The following is a selection of news stories dealing with the dual topics of the lunacy of weight control and of our skewed contemporary aesthetics. Regrettably, I cannot endore the entire content of these articles, since each writer, to a greater or lesser degree, still reveals himself to be the victim of one type of aesthetic brainwashing almost in the same sentence that he manages to see through another type. Nevertheless, the general thrust of each of these messages is positive, or at least thought provoking, so I do consider them worth some attention. The eyeglasses symbol indicates stories that are particularly noteworthy. (Earlier articles can be found at the News Plus Archives page.)
Designer’s Ad Campaign Says Big Is Beautiful
Some magazines balked at running the Bijan shots, which feature a nude and Rubenesque model.
by Barbara Thomas
Mr. Bijan and a fat lady are the talk of the town in New York magazine circles.
The hugely successful Beverly Hills clothier, known for his perfumes, men’s fashion and outrageous ads, and his decidedly rotund model named Bella were first rejected and then embraced by some of the toniest Manhattan-based magazines.
The couple is featured in Bijan’s latest ad campaign, which at first was roundly rejected—until Talk magazine’s Tina Brown accepted all three ads.
The controversial advertisements—meant as an homage to painters Peter Paul Rubens, Henri Matisse [Matisse?] and Fernando Botero—feature a high-heeled, nude Bella and fully clothed Mr. Bijan. The lush Latin colors and the interplay between the two are meant to represent the great paintings from the masters.
“I embrace the beauty of all women,” Bijan said Wednesday, sitting in his lush penthouse office across the street from his Rodeo Drive boutique, which is undergoing a $10 million renovation. Bijan had a $1 million budget for the print campaign and submitted the ads to magazines from Elle to Town and Country. All, though they regularly accept his advertisements, refused to publish them. Bijan said he called them and asked whether it was because the model was too heavy. “They said, ‘No, no, no,’”he said.
He couldn’t pin down whether it was a question of taste.
So Bijan called his good friend Tina Brown, editor in chief at Talk magazine, who was so moved by the ads that she agreed to run all three—“Motel,” “Siesta” and “Bella”—in the February issue. Gossip in the New York magazine world must be fast, he said.
“Three days later, everybody called me back,” he said. The February issues of Vanity Fair, Esquire and Departures each carry one of the series. Just why they changed their stance is not clear. Efforts to reach magazine representatives on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Bijan is famous for outrageous ads that typically feature himself. There was the one in which Bo Derek flashed him and his young son. The designer expected another of his ads to be more controversial than Bella: It shows a beautiful young woman in Muslim headdress with the caption: “Jammal, you might as well know the truth…I’m in love with Bijan.” But the ad ran in recent issues of the same magazines.
By fashion advertising standards, the sensual and plump Bella is rather tame, said Cynthia Miller, Bijan’s art director. After all, there are more overtly sexual campaigns, such as ads like some of Calvin Klein’s.
“You can put Kate Moss in underwear and photograph it and it’s art,” said Laura Fraser, author of Losing It: False Hope and Fat Profits in the Diet Industry (Dutton Books, 1998). But if you depict a full-figured woman in underwear “then suddenly it’s pornography.”
But whatever the magazines’ thoughts on the subject, the public is going wild for the ads, said Miller. She’s compiled e-mail from around the country about the campaign. Some writers even swore to buy Bijan perfume for the first time just to show their support.
The model, Bella, who is from Houston and was chosen from about 60 women, will return to Los Angeles next week to film the “Roseanne” show. Larry King is interested in speaking with her as well.
“That showed me that people are fed up” with super-skinny models, said Bijan.
But Bijan did not create the campaign as any political statement, he said. “I am an artist,” he said. “I did that because she was beautiful and inspired me.”
He is a savvy businessman who controls and creates all advertising for his own company. He is among the most successful designers in his selling of colognes—his two with basketball superstar Michael Jordan are among the most successful men’s colognes in history.
But in his office, all that success is subdued as he talks about Botero and Rubens and how they found beauty in all women. One might have great legs like Sharon Stone or beautiful eyes like Cindy Crawford, he said, “but so what?”
All women have great beauty, he said. “It’s there, my love. You have to do something. You think it’s not there, but it’s there.”
For his boutique, he has purchased a $1 million Botero 1968 painting called The Rich, which features a wealthy, oversized couple.
“Look at the woman in the painting,” he told a visitor. “See the beautiful lines.”
She looked like a clothed Bella.
L.A. Times—January 21, 2000
Najimy’s Closet Includes Lingerie for Big Gals
by Jeannie Williams
Kathy Najimy follows in the footsteps of Camryn Manheim today when she trots down the runway in fashions for the large and lovely.
