'They Measured My Fingers To See If I Was Fat'

  1. [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Having your fingers measured to see if you're fat. Preyed upon by predatory photographers in an industry that encourages paedophilia. One ex-model lifts the lid on the story the fashion industry DOESN'T want you to read.

    Sitting on the sofa in the Paris apartment I shared with several other models from various corners of the world, I was feeling a little homesick.
    As a skinny 16-year-old from North London, securing a contract with one of the world's leading modelling agencies had seemed like a dream ticket to a world dripping with glamour - but just occasionally, the loneliness would creep in.
    Having never worried about my weight - I was a naturally skinny size 8 - I left my apartment in the premier arrondissement in search of a treat: a little comfort food.
    I wandered to the shop to buy a packet of chocolate chip biscuits and took them back to the shared flat.
    What a mistake. The other girls glared at the shiny packet as if it was a radioactive grenade. But to my relief, as I tucked in, one of my flatmates - a long-limbed blonde girl from Texas - came over and asked if she could have one.
    "Of course!" I replied, excited to have an ally.
    She took a biscuit from the pack, churned it around her mouth for a second then spat the half-chewed remains into the bin.
    "I just wanted to taste it," she chirped, giving a little shrug of her shoulders.
    This sort of thing - I would soon come to realise - was standard model behaviour.

    So when I heard the news last week of the first ever Model Health Inquiry - backed by the British Fashion Council, The Work Foundation, The London Development Agency and Marks & Spencer - I was initially pleased.
    It's high-profile and being fronted by Baroness Kingsmill (an oddly apt name given the carbohydrate-phobia that permeates the modelling world) with input from fashion designers, psychiatrists, doctors and the model Erin O'Connor.
    Having modelled for seven years and seen firsthand the insidious pressure on young women to remain thin, I welcome any investigation aiming to improve the wellbeing of young models.
    But this inquiry is ultimately doomed to fail.
    Four months of research by some of the British fashion industry's leading lights will result in toothless recommendations that no fashion designer or modelling agency will be under any legal obligation to adhere to.
    The Model Health Inquiry will be about as protective as a cardboard umbrella.
    Baroness Kingsmill launched the inquiry by ordering the fashion industry to "just grow up".

    It made me think of a parent addressing a child showing off at a birthday party.
    Does she not realise that an industry that prides itself on rebellion; an industry with nonconformists such as Kate Moss as its icons, will not respond to such a gentle ticking-off - even though the aims of the inquiry are important for those young women who have been privy to the dark side of the fashion industry. Women like me.
    I began modelling at 16 by way of a nationwide competition run by a prestigious London modelling agency.
    When I found out I would be taken on, it felt as if all my Christmases had come at once. My mum and stepfather were excited for me, it all seemed so glamorous.

    It was only when I began to subject them to a barrage of tearful phone calls from various hotel rooms that they began to wonder if it was a healthy industry for a teenage girl to be working in.
    Though it may sound trite, being skinny had been the bane of my life at school. I was naturally slim but, believe me, there were so many times I wished wasn't.
    At 15, I was 5ft 10in and weighed around 8st, which appalled the boys and amused the girls.
    On a good day my nickname was 'golf club' on account of my stick-like legs and bulbous size 7 feet; on a bad day it was "Annie" - as in the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.
    Hard though it may be to believe given the current celebrity penchant for a "size zero" figure, I embarked on a fattening-up regime. Mars bars, protein shakes - I tried everything aimed at aiding weight gain.

    Nothing worked. Then, all of a sudden, I was catapulted into my career as a model, and my size 8 frame became my greatest asset.
    I found it difficult to adjust my mindset though - still eating cheeseburgers, but all the while watching with a sense of bemused horror as my colleagues wrestled to reduce their featherlike weight. It stands to reason that if a prerequisite of your job (and thereby your livelihood) is maintaining a skeletal body size, you do everything in your power to attain it.
  2. Perceived wisdom in the fashion world stated that certain substances were handy in keeping off weight.
    Cigarettes were one, but cocaine and speed were just as proliferate among my peers.

