Confessions of a child model

Image: creative commons licence - Chris Willis.
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Image: creative commons licence – Chris Willis.

Rake thin, suffering from eating disorders, eating tissues to make themselves feel full, this was the reality of a child model, a 15-year-old girl, witnessing her friend vomit blood through her efforts to look super skinny.

Laura Parsons, 21, began modelling at the age of 15, experiencing the horrors of the modelling world, the pressures, and witnessing its disastrous effects on her friends.

She said: “I started modelling as a side profession, and enjoyed going on the various photo shoots and events. I loved being made up for them with loads of make-up and my hair being done. It was what I thought it would be like to be famous, I thought it was very glamorous.”

“Through modelling I lost a great deal of weight, but this started even before I got into modelling, as even then I wanted to be like those girls in the magazines. The agency became more demanding as I became older, telling me to keep in shape, insinuating that even though I was between the size of a 6 and 8, this was not good enough to get certain modelling work.”

Designers are putting more and more teen and child models onto their catwalks in order to create that ultra skinny look. The latest size to hit the stores is a 00, equivalent to the size of a 10-year-old. This super-skinny look is dangerous for women to aspire to, and in turn, causes many young teens to have eating disorders and suffer with severe consequences because of this.

Ms Parsons said: “I became insecure about the way that I looked and became obsessed with the foods I would eat. For me modelling was only something I was doing for enjoyment on the side of my studies, and when the pressures became too much a couple of years ago I stopped.”

“Unfortunately, my friends who did modelling as a full time career had more pressures on them to look a certain way, or they wouldn’t get the jobs that they wanted. It was heartbreaking to watch them become skinnier and skinnier, and them still believing that they needed to lose weight. They couldn’t see how beautiful they were and what damage they were doing to themselves.”

“I remember being out for dinner with the girls one evening and going to the toilet with one of them, and her making herself sick so she wouldn’t put any weight on, she was vomiting blood too! I found this really scary. We’d only been eating salad in our vain attempt to stay skinny anyway, it was so upsetting to watch her do that to herself. Through their extreme diets, they became weak all the time and their skin just lost its healthy glow. Many of my friends were also missing their periods too.”

Dr Alex Yellowlees, a consultant psychiatrist at the Priory, spoke about his thoughts on the size 00: “Ludicrous! And dangerous! It feeds into the idealisation of thinness in our culture.” Going on to say how the size of women seen on catwalks and in magazines “feeds into the powerful myth that in order to be worthy, sexy, attractive, successful and have self-esteem as a woman in our culture you have to be thin – crazy!”

Mary George, from B-eat, a UK organisation who support people affected by eating disorders, said: “The majority of people affected by eating disorders are female, between the ages of 12 and 20.”

Statistics from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders have reported shocking results. They state that 69% of girls between the ages of 11-18 say pictures in magazines influence their idea of an ideal body shape, and that 47% of girls say they want to lose weight because of this.

Miss Parsons said: “I was asked to recreate poses I had seen in the fashion magazines I was given to look at, normally it would be Elle or Vogue that I would copy. I thought the women in them were beautiful and I wanted to look just like them, so had no problem with trying to look the way they did. Now looking back I see I was modelling seductively and [this is] something a 15-year-old really shouldn’t be doing, no matter how grown up they think they are.

“I enjoyed modelling while I was doing it, especially when I was younger but now its all gone too far. It can take over and ruin your life along with your self-esteem without [you] even realizing it.”

Children and young teens are subjected to a life of insecurities about their weight and body image, causing them to have eating disorders with severe consequences. They are being encouraged to look older than they are with make-up, high heels, seductive poses, and live a life where imperfections just aren’t acceptable. Has the fashion industry gone too far by letting children and young teen model high fashion?

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