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Byron Shire
May 16, 2022

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: On the Fatwalk

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There’s nothing worse than being told you’re too fat. Especially when you’re a 19-year-old girl who weighs just 57 kilos. That is what Swedish model Agnes Hedengard’s modelling agency told the waif-like beauty when they told her if she wanted more work she’d need to ‘shape up’.

With a BMI of 17.5 Agnes is actually underweight. (Healthy BMI is 18.5–24.99) So what is going on with an industry that is telling an already underweight girl she needs to be thinner? No doubt Agnes is not the first model who has been told she’s got a ‘fat arse’ and then embarked on a full-scale eating disorder. An eating disorder that will make her a candidate for osteoporosis, anxiety, depression, severe nutritional deficit, organ damage, and if she loses control completely – death.

A lesser-known fact about Eating Disorder is that it has the highest mortality of any mental illness. But hey, on the upside, while she’s dying on the catwalk, while her bones are crumbling inside her beautiful skin and her heart is in constant arrhythmia, she’ll be earning some good coin. She may only live to 28 because she’ll have a heart attack, but at least she would have had a good earn. And she will be a role model for all the other girls who will want to be dying too – just like her. Aspiration to Expiration – what a callous industry.

Thankfully ‘fat’ Agnes isn’t going to take this lying down. She’s been taking photos of her disgustingly gorgeous tiny butt and posting it all over the internet. Agnes has admitted that she has developed an eating disorder trying to meet the demands of her industry – but she has also been outspoken in the media and outed her industry for its dangerous and socially culpable attitude toward young women’s bodies.

And it’s not just models. Every time a modelling agency or a fashion designer tells an underweight girl she’s too fat, the fashion industry is directly responsible for all those young women out there who aren’t models who then suddenly look at their normal bodies with disgust, and then bolt to the bathroom and purge their last meal. They are responsible for those girls who pinch the flesh on their thighs in disgust and think curves are to be obliterated – not celebrated. The fashion industry might as well be supplying the razors for the girls who cut themselves in episodic disgust.

Karl Lagerfield has said that ‘only fat mummies object to thin models’. Well, this fat mummy doesn’t have a problem with naturally thin models; it’s the industry’s penchant for skeletal disordered women that bothers me. Every time I look at Lagerfield’s creepy head I don’t see an artist, or a designer; I see a serial killer. And he’s not alone. The fashion industry is full of them. I’m surprised they don’t cast for catwalk shows at their local palliative-care units.

How ironic is it that the fashion industry, which is so dependent on the female dollar, is powered by people who hate women? If underweight girls are told they are too fat then healthy-weight girls must by definition be obese. And there I was thinking that ‘body dysmorphia’ was a condition developed by people with eating disorders owing to their delusional mental state. It had never occurred to me that in the fashion industry that is a marketing strategy.

Using women with eating disorders to promote ideals of beauty in popular culture is causing extreme harm to our young women. In France you can be jailed for using super-skinny models. French president François Hollande introduced this as a response to the 40,000 people (mostly women and girls) who suffer from the condition. Models have to present a health certificate showing a BMI of at least 18. The MPs there made it illegal to condone anorexia. Photos that alter the bodily appearance of a model for commercial purposes must carry a message that it’s been digitally altered. If you break these laws you could end up in jail. That’s how seriously the French are taking it. Pretty impressive for the runway capital of the world.

The fashion industry’s defence is simple: they say we want super-thin models. They say we don’t want to see curvy women on catwalks. They say they reflect desire rather than create it. In an era where we are bombarded with images on virtually every device we use that argument doesn’t – sorry about the pun – hold weight. The industry, not we, writes the fairy-story.

So maybe it’s time we found some new ‘writers’ to create an exciting and inclusive story, where girls like Agnes aren’t told they’re fat. We could stop buying their clothes.

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