Happiness

FUCK YOU, FASHION

Fashion – 

noun: a popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behaviour.

verb: make into a particular form.

As a non celebrity, when you post tweet or a Facebook status, the last thing you expect is an industry uproar.

If you exist within or are at least acquainted with the London fashion universe, you’ll have heard the name ‘Charli Howard’ one hundred times this past fortnight. Her Facebook open letter to the fashion industry – specifically to her now ex-agency – has so far been shared 968 times, garnering so much attention that only days later she appeared on Channel 4 News and the BBC.

On Monday, vogue.com published an interview with her. Now THAT’S a fuck you to her ex agency.

Even the most loyal fashion worshipper is well aware of that this long time controversy within the fashion industry regarding the health of models. I remember an uproar in the mid noughties when the term “size zero” was massively talked about in the news and media after runway models literally starved themselves to death. A decade before that, a teenage Kate Moss was the poster girl for fashion movement “heroin chic”. And even with the seeming rise of plus size agencies, positive body image advocates and models like Cara Delevigne becoming known for their ‘personaltiy’, this issue is now so deep rooted that it has spread way beyond the realm of high fashion runway shows and magazines.

Fashion is arguably the most powerfully influencing industry in modern society. For all the positive, creative and, I suppose, entertaining outcomes, the negatives are terrifyingly dangerous. This is an industry that does not encourage liking yourself, whether you are a model or a consumer. It breeds a sense of genetic hierarchy based on looks alone, no matter how they try to sugarcoat it. It is the romanticism of a one dimensional way of life, that leaves many of us feeling subconsciously empty and not good enough. It is a race in which no one will ever will, because what we are aspiring to achieve is literally impossible.

When I began modelling, I was horrendously naive. I had what I thought was a sturdy high sense of self worth, so that when others around me discussed the negatives on the job, I shrugged them off with such classics as, “It won’t affect me”, “I won’t let myself be pressured into changing”, and “if I get told I’m not good enough, I’ll chuckle and dance and leave, head held high.” I never once considered how something I saw purely as a sweet money maker, could completely transform my self esteem and self perception.

Thankfully, I have never received complaints about measurements from an agency. But I have lost count the amount of times I have been upset by team members and casting managers’ comments about me. Me, a human being. Not a product or a 2d cardboard cut out. When it’s you they’re talking about, it suddenly becomes very personal. But at the same time, there is an underlying sense that it’s your fault, because no one forced you to be a model. You chose this job. You pay your rent because of this job. So, you shrug off all the little looks, whispers, tuts and scribbles, and they quietly store themselves into your subconscious until you start seeing a product when you look in the mirror, instead of a human being with emotions and thoughts.

I am someone that continues to model, albeit very carefully, even though I have recognised this. Maybe because for all it’s faults, being a model can still be fun, rewarding and almost addictive. But I am upset with fashion. I am sick of seeing beautiful, kind, intelligent girls slowly being churned through a factory system and left with broken self esteems and robotic falsities.

I am sick of the thought of normal little girls idolising, thinking that models bodies, features, hair and skin are normal and effortless, and therefore wrecking their minds and bodies striving for something so unattainable.

Since Charli’s honest and down right brave* admission, fresh stories of mistreatment, pressure and negativity continue to surface from current and retired models.

In an ideal world, this negative attention will see this domino effect continue to show ball into gigantic proportion, transforming the industry as a whole. For Vogue, the largest influencer of fashion worldwide, to support Charli, speaks volumes.

*”Brave” is often used lightly in feminist rants. A lot of the time, I disagree with the use of the word. My idea of a brave woman, for right use of the word, is Malala Yousafzai. But if you are too a model, you will agree that Charli’s out pouring was potentially detrimental to her career, so it was indeed brave of her to be so honest on such an open and accessible platform.

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Happiness, Health

Are You Controversy Ready?

There is a protest taking place right now in London’s Hype Park.

But what are thousands of angry Londoners gathering to demonstrate against? Armed conflict? Sexual trafficking? Environmental issues? Foreign aid? Racism?

Nope. Thousands of people are “Taking Back the Beach”, protesting a poster. 

British online fitness company Protein World’s now infamous campaign is the biggest online topic of debate since the Blue+Black / Gold+White dress.

Appearing all over the London Underground, the poster shows a stunning female model standing strong in a tiny yellow bikini, right next to the question: “Are you beach body ready?”

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And the public were so outraged about it that Transport for London have agreed to remove the ad, after countless posters were vandalised by offended commuters.

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And now non commuters all over the country are angry and getting involved, thanks to social media’s tornado effect. Hashtags such as #Everybody’sReady and #EverydaySexism have been widely tweeted.

So strong was the outrage, that the Advertising Standards Authority have received around 270 complaints, mainly under the basis that it “objectified women and that it carried the insinuation that only svelte models were ready to go to the beach.”

And so, a change.org petition was created, boasting 69,204 supporters at the time of writing (4PM Saturday 2nd May).

Furthermore, Dove and plus size clothing brand Simply Be have parodied the poster, instead featuring larger, “more realistic” models.

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Dove said, “In 2004, 75% of women felt advertising and media set unrealistic standards of beauty. Today, that figure is 66%, with the perception being that more diversity is portrayed in the images of women we see around us”.

I must state that I do not support this poster and I do not agree with the ethos it is projecting. However, neither do i agree with the majority of the public outrage and the backlash of a fitness company choosing a fitness model to front their brand.

I find it quite ironic that in the process of defaming a company for their “irresponsible” message and “body shaming”, protestors have in fact extensively body shamed themselves, as have Dove and Simply Be.

Star of the campaign, 24 year old Australian Renee Somerfield, told the Huffington Post,

“I am a real person behind the image. I work very hard and live a healthy and active lifestyle which is why Protein World chose me for their campaign. I couldn’t work every day as a full time model by starving myself, dieting or not looking after my body. Nourish your body, be kind to it and it will love you right back, no matter your size.”

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Renee looks incredible, and in my opinion, she’s not lying about being healthy. She is obviously already of naturally slim build, tall, and her physique is strong. She is apparently a vegan too (as am I), and is probably well read on nutrition and fitness. Her Instagram will give you an insight (trusted or not) into her lifestyle. 

I don’t think Renee herself is the problem. I think it’s Protein World’s ill-advised wording and thoughtless delivery of their company’s values.

“Are You Beach Body Ready?” is offensive as it suggests that we women must conform to certain standards of beauty in order to be accepted on a beach. By placing Renee next to this question, they have connected her body to this notion, suggesting that her body is “Beach Body” standard. And this is wrong. 

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But if Renee’s body is “unrealistic” and “unhealthy”, what is the general consensus of health? Being over-weight? I am sad to say that I think the support of over weight women is just as irresponsible as the original Protein World posters. There is a trend of praising larger shapes. Renee’s physique requires great discipline and effort. Whether you too want to apply yourself to this level of fitness or not, we cannot curse this body shape and praise “curvy” shapes. (I do not agree with the term curvy being thrown around to describe “larger” people. The difference between curvy and unhealthy is quite easy to see when compared.

Every body is beautiful. It is okay to not be heavily body conscious. If you chose not to look after your body strictly, or even not at all, that is okay. But be sure of yourself, true to yourself, and happy with your choice. If you hate that Renee can look like that, don’t complain about it. Except yourself or do your best to create the healthiest version of yourself.

But there is a lot more wrong with this poster than the use of a slim model. In my opinion it highlights a deeper issue much more dangerous than “fat shaming” – it supports the ever growing cultural obsession with how we look, and the constant fetishisation of women’s bodies.

See Protein World’s odd idea of good PR on their Twitter. 

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