Jul 4, 2010
The beautiful are never desolate;
But someone always loves them – God or man
If man abandons, God himself takes them.
- George MacDonald, Scottish poet (1824-1905)
These lines confirm the tragedy behind the suicide, by hanging, of former Miss Mauritius and super-model, Viveka Babajee, on June 25, 2010. She is the latest of half a dozen models who, apparently abandoned by men, were taken by God himself through the suicide route. Others have starved to death, of anorexia, to maintain their slim and trim figure. Such models have been wrong role models to growing teens who, trying to imitate the star models, have ended up with eating disorders. That is why some Latin American and Hispanic countries have banned models who do not come up to a certain weight in relation to the height. Now Australia has joined these countries in banning thin models.
But, before we come to the Australian development, it is apt to note that the concept or perception of beauty had nothing to do thinness as is the rage on the cat-walk today. For instance, attributes of beauty, sans thinness, are sung by John Keats, English poet:
A thing of beauty is a joy forever;
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
So, where and when thinness sneak in as a beauty attribute?
Zai, zai, barik barik chedwa maka zai (I want thin girl as bride) – opening line of an old popular Konkani song, sung to the accompaniment of liquid spirits.
They have been after the fat for a long time. Look at the jokes and jibes about the fat persons. According to an American proverb, “A fat man is not good in war. He can neither fight nor run away”. Another statement of American origin is: “Everybody loves a fat man until he sits down in a bus”. Life magazine, now defunct, said: “When a fat person steps on a scale, he always experiences a sinking feeling”. John Ruskin said: “From the day in which she weighs 140, the chief excitement of a woman’s life consists in spotting women who are fatter than she is”.
These verbal battering of the fat has given rise to a slimming industry which is galloping by the day. Gyms of various types are doing roaring business, offering the fat the setting to sweat out their unsightly burden. Weight and waist control programmes and diets have mass following, with the promoters laughing their way to the banks.
As the fat reducing mania continues to attract adherents in droves, the fashion industry now targets the twiggies. Twiggy, by the way, was a model in the 1960s, who ruled the catwalks, ramps and fashion shoots. Like cinema actors change their names in favour of catchy ones, fashion model also change their names in favour of ramp names. Twiggy’s assumed name reflected her physical structure – she was a beanstalk. Her success attracted many imitators to shed their pounds on the altar of modeling success. Lean and thin became in. But the pendulum swung to the extreme, prompting a reaction. Under the emerging new regime, started in Spain, instead of casting thin models for the ramp, they are dubbed outcasts and kept out of the catwalks.
Spain has been at the forefront of this move. It started with Madrid fashion shows some months ago. Fashion shows that took place since then at various other centres like London, Los Angeles, Paris, Milan, Rio, Mumbai and Delhi debated the subject but were not enthusiastic about shutting out the thin from fashion shows. But, Spain has persisted. In one instance, five models had been banned from Madrid’s most important ready-to-wear fashion show because they were too thin – according to the organiser’s official doctor. The five, out of 69 to take part, had been excluded from the Pasarela Cibeles show because of their “excessive low weight.” According to Dr. Susana, “Their weight can have a bad influence and be responsible for problems linked to anorexia”. She said that the regional government of Madrid, which helps to finance the show, aims to ensure that the “Young do not take as examples models who are too thin”.
Of course, one who pays the piper has the right to call the tune. But, does not this amount to hostile discrimination? There is a saying that some are born great, some become great and some have greatness thrust on them. Can a model help it if thinness is in her genes? Should she be penalised for what she inherited, if she has other attributes of a model? The argument about a fashion model being role models is hollow. Owen Maredith has asked: “Are not great men models of nations?” If the Madrid logic is followed, our politicians should not be fat. So, why penalise models for being thin? It is a functional requirement of the fashion industry and has nothing to do with projecting themselves as role model of physical dimensions. On the other hand, obesity has emerged as one of the greatest concerns of the medical world. The twiggies of the fashion world may shame many obese to shed their fat and lead healthy lives.
Reverting to Australia, the country is set to ban skinny models from catwalks and magazines. Under a major overhaul of the fashion industry, diets for rapid weight loss and cosmetic surgery advertisements will also be phased out of magazines. Fashion designers will be asked not to hire models with dangerously low body mass. Youth minister Kate Ellis said she wants to stop the glamourisation of unhealthy thin women, which has been blamed for kids suffering eating disorders. The Australian government has committed $500,000 to develop new educational programmes. Ellis, on June 27, 2010, unveiled a new body-image tick of approval, similar to the Heart Foundation’s healthy food tick, to be awarded to magazines, modeling agencies and labels. They are required to disclose when images have been retouched and refrain from enhancing photographs. Agencies have to use models aged 16 or older both on catwalks and in print.
So, are we set to see more of buxom (full-bosomed, healthy, plump, cheerful and lively) models rather than the present crop of twiggy dumb belles with wooden expressions and synthetic smiles? Will we have, instead of liposuction, lipo-induction and a rush for breast-enhancing/implant cosmetic surgaries.
With the Mumbai police set to question a dozen ex-boy-friends of Viveka Babajee, there is a clear warning against men messing around models. They should take a cue from Edward Young, English poet (1684-1765):
Thou art so witty, profligate and thin,
At once we think thee Satan, Death and Sin.
John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is the editor of his website www.wecometoreason.com (Interactive Cerebral Challenger).
John Monteiro - Recent Archives: