Models have got a bad rap for being skinny, sometimes anorexic, superficial, and vain creatures. But the truth is, they’re all people—just like us. Some of them may struggle with a mountain of insecurities, perhaps even more so than most. But the modeling industry is changing for the better, and the days when nearly all models were the perfect example of anorexia are slipping further and further into the past.
That’s not to say that the modeling industry as a whole doesn’t have its issues—because it does. But more models are fighting back against the societal ideal that models must starve themselves to be skinny enough for a shoot. Models like Cameron Russell, Doutzen Kroes, and Jennie Runk don’t believe that ribs should be showing, and they don’t hate their bodies. They’re standing up for a more moral modeling industry, one where women see their own beauty instead of trashing themselves.
|Doutzen Kroes values being fit, not thin.|
Anton Oparin / Shutterstock.com
Kroes is a 28-year-old mother, and says that, contrary to popular belief, she doesn’t fit into a size zero. And she doesn’t want to. “I have a woman’s body, and once in a while you run into the fact that things are not fitting the way they should be. But I joke about it and say, ‘What 13-year-old girl was wearing this?’”
Kroes is certainly a small woman, but she is that way because she eats well and works out. When she was younger, she biked about 15 miles to school and back every day, and today she stays in shape by doing ballet and boxing. But diet is most of what keeps her healthy; she nixes all alcohol consumption a month before shows, and eats “very basic and happy food,” which she regularly shares with her 670,000 Instagram followers.
And if a company ever has a problem with Kroes not fitting into sample sizes, she takes the most sensible approach: “If they think I’m too fat, I’d rather not do the job—because I’m super-healthy and fit and I’m so happy the way I am.”
As a model, Kroes feels like she has a responsibility to women and girls everywhere, and wants to make a positive impact to fight the modeling industry’s typically negative impact on self-esteem. She stresses the fact that what ends up on a magazine ad or on the runway is very staged, and not at all representative of real life.
“I feel I’m such a big part of that insecurity that some girls might have because of my job, that girls think they have to be that picture,” she says. “And even boys, they think that that picture exists, and it’s so frustrating because I don’t look like that picture—I wake up not looking like that picture.”
Model Jennie Runk echoes the same sentiment in her advocacy for teenage girls. She wants them to know that they are beautiful just as they are. “You will grow out of this awkwardness fabulously,” she wrote in an essay for BBC. “Just focus on being the best possible version of yourself and quit worrying about your thighs, there’s nothing wrong with them.”
“There’s no need to glamorize one body type and slam another,” she added. “We need to stop this absurd hatred towards bodies for being different sizes. It doesn’t help anyone and it’s getting old.”
Cameron Russell has modeled for over a decade for Victoria’s Secret, Vogue, Ralph Lauren, and many more. And like Kroes and Runk, she is a major promoter of women’s empowerment, stressing that body image isn’t everything. We have learned as a society that it’s normal and expected to be ashamed of our bodies in some way, trying to live up to an unattainable perfection.
I na poignant TED Talk, Russell says that even models feel this insecurity, perhaps even more than the rest of us. “They have the thinnest thighs and the shiniest hair and the coolest clothes, and they’re the most physically insecure women probably on the planet,” she says.”
I’m so glad to see more women standing up for real beauty, insiders pointing to the fact that the fashion industry isn’t at all what it appears. It’s a performance, albeit a beautiful one, and it’s time we stopped expecting those images to transfer over into real life.