Another Step Toward Healthier Models

As reported on our blog last month, Israel recently passed legislation banning underweight models from appearing in the nation’s media. Last week, editors of 19 global editions of Vogue magazine, including those in the U.S. and U.K., as well as across Europe and Asia, took another step toward ensuring that models appearing in their magazines promote a healthier body image. The editors made a “health initiative” pact that included the following six points:

1. We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image.

2. We will ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check IDs when casting shoots, shows and campaigns.

3. We will help to structure mentoring programs where more mature models are able to give advice and guidance to younger girls, and we will help to raise industry-wide awareness through education, as has been integral to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Health Initiative.

4. We will encourage producers to create healthy backstage working conditions, including healthy food options and a respect for privacy. We will encourage casting agents not to keep models unreasonably late.

5. We encourage designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.

6. We will be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image.

As such, earlier initiatives from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the British Fashion Council aimed at improving the health of runway models will be extended to those working in photo spreads. This will likely have a much wider impact, not only in terms of the models themselves, but also the far greater audience among the general public for fashion magazines than runway shows.

Critics argue that Vogue should have gone farther to address the ubiquity of “Photoshopping,” explicitly demand that models be at a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), and extend the initiative to other Condé Nast publications, such as Glamour and Allure.

However, while this may be just a “baby step,” it’s one that will hopefully lead to more conversations and more changes. We applaud the editors of Vogue for taking this step toward healthier models and will continue to call on other media outlets to promote a healthy body image in print, film, and on the runway.

By: Susan Kleiman