    I remember one model telling me, after we'd been out for pizza, that she made herself sick after eating fatty foods.
    She insisted that when she ate healthily, she allowed her body to digest. Being young and naive, I didn't have the knowledge to tell her that what she was doing was incredibly dangerous.
    The extent of these food-related issues among models is much parodied, but up close it is truly frightening.
    Models I knew would relay anecdotes about being made to feel overweight by agencies and designers on a daily basis when they were, in fact, incredibly slim.
    I met up with one friend, fresh from an appointment with her modelling agency.

    She arrived in floods of tears, having been told nonchalantly by her booker to "skip a few meals" in the run-up to London Fashion Week if she wanted to work.
    Another girl I knew used a caloriecounting machine religiously to work out her exact intake.
    To an objective observer, she was a stick-thin girl obsessed with analysing every bite of the few morsels of fresh fruit she ingested; in fashion terms, she was a dedicated model. To me, she seemed miserable and neurotic.
    During my seven years in the industry I worked mainly in Paris and London, lived for a brief time in New York and travelled on various trips overseas on glamorous fashion shoots for magazines such as Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan.
    I starred in huge advertising campaigns for L'Oreal and Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
    However, nothing prepared me for the months I spent modelling in Tokyo, which was by far the most masochistic of places to work.

    This is an environment where models are forced to have the circumference of their fingers measured by their agencies.
    If your finger size was beyond a certain diameter, you were deemed as needing to lose weight.

    The last time I visited Tokyo on a modelling assignment I was 21 - although my agency was still touting me as a 19-year-old - and in the second year of my degree at Leicester University.
    Having earned enough money to put myself through university, I chose to opt out of the modelling world fulltime and only do part-time holiday work.
    So when I returned for the trip to Tokyo, I had fresh eyes and hips that exceeded the 34in requirement on my contract, which was a basic prerequisite for the Japanese market.
    It was time - in my agency's eyes, at least - for me to slim down.
    While most of my friends were working in factories over the holidays, I was able to earn thousands of pounds through my photographic work.
    It was, however, hard to feel lucky as a young girl spending four weeks alone in a sterile hotel room and feeling pressured to lose weight for the first time in my life, even though I still only weighed around 9st despite being 5ft 10in tall.
    There was a strange camaraderie, however, as all the models at my agency had been told to lose weight - by any means necessary.
    My female manager suggested I try the hardboiled egg diet or the apple diet, eating only one type of food.
    I retorted by suggesting a more balanced regime, but the idea seemed to cause genuine confusion.
    I didn't want to get sucked into the cycle of dieting and weighing myself; I knew it could easily become a fixation.
    On one particular day, two girls and I were taken into the agency for our near-daily weigh-in and measurement session.
    When I walked in, the agency head called across the room: "Good girl, Gemma! You're looking really skinny today."
    I loathed myself for being secretly pleased.
    The other girls and I were then taken to the bathroom to be weighed and measured.
    Our statistics were called out across the booking table to be filled into an intricate graph.

    The first girl, a blonde New Zealander, then stepped forward. She had lost 7lb in the four days since her arrival.
    "Very professional," our boss congratulated her, "but don't faint!" The third girl, a beautiful, curvaceous Brazilian, had failed to slim down and was chastised.
    But the horrible reality of what was happening to us became clear when another friend of mine, whom I had met during an earlier trip to Japan, was hospitalised and came dangerously close to death from anorexia.
    Shocked to learn she had since returned to Tokyo and modelling, I asked my manager how she seemed to be doing, to which he casually replied: "She's OK, but she still only eats Softmints."
    As well as the inevitable health issue, there is also the question of vulnerability and abuse of position which should be looked into by Baroness Kingsmill's inquiry.

