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.
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.