Ana Carolina Reston and Luisel Ramos were young, promising models who had their whole lives ahead of them. However, due to the pressures to stay ultra thin, both women lost their lives to anorexia.
Reston, who was 5 feet, 8 inches tall, only weighed 88 pounds at the time of her death. She died from a generalized infection caused by anorexia. Ramos died of heart failure after she stepped off the stage at a runway show in Montevideo, Uruguay.
After their deaths, Spain and Italy placed a ban on super-skinny models. Models are now required to have body mass indexes above 18 percent to be in shows.
The most sickening part of the model’s stories is that the agencies they worked for encouraged them to lose the weight so they could get booked for more shows. Even though it was painfully obvious these women were unhealthy, they were still pushed to lose weight to fit the ultra-skinny look. No one took these young women’s health and well-being into account.
Ex-model Tyra Banks was recently the victim of a tabloid story that claimed she had gained about 40 pounds, and TV executives for the CW Network were pressuring her to lose weight. The now infamous, unflattering picture of Banks on a beach in Australia was what set off gossip magazines and blogs around the world.
Banks fired back on the first episode of her self-titled talk show. She called for the entertainment industry to stop putting so much emphasis on weight.
The pressures to be thin are taking a toll on young women everywhere, and Banks wants that to change.
I agree with Banks. The entertainment world puts too much pressure on women and men to have perfect bodies. Even though most people know the images they see in magazines have been airbrushed and altered, there is still that lingering insecurity that affects millions of men and women each day.
It seems as if it is no longer acceptable to just be skinny. If a hipbone or collarbone is not sticking out, then you are not beautiful.
The National Eating Disorders Association said the average American woman is 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs 140 pounds, but the average American model is 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs only 117 pounds. How did looking sickly become the standard of beauty?
Women of old Hollywood, such as Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Dandridge and Rita Hayworth, loved to show off their curves. It was not shameful to have hips, thighs and full breasts. Marilyn Monroe was a size 14 (which would now be a size eight due to vanity sizing), and she was one of the most desirable women of her time.
Even now, women such as Scarlett Johansson, Kate Winslet, BeyoncÃ© Knowles and Jennifer Lopez are women who embrace their bodies. They do not look fat; they look healthy. Unfortunately, the few women who embrace curves are not enough to change the trend Hollywood has created.
According to the NEDA, more than half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control activities such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting and taking laxatives and stimulants to lose weight.
Additionally, as many as 10 million females and one million males are fighting for their lives against eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. Another 25 million are trying to beat binge-eating disorders. Even girls as young as 10 are talking about dieting and not wanting to get fat. Weight is a serious issue whether people are talking about being too skinny or extremely overweight. Hollywood has been instrumental in shaping the perceptions of what people think is attractive. Often, movies that feature overweight actors portray them in a humorous light. They are rarely sexy or sophisticated characters, which are usually reserved for the svelte actors.
Money, beauty and fame are not worth losing one’s life. Ramos and Reston should have never subjected their bodies to that sort of torture. Some people blame their families, but let’s face it: These women made a living off their bodies, and I doubt pleas from their families would have changed their habits.
Spain and Italy took a step in the right direction to prevent designers and agencies from exploiting women, because it is heart-wrenching that there are millions of young men and women dying to be thin.
Shemir Wiles is a senior majoring in mass communications.