    LA-based fashion designer Anand Jon was recently charged with several counts of indecent assault, rape, sexual battery and committing a lewd act on a child following allegations made by many of the models who worked for him - and he will not be the only one. There are many men in the fashion industry who abuse

    their position to a greater or lesser extent. On one of my first photoshoots, at the age of 16, I found myself working with a photographer of whom I felt wary. My instincts proved correct.
    Towards the end of the shoot, he gave me a sheer white dress to slip into, sending both his assistants home while I was away getting changed.
    With just the two of us left in the studio I felt increasingly anxious, but, despite being uncomfortable, I felt obliged to go ahead and allow him to take some pictures "for my portfolio" of me standing around in a see-through dress.
    The photographer insisted on coming forward to adjust it and me: pushing my hair behind my ears and other overfamiliar gestures. Only after about half an hour did I muster enough courage to gather my belongings and get as far away from there as I could.
    I was so mortified by the incident that I haven't mentioned it to anyone until now.
    I also knew that in the modelling world, it was a pretty tame experience. Consider, too, the fact that most models begin their careers in their early to mid-teens, when they are technically still children.
    Personally, I find the prevalence of childlike imagery in fashion extremely distasteful, unlike leading fashion designer Marc Jacobs, who employed a 12-year-old actress to front his recent campaign.
    Looking like a Lolita and staring provocatively from the pages of women's magazines, doesn't a 12 year-old model send out a message that conflicts entirely with our anti-paedophilic culture?
    In most other industries there would be a grievance procedure for workplace bullying, but in fashion it's part of the fabric. *****y comments are the parlance within this industry -not between fellow models, as is most
    commonly portrayed, but meted out by designers, stylists, bookers, make-up artists etc.
    Over years, this motley crew told me I had chubby cheeks, my teeth were wonky, my lips were thin, my arms were different lengths, my face was lopsided and my hairline just wasn't "quite right".
    I walked, apparently, as if I had wooden legs. Not to mention being told I was looking old in my early 20s.

    "Don't worry," said one make-up artist, with spiteful insincerity, "We can airbrush out your wrinkles." I was 23.
    Comments such as these planted seeds of insecurity in my mind that I never had before.

    At the most recent London Fashion Week, I went to watch one of my best friends, a successful model, on the catwalk. Girls with their ribs protruding were commonplace, but then, my friend is also an eye-catchingly waif-like size 8.
    She went on one Fashion Week casting where she was required to contort herself into a minuscule corset the size of a rubber band, but with far less elasticity.

    As she attempted to squeeze the garment over her ribs the designer commented that she was "too big".
    I could pinpoint any number of incidents that caused me to get out of modelling altogether, but it was an accumulation of all of them that made me realise I no longer wanted to base my livelihood on aesthetics.
    It was difficult to give up, though, as long after I'd quit, my agency would call and offer me a highly-paid job or a trip that sounded exciting and glamorous.
    But I held firm and refused in order to pursue a career as a writer.
    It meant working unpaid for virtually the first year and a half (during which I made ends meet by holding down two evening jobs and I even cleaned toilets), but I enjoyed writing so much it was worth it.
    I began by writing about football, television and video games, but eventually became a football reporter, writing for the national press.
    A rainy Saturday afternoon in Stoke may not have the same cache as a photoshoot on the beach in St Tropez, but in my new profession I was there because I had earned it, not because I happened to be photogenic. I now work for a Premiership football club.

    Being thin does not necessarily mean a woman is unhealthy and, as such, any legislation would be difficult to police. But, sadly, the reality is that models are dying of anorexia (just last year, the Brazilian Ana Carolina Reston died after eating a diet of only apples and tomatoes), and many more are being encouraged by ruthless agencies to go to extreme lengths to lose weight. Something should be done. But I don't believe for a moment that Baroness Kingsmill's inquiry is the answer.

    by GEMMA CLARKE of The Dailyfemail
  3. Thanks for sharing this story. It's refreshing to see a strong woman make her own future. She is certainly a talented writer and will do well with whatever she pursues!
  4. Intersting article....the fashion industry is super crazy! That finger measuring thin, wow.
  5. It's the same in any business that sells itself based an aestetics, ask any gymnast, RG, dancer, model, same stories..

    It's what it takes and as long as models are models and not replaced by plastic dolls, there will be ideal to live up to for those who choose such a career, skinny or not.
  6. Article's like this prove that the world of modelling isn't all glitz and glamour, thanks for posting