The Veronica’s Closet co-star will help launch Lane Bryant’s new intimate apparel line, Cacique. It includes thongs, but no, Kathy won’t be doing the thong thing. She will be joined by Anna Nicole Smith and plus-size models Mia Tyler and Kate Dillon at Industria Superstudio.
They’re getting a jump on New York’s fall fashion collection shows, kicking off Thursday. It wouldn’t be fashion without parties and gossip, so the hottest event may be the party thrown by the New York Post’s notorious Page Six on Feb. 9.
About 1,000 fashionistas and VIPs are due to pack Guastavino’s, Terence Conran’s new restaurant. A major attraction will be the hosts: Lachlan Murdoch, heir apparent to media giant Rupert Murdoch, and Lachlan’s Wonderbra model wife, Sarah Murdoch.
The young (28), tattooed chairman of News Limited, which owns the Post, has moved to New York from Australia and is seeking to boost Post fashion ads with expanded coverage of that world. It helps that fashion types read the tabloid, in part because Page Six editor Richard Johnson is always sniffing out items on models, designers and the clubs they frequent.
Names from Puffy Combs to Monica Lewinsky have been invited. The former intern is no longer the “portly pepper pot” she was dubbed by Page Six, but is now a Jenny Craig girl.
USA Today—February 1, 2000
A Victory for Real Women
Premiere runway lingerie show for regular gals gets a thumbs-up.
by Ruth Bashinsky
Move over Claudia, Cindy, Naomi and especially you, Kate Moss. Lane Bryant—a fashion retailer for plus-size women—last night staged the first runway show featuring sexy lingerie for real women.
That is, most of the women in the United States.
The majority of women—six in every 10—wear clothes size 12 or larger and spent $22 million on intimate apparel in 1999, according to NPD, a national research group that tracks fashion industry trends.
But the rag trade—from magazines to retailers—continues to push threads that only work on reed-thin bodies. And when it comes to sexy undergarments, forget it.
Corynne Corbett, editor of MODE, a fashion glossy for full-figured women, says that until now, her readers shopping for underwear had to act “like a detective to find anything remotely appealing. I don’t understand why they need a magnifying glass to get what they want. Their dollars are just as valuable as those of others.”
The 60-minute show last night (to be broadcast at 7 tonight on www.lanebryant.com) was “exactly what plus-size women have been waiting for for a long time,” Corbett said. “Sexy, fun, affordable [$8–$49] lingerie with an element of naughtiness.”
Many New Yorkers agree.
“Society still seems obsessed with the skeleton figure, but when I see a plus-size woman strutting her stuff, I think, ‘You go girl!’” says Vanessa Uzan, 21, a Manhattan film maker. “In fact, I hope this show inspires women who feel self-conscious about their bodies to purchase lingerie and wear it with confidence.”
Uzan is not alone. “It’s great that plus-size women are stepping out on the runway in lingerie,” says Saadia Pacheco, 25, a Brooklyn secretary. “It may give women size 12 and more self-esteem and make them feel just as sexy as smaller women.”
Ingrid Daniel, 28, a Brooklyn secretary, says, “It’s about time. I am a plus-size woman, so I’m grateful the fashion industry is finally starting to clue into what we need.”
Even some men said they approved of the attempt to awaken full-figured women from the high-fashion doldrums.
“Plus-size women have always gotten a bad rap,” says Scott Smith, 40, a Manhattan bar owner. “The way society glamourizes skinny women is, I believe, very 15 minutes ago.”
Guillermo Ledesman, 23, a Manhattan salesman, goes one step further. “Plus-size women…they’ve got it going. I don’t like skinny girls. I like women who have a little meat on the bones.”
Chris Hansen, vice president of marketing for Lane Bryant, expects 50,000 people to watch tonight’s virtual broadcast, and promises that the lingerie show is only the beginning.
“Plus-size apparel is growing at twice the rate of regular apparel,” Hansen says. “So we intend to prove that if you are a size 12 or larger you can still look as fashionable as everyone else.”
FACTS ON FIGURES
New York Daily Post—Wednesday, February 02, 2000
Confidence is abundant at large-size lingerie runway show.
by Linda Lee
NEW YORK—Perhaps it was a slow news night in New York, but there was a Day of the Locust feel—screaming and pushing paparazzi, press and hangers-on—outside Industria Superstudio in Manhattan one recent evening for the Lane Bryant runway show of intimate apparel.
A publicist muttered to me: “Whoever thought they’d turn out like this to see the big gals.”
Oh, really. I am a big gal, and I was there to get some inspiration.
I had recently lost some weight and bought a new wardrobe, and a guy had re-entered my life. (Standard story: old boyfriend, 22 years later, via the Internet.) Like any woman in such a position, I was considering lingerie. But unlike models in most lingerie ads, I had more I wanted to cover up than I wanted to reveal.
