By Zinny Chinda.
Already a size eight, something snapped in Rosalie Nelson one of London’s most prestigious modelling agencies told her to lose more weight before they would consider signing her.
Lose a stone and two inches off her hips, “down to the bone,” they told her.
Exasperated, she started a petition on change.org to create laws that will protect models from being pressurized into losing weight. She has almost reached her goal of 200,000 signatures in less than four years and has worked for French fashion brand Yves Saint Laurent.
Speaking with confidence she said: “After I reach 200,000 signatures I’m hoping I can speak in Parliament again and be offered the opportunity to create a report which can be presented as a hopeful legal document which could be implemented into our current legal system. The end goal of my petition is to have a new law or system put in place to help protects models from being forced to lose weight.’’
Ms Nelson’s petition has gotten a lot of attention from the media because of its relevance and success. The media coverage can affect her modelling career in positive or negative ways as modelling agencies and fashion brands can either loathe her or have interest in her for opening their eyes to something they couldn’t see which is literally forcing models into undernutrition.
“I think the media coverage I’ve received has only slightly affected my modelling career. Majority of the clients I work with don’t recognize me from the media and when I speak about my petition I usually receive very positive feedback. I’m sure there are some companies out there that don’t want to be associated with me, but that is their loss in my opinion,’’ she said.
After experiencing the unsafe and challenging procedures models have to go through in order to break into the modeling industry, Ms. Nelson decided to aim her petition towards models safety and does not see any reason why fashion brands would not want to work with her despite exposing what goes on behind closed doors.
Being an advocate for a change she said: ‘’All my work with my petition and campaigning is aiming for a positive and safe work environment for models. So any company that doesn’t want to work with me is losing an opportunity to help change the industry.’’
Asking a model to lose weight is not a problem as there is a specific size range every model should fall within.
“As far as I’m aware – when an aspiring model goes to meet with an agency or brand there is still a quite strict measurement limit, which is essentially for them to fit into the ‘sample size’ clothing (typically a size 6-8 UK).
“Most models will have to maintain a size 6-8 to continue working in the fashion industry,’’ Rosalie said.
Pressuring models to lose weight becomes a problem when modelling agencies can clearly see that a model is already thin and within the general size requirement but they still chose to pressure them to lose weight and be underweight which can lead to both short-term and long-term health issues.
Dr Angela Madden, a nutritionist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire, said: ‘’When we are growing our bones have peak bone mass and at the age of 15, our bones stop being stronger. When a person is underweight, their bones become weak and their long term health becomes a problem.’’
Models who lose unnecessary weight are putting themselves at risk of undernutrition without even realizing it.
“When a person is suffering from undernutrition, the chances of them conceiving are much lower or they may not even be able to conceive at all,’’ said Dr Madden.
The lower threshold for a healthy body mass index (BMI) is 18, says Dr Madden. Rosalie has a BMI of 16.8.
“Anyone with a BMI lower than 12 or 13 would die because that’s just too low. Once a person cannot lose weight from their arms and legs which are the major weight loss body parts, they start to lose it from their organs such as the heart, kidney, and guts which could also lead to death,’’ said Dr Madden.
Rosalie, who is just 3.8 above the death range BMI would be at high risk if she is pressured to lose more weight.
Fashion models have a height requirement which falls between 5 ft 8 and 5 ft 11. Lots of potential models are often being sent off by agencies because they are not tall enough. Being underweight can prevent potential models from reaching the height requirement as most models start modelling from a young age before they get to the age of 21 where they stop growing.
“Undernutrition, while a person is growing may stop them from growing and their final height when they stop growing will be less than its potential. Being underweight does not only affect a person’s size but also affects their height,’’ said Dr Madden.