures of models who are this thin suggests that it’s okay to be like that, when it’s clearly not”.

The teen model did have a chance to defend her look however, as she responded to the controversy on her blog: “This is very hurtful to me as I am naturally skinny; and anyone who knows me would know that I have been naturally skinny my entire life, as my dad is 6’5 tall and skinny and my mum is also skinny, not to mention that my entire family on my dad’s side are all tall and skinny like me!

“For someone like Ms Davies to say it’s not okay for me to be this thin (which is how I was created) basically says it’s not okay for me to be who I am!”

The model, who admitted to being an American size 0-2, went on to compare the treatment of thin and obese people: “There are overweight/obese people who are a size 34 or 18 but no one says anything to them because you don’t want to offend them! Just because someone eats a lot doesn’t make them healthy. Just like not eating anything doesn’t make you healthy. And funny enough saying I’m anorexic offends me just as being called obese offends overweight people, but the differences is that I’m not anorexic!”

Perhaps part of the problem of extremely skinny models, natural or not, is that we somehow think it’s normal, as that’s all we see. It’s no secret that for a long time mainstream fashion imagery has featured and perhaps favoured very slim models. But of course, very few women share this naturally thin ‘no-curve body type’.

With the average British woman’s dress size having grown from 12 to 14 in just over a decade, some may argue that the difficult-to-attain skinny and boyish look no longer has a place in the industry. So we at Models Direct find ourselves asking, are skinny models relatable? And more importantly, do they invite women to develop negative body image and obsess about loosing an unhealthy amount of weight?

On the other side of the coin, as Young explained, some people, many of whom are models, are indeed naturally skinny. And perhaps Young is right to compare overweight models to those underweight.

As of late, the media has been particularly accepting of plus size models, but is this notion glorifying the ‘fat and proud of it’ doctrine to make overweight women feel happy in their bodies? Should we really aspire to those who are overweight?

BMI is good way to check if you’re a healthy weight. If a model is not within the healthy range, whether under or over, perhaps they cannot be perceived as a healthy role model.

Models Direct wants to know what you think – if models are genuinely naturally thin, then is it fair to discriminate against them, the same way some might with overweight models?