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8 Ugly Facts About How The Fashion Industry Creates Beauty

Whether you're a woman from the U.S., Brazil, Japan, or elsewhere, every day you see images of "beauty" that probably look darn different than you do. Turns out the fashion industry isn't all that good for a lot of models either.

8 Ugly Facts About How The Fashion Industry Creates Beauty

    Superstar models can be among the most powerful women in the world. But here are eight not-so-pretty facts about the seamy underside to an industry that needs oversight and cleaning up:

    1. Models start young. Really young. Cover model Thairine Garcia was 14 when she appeared in the February 2012 issue of Harper's Bazaar Brasil. The Council of Fashion Designers of America recommends only using models older than 16, and child models in New York have brand new legal protection, but the industry is mostly self-regulated, and there is no broader oversight. Designers continue to employ models as young as 13.


    2. Modeling can take a high emotional toll on young women. A 2012 Model Alliance survey of 85 female fashion models in the United States revealed that almost two-thirds of them were told to lose weight and that almost 70% suffered from anxiety or depression. Georgina Wilkin shared her story to call attention to the prevalence of eating disorders among young models. Many girls recruited by the international fashion industry are leaving home for the first time, often unaccompanied by family, and are emotionally unprepared for the pressures of the industry. Isabelle Caro, Ana Carolina Reston, and Hila Elmalich (below) are just three of a number of fashion models to die of complications related to anorexia.

    3. Modeling careers are really, really short. Young women typically model only about three seasons. Every new runway show features about 70% new faces.

    4. It may look glamorous but the pay is not. The median salary?

    5. The financial picture can be even bleaker for young women recruited from other countries. After paying for visas, flights, accommodations, and tests (expenses they aren't always notified about in advance), even before their first casting call, these girls can be

    6. The more prestigious the client, the less you get paid. The glam jobs, like Vogue, can pay far less than commercial clients, like J.C. Penney.

    7. Fashion models are WAY skinner and taller than three decades ago. Marilyn says it all:

    8. The fashion industry projects an ideal of beauty that just doesn't match reality. While over half of Brazil's population is black or mixed race, only 28 of São Paulo 2008 Fashion Week's 1,128 models were black (that's about 2.5%). In The Real Truth About Beauty, a survey commissioned by Unilever, a global study of 3,200 women aged 18 to 64 found that only 2% of them thought of themselves as "beautiful." In one startling example, 52% of women in Japan describe themselves as overweight while only 23% actually are. Almost 60% felt that female beauty was too "narrowly defined."

    Here's the trailer for the POV episode on The International Model Supply Chain. Just a couple minutes of this, and you'll see why the fashion industry needs to clean up its act.



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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

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