No fear, it seems. Big gals are suddenly trendy. Look at the Bijan ads with the naked fat lady being painted by Bijan or joining him in bed. The Wilhelmina agency has just concluded a search through 25,000 candidates for its next plus-size supermodel. (OK, at Wilhelmina, 10 is a plus size. Still, the sentiment counts.)
And just as I was getting ready for lingerie, lingerie was getting ready for gals like me.
Chris Hansen, executive vice president for marketing at Lane Bryant, the specialty clothing line for plus-size women, told me that while lingerie sales for all women were up 6 percent in 1999, intimate apparel for women starting at size 14 was up nearly 9 percent. Lingerie is expected to jump to 20 percent of the company’s business this year, from 12 percent last year, as Lane Bryant offers more and better styles and spreads the word that big and bare is beautiful. Sales of all plus-size intimate apparel totaled $6 billion last year nationally. You know what that means? There are an awful lot of us out there.
And, hey, on its Web site, Victoria’s Secret offers only three regular bras in sizes larger than 38DD. A big woman needs more variety than that.
But variety leads only to choice, and choice leads to the question: What do men look for in lingerie? The way I figure it, men’s tastes vary, depending on what underwear they first ogled when they were 12. If it was the bra-and-panty ads in the front of The New York Times Magazine, the gear required might be fairly straightforward: perhaps a powder blue Cross Your Heart bra. But if the guy in question imprinted on December, I might be in for black lace-up boots, a red velvet body suit with white fur trim and a stocking cap.
I began fishing around among my male friends, trying to get a hint of what colors and styles they considered hot. While I envisioned a vast repertory of leopard print tap pants, pink silk camisoles and filmy negligees, the men I talked with had only one thing on their minds: matching bras and panties in solid colors. A 37-year-old I think of as a swinging sophisticate jumped at the chance of offering advice.
“No red,” he said. “It’s usually tacky and cheap. Unless, of course, there is a nice expensive burgundy from Hanro. Black works, but it has to be matching bra and panties. Patterns, only if it’s the really expensive French stuff.”
“By the way,” he said, “I think stylish, fashionable, seductive lingerie should be worn all the time, routinely—not that I’ve met any woman who did that.”
A much-married 63-year-old London architect, critic and professed bon viveur had an anything-goes attitude. “A white-on-white effect certainly sounds fair enough to me,” he said. “Oh, nursie!”
But of course, all this was just prelude. There was only one opinion that counted, and it wasn’t mine. I called a 55-year-old inventor in San Francisco. OK, the guy I’m dating.
He had the most specific taste of all: “The only acceptable color is black,” he said, gravely. “Bra and panties. But it all starts with the footwear: high heels, stiletto heels, with a steeply angled, pointed toe. It does something to the calf, the whole leg. Or it could be an open-toed shoe with an ankle strap. And black stockings, no pattern, with a seam. Garter belt. A lace teddy is nice, but it all has to be expensive. At least $200 an item. And a wide black choker around the neck. Very evocative. Very French, very Brigitte Bardot.” The required attitude, he said, was “serious, deadly serious.”
Very kitten with a whip, if you ask me. And it was much more information than I could process, especially when he described the “two-part hitch-in-the-step elephant walk” that would result from the correct wearing of stiletto heels.
I am no Bardot, not even on a good day in dim light, and no way was I going for the stilettos. But at least I could find something black. Or as Ms. Hansen said, when I asked her what color lingerie sells best at Lane Bryant, “any color but white.” (White, plus heft, equals the “sturdy Russian peasant bathing at the Black Sea” look, which American men for some reason don’t find all that attractive.)
Backstage at the Lane Bryant show I caught up with Kathy Najimy, a star of the television show Veronica’s Closet and a spokeswoman for Lane Bryant. She was wearing a black negligee with plenty of push-up support, and she looked fabulous, like Barbra Streisand after a couple of months touring the pastry shops of Vienna. I asked her if the lingerie gave her confidence.
“You have the confidence first,” she said. “Then you choose the clothes.”
That seemed like a lot of confidence to me: Hundreds of people were out in the audience, some with cameras near the runway.
“I’ve had a lot of acting parts,” she said. “I’m just acting like a supermodel. I do that at home all the time.”
Dan Finnerty, Ms. Najimy’s husband, standing nearby, nodded. “We have a runway in our living room,” he said. He had the look of a man who was happy with his lot in life. “And she’s a wonderful kisser.”
As a photographer took a shot of Ms. Najimy, I asked which side was her best. “Front,” she said. This is a brave woman.
And so I went out and brushed aside the proffered drinks. As far as I was concerned, it was the models who needed the drinks, not the audience. There, around the runway, were photographers armed with 2-foot telephoto lenses. They were loaded for bear, or at least a good shot of Anna Nicole Smith’s cleavage.
After much to-ing and fro-ing among the public relations people about whether Glamour and Allure had the right seats, I was shown to a place right on the runway. Seating was tight. (As a person near me said, “If all of these people actually needed to wear Lane Bryant, they wouldn’t be able to fit us in.”) Next to me was Rikki Lake, who was there, she said, to support her friend Ms. Najimy.
“They asked me to model,” Ms. Lake said, “but I wouldn’t go up there. I’m too dissatisfied with my body, and I’m a size 10!”
The hysterically screaming crowd cheered Ms. Smith, Mia Tyler and others in the size 14 (and up) supermodel category. These women were, for the most part, Amazons with great hair and full body makeup. They were big, but they had rock-hard thighs and wide, solid hips. It wouldn’t have been unthinkable for some to have been carrying javelins.
But were they sexy? You bet. They had parts that jiggled. There were parts that swayed to the booming soundtrack. Some parts sort of overlapped other parts. There were folds where the beauty magazines say you aren’t supposed to have them. The cartoonist Cathy Guisewite could have easily drawn the women’s squiggly torsos. And what with the cheers and yells, there were moments when it seemed as if we might all be at Sammy’s Bowery Follies. There were generous proportions all round, and some women had stretch marks.
But you know what? The women were an eyeful. They were brave, fearless, powerful and gorgeous.
When they stalked down the runway in their see-through plastic mules, they were a symphony of moving, swaying parts in lingerie that was clingy and often transparent. The effect was strangely intimate, as if these women might really wait at home for some guy, behind Door No. 3. A lucky guy might enjoy an evening with one of them, one who could happily parade around in a pink feathery bra and thongs.
And you know what? If they can do it, I can do it.
After all, what lingerie ultimately says to men is, “I’m ready.” And ladies, Lane Bryant’s black Sheer Passion underwire bra comes in sizes 38B to 44DD, with matching thong and garter.
The Dallas Morning News—February 23, 2000
New York Times News Service
Full-Figured Women Finally Get Chic Fashion
bt Erika D. Peterman
It was the ultimate fashion victory: Sixteen-year-old Shannon Bishop sported the jeans she bought on vacation, and heads turned. Her friends wanted to know where they too could buy the dark denim pants with flared legs and rainbow stripes running cheerfully down the sides.
“They were available only in plus sizes,” said Shannon, of Randallstown, Md. “I said, ‘Yes!’”
Shannon—who wears a size 18 or 20—isn’t the only full-figured young woman cheering these days. Once relegated to apologetic tunics, last year’s jeans and dresses that only a matron could love, teens and young women who wear sizes 14 and larger have more clothing choices than ever. Seeing dollar signs and a market hungry for fashion diversity, designers are jumping on the bandwagon to offer contemporary, hip clothes in plus sizes.
“There’s a reason why (designers) are doing it,” said Yvonne Buonaro, designer and co-creator of Los Angeles-based Kiyonna Klothing, a plus-sized fashion line. “Over half the United States is plus-sized. It’s definitely growing, and it’s going to keep growing.”
While some basic items have been available for years, full-figured women are beginning to demand the same up-to-the-minute, youthful styles—shapely leather jackets, boot-cut trousers and cuffed denim jeans—that are readily accessible to smaller women. And retailers are listening.
“The manufacturers and retailers have realized that, demographically in age and income, full-figured women are identical to their thinner counterparts,” said Nancy LeWinter, a co-founder and publication director of MODE, the popular fashion magazine catering to women sizes 12 and up.
In 1996, friends Buonaro and Kim Camarella launched Kiyonna Klothing. Available in boutiques and on their Web site (www.kiyonna.com), the size 14–28 line includes an Audrey Hepburn-style, boat-necked black dress, palazzo pants and scooped-neck dresses.
Camarella said she and Buonaro originally envisioned a target age range of 19 to 34 years old, but many of their customers are in their 40s and 50s.
To fully appreciate how much the rules have changed, all you had to do was see the venerable Lane Bryant’s Venezia fall fashion show in New York. Actress Camryn Manheim of ABC’s The Practice walked down the runway in a siren-red tank dress baring her ample shoulders.
Lane Bryant has recently focused its attention on women ages 17–30. That translates into cargo pants, ball-gown-inspired skirts and faded, embroidered jeans with frayed hems.
“Within the last three years, we’ve made the young plus-sized woman our focus,” spokeswoman Catherine Lippincott said. “We started asking them, ‘What do you want to see?’ They want the exact same things that their size-6 friends wear. They just want it in their size.”
Talbot’s recently debuted its Talbot’s Woman catalog, a collection of the company’s classic clothing in larger sizes. Gitano rolled out the “Git More” collection of jeans for plus-sized girls last year. Former MTV reporter Abbie Kearse developed her Abbie Lynn line, based on her love of funky designer clothes once unavailable to her because of her size.
MODE magazine, only 2 years old, has had a profound impact on the full-figured fashion industry and has proved the viability of that market. It also has helped catapult the careers of a cadre of plus-sized models such as Emme, Kate Dillon and Angellika.
Launched in spring 1997, the glossy monthly boasts a circulation of 525,000 and regularly introduces readers to designers of full-figured clothing such as Simply French, Robyne’s Dream and Dana Buchman.
Co-founder and publication director Julie Lewit-Nirenberg said she and LeWinter were unprepared for the support that followed the first issue. Soon, husbands of full-figured women and even thin readers were writing letters, heaping praise on the magazine.
“This is about shape, and this is about attitude,” LeWinter said. “This is about feeling great in your skin and dressing accordingly.”
The Oregonian—February 23, 2000
A ’zine for Plus-Size Teens
by Sharon Krengel
Things are definitely changing on the fashion landscape now that the industry is paying more attention to plus-size teens. Clothing stores are adding plus-size junior departments, catalogs are featuring plus-size models and publications are reaching out to plus-size readers.
Katie Arons, a plus-size model turned magazine publisher, started Extra Hip, a ’zine for plus-size teens, in July 1997. The first issue of Extra Hip was a two-page, black-and-white newsletter. Now the multiple-page, digest-size magazine has a color cover and 5,000 subscribers.
The title of the Fall/Winter 2000 offering from Extra Hip is the First Annual Model Issue, which features pictures of plus-size models who work with well-known agencies like Wilhelmina, Ford, and Click. Melanie Whitman’s picture is on the table of contents page.
The issue also has a glossary of modeling terms, interviews with agents and model profiles.
Extra Hip has a Web site (www.extrahip.com) with a fashion page where you can find addresses for other sites that feature plus-size clothes and a page called “Sista’s Spirit” where visitors’ letters, poems, pictures and stories get posted.
Arons’ plan is to expand Extra Hip to include health-related topics.
“We are against fad dieting and crash dieting,” she says, “but we are about healthy living.”
Arons was working at a hotel desk in Miami Beach when she was “discovered” by a modeling agent.
“At that time there were only four plus-size models working in Miami Beach and now there are over 50,” she says.
In addition to publishing Extra Hip and working for Ford Models, Arons has written a book called Sexy At Any Size: The Real Woman’s Guide to Dating and Romance (Fireside; $12).
“Personally, I was a size 24 when I graduated high school and now I am size 18,” she says. “That’s why I started all this, because I had no clothes, and nothing said, ‘Be healthy.’ Everything said, ‘Lose weight.’ But statistics are showing that we Americans are getting bigger. Fifty percent of our teen-age girls are wearing size 13 or larger.”
Arons has a favorite phrase she likes to use when she talks about this trend: “If half the country is plus-sized, what is the other half? Minus?”
Extra Hip, a quarterly publication, is only available by subscription. The cost is $9.95 for two years. Call (888) 928-9447 for information.
Gannett News Service—March 2, 2000
[Note: regular visitors to this site will know that Ms. Arons was not the first to call non-plus-size women “minus.”—HSG]
Government Summit over Thin Models
Thin may be in, but the government thinks it may also be damaging the nation’s mental health.
Women’s minister Tessa Jowell is so concerned at the possible link between skinny models and eating disorders that she is holding a summit meeting at Downing Street with the bosses of a top modelling agency and a teenage magazine.
“Women are over-preoccupied by feeling that they don’t look right, that they don’t meet the standards of thin models in young women’s magazines,” Ms. Jowell told the BBC.
The summit is being held after research showed that more than half the 12- to 15-year-old girls questioned in a study said their appearance was the biggest concern in their lives.Ms. Jowell said she was holding the summit to “bring together all the people who can make a difference, who can begin to challenge some of the assumptions that the only way to be beautiful is to be thin.”
One of the country’s top model agencies, Storm, will attend the meeting, along with Rebecca Martin, editor of the teen magazine Jump.
Leading feminist writer and therapist Susie Orbach, who wrote the book Fat is a Feminist Issue, will also be there, and representatives of health and campaign groups have also been invited.
“For many, poor body image can lead to low levels of self esteem, for some it is far more dangerous, leading to eating disorders and other forms of self-abuse,” Ms Jowell said.
“I am concerned that girls may not be fulfilling their potential because of their lack of confidence about themselves.”
The summit guests may find themselves being encouraged to consider using larger women to promote fashion and health.
Ms. Jowell said the government will want to know what further research may be needed on the link between thin models and eating disorders, and may take action.
The Eating Disorders Association, which runs a helpline for victims and their carers, praised the summit, and spokesman Steve Bloomfield told BBC News Online: “Anything that looks at mental health and welfare, particularly where young people concerned, is something that we welcome.”
But he says the media should not be held fully responsible when people develop anorexia or bulimia.
“Media images don’t cause eating disorders, but if someone is going through an emotionally turbulent time, for example the end of a relationship, it is possible that if they are bombarded with particular images, their thought processes might be influenced,” he said.
Those most at risk of developing anorexia are 13?, while the onset of bulimia usually happens slightly later in life, between the ages of 15 and 25.
The number of male victims has grown, now making up 10% of the total known number of victims, which the association says could be linked to the growth in male fashion and health magazines.
Gay men are particularly at risk in the male population. Twenty per cent of men with eating disorders are homosexual, according to the association’s figures.
Storm Model Agency declined to comment about the summit.
BBC—April 10, 2000
San Francisco Comes Down Hard on Weightism
by Andrew Quinn
SAN FRANCISCO—It was a big day for fat people in San Francisco on Monday as city leaders voted a formal ban on weight-related discrimination.
“Many San Franciscans are being denied employment, housing, bank loans merely because they are perceived as being overweight,” Tom Ammiano, president of the Board of Supervisors, said in bringing the measure to a vote. “Clearly discrimination in any form is wrong.”
The board’s unanimous decision added body size to city laws that already ban discrimination based on race, color, religion, age, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, disability, place of birth or gender identity, a category established to protect transsexuals.
The vote marked a key victory for the “fat acceptance” movement, a burgeoning national campaign aimed at improving the self-image and social standing of heavier Americans. “This will make a tremendous difference, an unbelievable difference,” said activist Sondra Solovay, an Oakland, California, attorney whose book Tipping the Scales of Justice: Fighting Weight-Based Discrimination came out this year. “This gives people the legal basis to fight discrimination they face every day.”
San Francisco is not the first place in the United States with an official ban on discrimination against fat people. Similar laws exist on the books in Washington and in Santa Cruz, California, as well as the state of Michigan. But the battle over weight bias has been especially hard in San Francisco, both a liberal bastion and a self-conscious style-setter sporting hundreds of gyms, health clubs and sports associations devoted to the body beautiful.
The attitude of many slim San Franciscans was evident in an editorial on Monday in the San Francisco Examiner, which supported the call to end discrimination but pointed out the serious health concerns associated with obesity.
“The fat rights movement shouldn’t discourage sensible attempts to control the obesity blamed for heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure and approximately 300,000 deaths per year,” the newspaper said.
Nothing was going to spoil the party, however, for fat advocate Marilyn Wann, a California activist whose book Fat! So? has led the drive to challenge social stereotypes about body weight. Wann, trading hugs with her fellow campaigners, said the push to include fat people in San Francisco’s anti-bias laws began in 1999 with a mean-spirited advertisement from 24 Hour Fitness, a health club chain.
The billboard depicted a leering alien face and predicted that “when they come, they will eat the fat ones first.”
Wann and other activists launched a protest, picketing the club and eventually forcing it to withdraw the advertisement with an apology.
“I know there are a lot of fat jokes out there, but the stereotypes really stand in the way for a lot of people,” Wann said on Monday. “It’s really important for fat people to refuse self-hatred and to stand up for themselves.”
The fat rights campaigners marshaled rafts of facts that they said detailed the real costs of America’s weight bias, ranging from the lower salaries generally earned by fat people to the patchy medical care offered to the overweight. They also brought people in to testify before the board with their stories of discrimination.
The supervisors clearly got the message. Under the new law, San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission will now be empowered to investigate and mediate allegations of bias—although the law does make an exception for occupations with clear fitness requirements as part of the job, such as firefighting.
Nancy Gold, another activists at Monday’s meeting, said legal protections would help lay the groundwork for a more general change in how US society relates to heavy people.
“Fat people can no longer be told they can’t have a job just because they don’t have ‘front office appeal,’” Gold said. “The law can do that. And that’s how racism was changed, that’s how sexism was changed, and that’s how sizism is going to change.”
Reuters News Service—May 9, 2000
by Ginia Bellafante
With hair the color of whipped butter and a frame that makes her look like a cross between Betty Page and a guard for the W.N.B.A., Sophie Dahl is the kind of young woman who doesn’t catch the eye so much as imprison it. Still, when she discovered last fall that the photographer Steven Meisel would attend a party she was planning to be at, she didn’t want to be overlooked.
Ms. Dahl, who is English and divides her time between New York and London, first had to get a new dress for the event because a garment bag containing her Manhattan evening wear had just been stolen. A friend bought her a new Gucci, she explained recently at an East Side dinner she attended with the actor Griffin Dunne. The night of the December party, held in conjunction with the opening of the LVMH Tower, she purposefully danced in front of Mr. Meisel in her new dress to get his attention. She succeeded. Mr. Meisel photographed her for two Italian Vogue covers.
Ms. Dahl, granddaughter of the writer Roald Dahl, has since had her stalled modeling career jump-started. Last month Ms. Dahl, a size 12, appeared in Jane magazine. “We agreed to have someone who wasn’t real thin,” Laura Ferrara, a Jane editor, said. “She’s so totally sexy.”
Ten days ago, Ms. Dahl was photographed for Alexander McQueen’s first-ever ad campaign, which will run this September. This fall she will also star as the new Versace Jeans model, another role for which she can thank Mr. Meisel, who photographed the campaign. As the Versace Jeans model, Ms. Dahl replaces Gisele Bunchen.
The New York Times—May 9, 2000
Editor Turned Author Chooses to Think Big
by Holly Hanson
When they look in the mirror, Michele Weston says, far too many women see themselves simply as the size they wear, not as the women they are or can be.
When she looks in the mirror, she sees a stylish, savvy woman who lives life fully, reveling in its pleasures and seizing its opportunities. Her size (16–18) doesn’t intrude on the vision.
As fashion director for MODE magazine, a 3-year-old publication aimed at women sizes 12 and above, Weston has helped large-size women learn to dress with style and confidence, to make the most of their outer selves.
And now, as author of the new book Learning Curves: Living Your Life in Full and with Style (Crown Publishers, $24), Weston, 38, wants to help them do the same with their inner selves.
The metro Detroit native will be back home this weekend for a round of appearances to promote the book, including stops at Saks Fifth Avenue in Troy, Borders Books & Music in Novi and Valentina Boutique in Southfield on Saturday.
At each stop, her message will be the same: “Inner style is acknowledging who you are.”
Though many women never learn that lesson, Weston figured it out as a teen in West Bloomfield. Her weight had always been an issue. Classmates taunted her about her size. Her mother treated her weight as a disease.
But at 16…Weston suddenly struck a blow for her individuality. Instead of wearing the nondescript sweater-and-skirt outfit her mother had chosen for her, she put together her own ensemble of pleated skirt, silk blouse and velvet blazer. She felt comfortable and well-dressed. She had found her own style and that made a great deal of difference.
“There’s a point you become an adult,” she says. “You say, ‘This is how I want to be on the outside.’ It comes from knowing who you are on the inside.”
Learning Curves blends Weston’s life story with anecdotes from the lives of 20 full-figured women, ranging from actresses Camryn Manheim and Kim Coles to models Emme and Kate Dillon. Though the details change, all of the women found ways to resist societal pressures to be thin. They managed to succeed on many levels, on their own terms.
Weston, for example, wanted desperately to be an actress. She attended Interlochen National Music Camp and earned degrees at Western Michigan and the Drama Studio of London. But casting directors too often looked at her full-figured body and relegated her to the role of aunt or friend. She would never play Juliet, only her mother.
She knew that supporting parts would not make her happy. She decided to start over.
A series of temporary jobs made her realize she loved fashion. Ultimately, she landed at Mademoiselle magazine, where there was tremendous pressure to be thin and stylish. Stylish wasn’t a problem; thin was.
Distressed at the magazine’s narrow vision of beauty, Weston quit, taking freelance editing jobs to make ends meet. At home one evening, she decided to write a vision for her life. In her journal, she described a magazine that would promote self-worth and esteem for large-size women.
Six months later, she met two women who were in the midst of creating MODE. They asked her to join them. At last, Weston had found her niche.
But her book is not simply inspirational tales of the struggles of others. It is interactive, requiring readers to think, to experience and, most important, to keep a journal. Weston has done so for years and is convinced it is an important instrument for change.
“Self-help books can be very inspirational,” she says, “but what should really inspire you is to take an inner journey, write it down and own it. When you take that path, you progress along it. You learn something.”
The book includes dozens of learning steps. Among the most popular with readers, she says, is this one: “Giving up the fantasy allows you to live the reality.”
What would happen if you gave away all of the size-10 clothes that haven’t fit for years? What would happen if you tried for a high-visibility job now instead of waiting till you lose 30 pounds? What re would happen if you freed yourself from the limits of the past?
“There’s no time but now,” Weston says. “This is the deal, so live now. Live fully. Do it with style, and know what style is.”
Most important, challenge yourself. Weston certainly has.
“I never play safe,” she says. “I’m definitely larger than life, and that has nothing to do with my size. When I get scared, I have to remember that I chose this. After all, God only gives you what you can handle.”
Detroit Free Press—May 10, 2000
Dying to Look Chic
by Hallie Levine
The fashion world on both sides of the Atlantic is reeling after an attack on the use of skinny models in women’s magazines—by none other than the top editor of one of those magazines.
Breaking ranks with her peers, Liz Jones, the editor of the British edition of Marie Claire, made her 30-year battle with anorexia public earlier this month and said fashion magazines—with their pictures of scary-thin models—were to blame.
Jones said she had a sudden realization about her eating disorder during the spring fashion shows in March, when she gave a “hug hello” to Brazilian bombshell Gisele after the Galliano show.
