Vogue's 19 international editions will no longer feature photos of fashion models who "appear to have an eating disorder," the magazine's editors announced recently, a decision hailed by supermodel Tyra Banks as something to celebrate in an "open letter" to the Daily Beast.
In it, Banks cautions girls "not to fall prey to 'thinspirational' images of beauty" and she suggests moms should let their daughters see that females come in all types of bodies, from curvy to tall, short, thin and in between. "Moms, you are the first and most influential role model in your girl's life. Use that power. Teach her to love herself and everything that makes her unique."
More than 24 million Americans, both females and males, have an eating disorder. And eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
The Vogue editors said that beginning in June, editions in America, France, Britain and China, for starters, will no longer feature models with visible signs of eating disorders. It also suggested that fashion designers should stop creating "unrealistically" small samples that won't fit anyone who isn't ultra-thin.
"Vogue believes that good health is beautiful. Vogue editors around the world want the magazines to reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the well-being of their readers," said Conde Nast International chairman Jonathan Newhouse in a statement.
Vogue also promised to ban models under age 16. The magazine and others have been heavily criticized for dressing young girls in vampy attire and makeup. The magazine was harshly criticized last summer for running provocative photos of Thylane Loubry Blondeau, a 10-year-old French girl. It was lambasted in stories with titles such as "High fashion or high risk?"
Not everyone's convinced, though, that the promise is genuine.
"The cynic in me feels like they are simply grandstanding while really just throwing a bone to an audience that is getting ever more savvy and tired of the tricks of the trade," Audrey Brashich, a former teen model and the former editor of a teen magazine, told the Associated Press. She called the announcement a "tiny baby step of progress," if it's even genuine.
The decision by Vogue is important, Banks noted, because "Vogue has the power to make and break — whether it's fashion trends, designers, models and yes, even industry practices. Their bold stance means that others will follow."
Critics noted that the fashion magazine failed to talk about the practice of digitally altering photos, a widespread practice the AP said "critics believe promotes an impossible standard of beauty."
Experts told the Deseret News that body-image distortion can be life-altering for girls. If they are presented with a media ideal and then see a reflection of themselves that doesn't meet that standard of sexy and thin, the result can be serious body hatred and anxiety. The Deseret News looked in-depth at body image and the sexualization of teens last fall.
"If Vogue was really concerned about the well-being of girls in terms of their health, then they would have done what Spain and Italy did and use only girls who have what has been deemed a healthy Body Mass Index," Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood told several media outlets. The AP said Israel also passed an "anti-skinny-model law" earlier this year.
Vogue, which is published by Conde Nast, is not the only magazine addressing concerns about the body-image issues raised by ultra-thin models. The Hearst Corporation, which publishes several magazines targeting women, issued a statement saying that "good health is something we strive to promote in our magazines, both in our fashion and beauty stories and in our features. We make every effort to educate our readers and present images that reflect strong, beautiful women."
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