UK Model Puts Unhealthy Fashion Industry Standards On Blast After Being Told To Lose Weight

charli-howard

It’s a familiar tale, one where a young woman is shamed for her body type by an industry that has successfully thrived off telling generations of men and women that to be considered beautiful they have to somehow fit into a narrow standard that is entirely unrealistic.

We have all heard stories of women in the fashion industry standing up to these harsh ideals in the hope it will force a systemic change industry-wide and make the concept of beauty more democratic that what it is now. One model who is certainly getting a lot of attention for putting industry standards on blast, is UK woman Charli Howard.

The 5″ 8′ beauty who is between a size 6-8 (US size 2-4, i.e, tiny!) recently parted ways with her unnamed modeling agency and instead of allowing the incident to go quietly into the night, she wrote a Facebook post about the incident and it has gone viral.

She starts off by saying “F**K YOU” to the agency for telling her she had become too big and needed to lose weight to continue working in the fashion industry. It is the kind of statement we dread hearing, that modeling agencies are STILL forcing girls to lose weight or fear losing their source of income.

“I will no longer allow you to dictate to me what’s wrong with my looks and what I need to change in order to be “beautiful” (like losing one f**king inch off my hips), in the hope it might force you to find me work. I refuse to feel ashamed and upset on a daily basis for not meeting your ridiculous, unobtainable beauty standards…The more you force us to lose weight and be small, the more designers have to make clothes to fit our sizes, and the more young girls are being made ill. It’s no longer an image I choose to represent,” she wrote.

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She goes on to talk about how ridiculous it is that the industry expect girls to slim down to a size that some bodies just physically cannot achieve. As if forcing all women in the industry to look a certain way and fit into one size is realistic.

“In case you hadn’t realized, I am a woman. I am human. I cannot miraculously shave my hip bones down, just to fit into a sample size piece of clothing or to meet ‘agency standards’. I have fought nature for a long time, because you’ve deemed my body shape too ‘curvaceous’, but I have recently began to love my shape…when I was 7 and a half stone, I still wasn’t thin enough for you. When I went to the gym 5 hours a week, you still weren’t finding me work. I can’t win,” she continued.

A quick scroll down through the comments and you will see just how powerful her words are, where the majority of comments come from women applauding her for standing up to her agency’s alleged demands. There was one comment, however, which was the dissenting voice among the positive. It seems to come from a woman who worked at Charli’s former agency, who claims there were other factors in the split between Charli and the company which were not divulged.

But in reply to this particular woman’s comment, underneath was a response outlining how the supposed agency representative deleted her original defensive comment – stating that it was clients who set the unrealistic expectations of models, not the agency – and that they should’ve done a better job of protecting their models, rather than bowing down to clients’ unhealthy body standards.

Of course there are probably more details involved in the split between Charli and her agency, but the notion of an agency demanding young girls fit into body standards that perpetuate bad health and in some extreme cases eating disorders, depression and anxiety, is what is important here. In fact unhealthy fashion industry body standards have become somewhat of a focus in the UK even at a political level.

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Conservative Party MP Caroline Nokes, who is the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image, is heading up a parliamentary inquiry into whether the country needs new legislation to stop the industry from harming young women and men. Caroline has teamed up with Aussie-Brit model Rosie Nelson and started a petition on Change.org to spread the word of what girls are often forced to do in the industry.

Rosie’s personal story rings eerily familiar to Charli’s story, being told to lose weight in a way that physically became impossible for her body type. The UK inquiry will happen during November, and will determine whether new laws will be put in place.

Some countries such as France and Italy have already implemented legislation to ensure fashion week organizers and advertisers are not forcing girls to distort their bodies to fit into some ideal, and have created a system of accountability for the industry which also seeks to protect the models.

There are some within the industry claim these laws could potentially affect a model’s ability to work and that these measures should be voluntary, not forced. But when you look at the bigger picture, see how long fashion has been around and compare that with just how many designers, clients, agencies etc are NOT volunteering to change unhealthy standards, we start to see why people are fed up and are taking other options to fix this problem.

In an op-ed for The Huffington Post, Charli goes into depth about how she didn’t expect the reaction she received from her post, but why it is important and timely.

Charli-Howard-Facebook-open-letter

“Models, young women, mothers, agencies, photographers and the press have all written to me about the pressures of the fashion industry and how it has made them or their friends’ feel. Being you, or the best version of you, is not enough for the majority of agencies. The response I’ve received is merely a sign that the industry needs to change,” she said.

She did admit feeling ashamed for not speaking up earlier about this issue, and also makes a point of saying not all agencies treat women the same way she was by her UK agency. Different markets demand different body ideals, writes, Charli, but overall it is about presenting a more diverse, healthy standard of beauty all round.

“It’s simply difficult for models, because these ideals are hard to balance or get right. Your body will ultimately suffer from these continual changes in the long run, especially if you model internationally. Agencies ultimately hold the power when it comes to choosing the models they represent, and will often choose measurements over beauty. Measurements should not, and DO NOT, define someone’s beauty,” she said.

Charli mentions IMG, the largest modeling agency in the world who made headlines in February 2014 for saying they are abolishing all body divisions and categories, and simply representing all their models, whether plus size, petite, straight size etc, on the same board. It is important that IMG did this because they have now set an example for others in the industry to follow suit.

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We are seeing many steps of progression toward body diversity in the fashion industry worldwide, and we have to say, as a media website that only reports on these types of fashion stories, the more women like Charli speak up, the more they influence those around them.

In an interview with UK’s Channel 4, the young model talked about how women like Ashley Graham have drastically changed industry standards and continue to do so. When asked whether her experience with her former agent represents just a “few bad apples” or whether there needs to be industry-wide change, she says it is definitely the latter.

Charli still intends on modeling, even though there may be other agencies out there who could demand the same weight-loss requests of her, but she says there are now more and more diverse agencies representing all types of body shapes so she doesn’t feel afraid for speaking up about something that was considered a “norm” in the fashion industry for so long, and has now become the reason for change.

Bravo Charli for speaking up about an issue that unfortunately is not yours alone, but the problem of many young women in fashion. The more voices like hers break through the mainstream and force agencies, creatives, designers and organizers to re-think what they are contributing to, the more we can expect things to change in the trickle down effect for us as consumers. We are thankful for advocates who risk the ire of some in order to save the life and health of the majority.

Take a look at her brilliant answer to the question she was asked about whether she regrets putting her agency on blast in such a public forum. It is worth watching in full:


 

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Rebel Body Positive Model Charli Howard Launches #MoreThanANumber Campaign Aimed At Empowering Girls - GirlTalkHQ

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