Recently, an ex-Vogue editor Kirstie Clements caused quite the stir with her disclosure that she had heard of and/or seen models eat tissue paper to stay thin, which, while completely absurd and depressingly grim, is nothing terribly new. The whole “Cotton Ball Diet” was big news a few years back. Not to be blasé about the topic, but when it comes to eating, models are often “disordered” in one way or another. Reporting on it almost seems redundant.
In my time modeling, I’ve heard and seen some pretty ridiculous garbage when it comes to food. The conversations, especially with the younger ones who are the most hungry (literally and figuratively) to please, are particularly inane, mostly because they are the most eager to get their measurements into an “acceptable” range. They’ve got opinions about The Master Cleanse, how to make kale chips. They talk about being “healthy” and “active” and spend the day eating nothing, save for a green algae bar and a cup of tea. They’ll lambaste otherwise good-for-you foods like hummus and nuts for high calorie contents without thinking about the actual nutritious benefits. I’ve literally seen a girl take three bites of an apple and, after stating, “Ugh, I’m full,” throw the rest into the garbage can. In Model World, nutrition is often just codeword for calories. You can see why tissue paper and cotton balls became so popular.
Unfortunately, the shock value of these stories, even my own, fails to engage me. Every season there is another campaign to hire “bigger” models that is never realized. The runways are flooded with the increasingly waifish and drawn. Call me callous, but these are issues without resolve, ones that have plagued the industry for decades and will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. It is perhaps more interesting to turn our focus the other direction, looking into the outsider’s fascination with these tales, what the true root of this motherly concern is, whether our collective obsession with the waist measurements of total strangers is a reflection of hidden desires and insecurities. Then again, it’s not really any of my business. Let them eat – or not eat – cake. –Jenny Bahn