View Full Version : Ana Carolina Reston's tragedy

M. Lopez
15th January 2007, 15:14
This weekend's edition of The Observer news magazine included the most comprehensive account I've yet read about Ana Carolina Reston, the second model who died from anorexia, last year.


It's an even more agonizing story that I ever realized, and the article is very good about identifying the fashion industry's culpability in this model's death.

Just a few excerpts:

Although anorexia isn't the preserve of the fashion industry, it's hardly surprising that Reston's death has shone a spotlight on the way the business treats its models, and more significantly, on how destructive our current perception of female beauty can be.This remains the crucial point - what's even worse than what this underweight standard does to the models themselves, is what it does to society in general: encouraging women to adopt this critically unhealthy (and potentially fatal) appearance, and severely warping society's views of what is healthy and normal.

'Everyone knew she was ill,' she says. 'The other girls, the agencies, everyone. Don't believe it when they say they didn't.' Reston's aunt, Mirtes Reston, who plans to present a petition to the government demanding steps to monitor the modelling industry...I hope she does present such a petition, and that the government - all governments - take such steps. They are obviously extremely necessary.

In a letter from 40 doctors at the Eating Disorders Service and Research Unit at King's College London to the British Fashion Council last October, Professor Janet Treasure wrote: 'There is no doubt there is cause and effect here. The fashion industry showcases models with extreme body shapes, and this is undoubtedly one of the factors leading to young girls developing disorders.'Could they put it any more plainly? How is it possible that the industry remains in denial about this?

This is borne out by Tommaso's experience. 'If someone is just a tiny bit bigger than the industry demands,' he says, 'they are treated as if they were morbidly ob***. This encourages a pattern of beauty that is absolutely unreal.' Such pressures, he continues, lead many such women to build up what he calls 'an arsenal of anorexia'...The article proceeds to identify the truly horrifying things that models do to themselves, to look as shrivelled as they do. So much for the absolute nonsense that "models are healthy." Pathology in mind and body is the standard, not the exception in this industry.

This comment by the model's mother broke my heart:

When she came home again, in late 2005, she was barely recognisable - gaunt and colourless. As Miriam Reston recalls, 'I looked at her and said, "My daughter, what have they done to you?" I wish these people could see what they have done to her. She didn't deserve this.'And not just to her - to women everywhere; yes, to ALL women, who cannot see or appreciate their own beauty when they are curvaceous-looking, and instead appraise themselves by the twisted standards of this industry.

16th January 2007, 14:46
<br>This thought-provoking article reveals that the seeds of Miss Reston's disaster were planted at the very beginning of her career, when she entered a beauty contest, and--as her mother states--<i>"won because she was slim and elegant."</i>

The problems began (and the consequences of society's emaciated standard were already felt) right at that very moment.

If the winner of this beauty contest (and of all beauty contests) had <i>"won because she was <strong>curvy</strong> and elegant,"</i> then this entire story would have had a different ending. Unfortutnately, Reston's first aesthetic lesson was that she was valued for being <i>thin</i>--which is the most pernicious lesson that any young girl can learn.

If natural curves, instead of unnatural emaciation, still embodied the ideal of beauty, then a different girl, with a fuller figure, would have won this contest, and gone on to become a model. For girls like Ana, the lesson of such a choice would have been that voluptuous femininity, not skeletal androgyny, is the ideal that they should adopt. Then, even if Ana <i>had</i> become a model, she would never have been humiliated for being insufficiently gaunt.

As it was, this girl--in a predicament that is familiar to most readers, from the painful sagas of Kate Dillon and other anorexia survivors--was told by irresponsible fashion professionals with warped perspectives that she wasn't emaciated <i>enough,</i> even though she was already endangering her health by depriving herself of basic sustenance. Unlike Kate Dillon, however, Miss Reston never freed herself from the industry's grip, and died as a result.

Note also this statement, near the end of the article:<p><blockquote><i>in the weeks that followed [Reston's death], the deaths of <strong>two further Brazilian girls in similar circumstances</strong>, one a fashion student, brought further calls for the regulation of this notoriously mysterious business.</i></blockquote><p>Were these girls' deaths publicized in any way? Not at all. This is the first time that we are hearing of them. <i>These</i> girls are far more representative of the majority of the fashion industry's victims--the tens of thousands of anorexia fatalities who are not models, not "glamorous," but ordinary women who try to emulate the toxic standard imposed by the industry, and die as a result, ignored by the media that told them how they must look.

The most frustrating aspect of this ongoing cultural battle is that it is so unnecessary. All of the fashion industry's aesthetic visions could easily be achieved with professional <i>plus-size</i> models, who present a comfortable and pleasurable ideal, rather than with walking skeletons, who ruin so many women's self-image, both physically and psychologically.

Unless the industry demonstrates a more genuine sense of responsibility--no, of basic <i>humanity</i>--in the future, external regulation may be the only way that this timeless ideal will ever be restored, and that the dying will end.

Kailee O'Sullivan (Night Moves Prom)--providing girls of her generation with a healthy and life-affirming concept of beauty:<p><center><img src="http://www.judgmentofparis.com/ko/night13.jpg"></center>