“As the editor of a glossy British women’s magazine, I admired those gorgeous catwalk creatures, until the day I hugged this model and realized she was little more than a bag of bones,” Jones said about her epiphany.
“Only then did it dawn on me that I, too, had been part of fashion’s great conspiracy.”
Now, Jones is attempting a unique experiment that could potentially help transform the shape of the fashion industry.
The idea behind the two covers, Jones said, is that “we will be able to monitor just what women really want. Do they want perfection and aspiration or do they want something more realistic and attainable?”
Surprisingly, readers may want the latter.
Since the magazines hit the newsstands May 5, Jones says she has been inundated with calls from readers raving about the issue, which includes such features as the diary of an anorexic, a story about why Hollywood stars are starving, and an article on plastic surgery.
“If there is a positive response, we will, without question, move to incorporate more images of plus-size women,” says Jones.
The idea that glossy-mag readers might like to see healthier images may come as a shock to the fashion world.
If it does, it will be a minor shock compared to the idea of a fashion editor coming out about her eating disorder—and blaming models for it.
“It’s just one absolute shameless publicity stunt,” sniffed one fashion insider.
Many of Jones’ fellow editors in New York stayed silent.
Vogue’s Anna Wintour, Glamour’s Bonnie Fuller, Bazaar’s Kate Betts, and Marie Claire’s Glenda Bailey all refused to comment.
“American fashion editors are terrified to say anything because they’re convinced it’s a no-win issue for them. They’re always coming under fire on this issue, and they know that anything they say about anorexia or eating disorders will come back to bite them in the a—,” a spokeswoman for one of the magazines said.
But several editors told The Post the anorexia issue is one they’ve grappled with before.
“On the one hand, it’s important to acknowledge that fashion and beauty magazines are inspiration, but the question is: How much inspiration is positive, and when does it start turning on itself?” says Linda Wells, editor-in-chief of Allure.
“It’s really important for me as a magazine editor to be conscious of when we’ve crossed the line.
“I’ve killed shoots where models in the pictures looked unhealthy or too thin. I’ve ended up swallowing a whole lot of money to do that, but I don’t want women to see an image that is so unattractive.”
Jones makes it clear that her eating disorder, which began in her teens, wouldn’t have been as severe if she’d had healthier images of beauty to admire as she pored through pages and pages of fashion and beauty magazines.
“In my mind, the equation was simple: Thin equaled perfection,” she explains. She dressed in baggy clothes and thick jumpers and avoided dating because she worried men would think she was fat.
“I remember kissing a boy once at a party and making him stop in case he started feeling my body and was repulsed,” she said.
Her anorexia worsened after college, when she began working in the world of glossy fashion magazines.
“As a junior writer, I found the world of the glossy even more seductive than I had as a reader, and still I tried to model myself on them. If only I could look like Jerry Hall,” she says.
By the time Jones was 20, she was subsisting on less than 600 calories a day and subjecting her body to grueling workouts, running every morning and evening.
When she was 26, her skin was terrible and she was constantly weak and tired. She also stopped menstruating.
“I was so weak, I would almost black out when I stood up,” she recalls.
Even after Jones’ doctor sent her to St. Bart’s Hospital in London, she refused to acknowledge the severity of her eating disorder.
She fooled her doctors into thinking she’d gained weight by wearing a large overcoat and filling its pockets with bottles of soda.
Now, 10 years later, she’s gained control of her eating disorder—to a point. She refuses to cook for herself, she says, because she just feels too guilty to fully enjoy eating.
“I’d like to think I have my anorexia under control now, but I don’t think, once you’ve had an eating disorder, you can ever think of food normally,” she explains.
Jones blames herself, as the editor of a glossy women’s magazine, for causing women to develop eating disorders.
She’s begun to question why, for years, she airbrushed away models’ stretch marks and scars, leaving them pimple- and wrinkle-free.
As Jones bares her soul in public, a number of cynics in the business say they suspect her self-flagellation is a ploy—and the big question is, will it work?
“I think it’s great that Liz Jones is doing this, but what if the reader doesn’t like it? Will she stop?” asks Corynne Corbett, editor-in-chief at MODE, a magazine for plus-size women. “I’d like to think this is a real commitment to women, not just a passing fad.”
Others in the fashion biz are angry that Jones believes eating disorders are their fault.
“We’re a broad-based agency that represents a whole spectrum of women, from super-slim to large-size. We’re not telling anyone to starve themselves to death. We’re giving women a wide range of images for them to identify with.”
But others say it is time for the fashion industry to begin proclaiming that über-thin is no longer in.
“All you see today are skinny little girls that do not look healthy at all,” said former Elite model Marcy Lamic, executive vice president of OnlyReal.com, a beauty and lifestyle Web site geared to plus-sized women.
“Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when I modeled, we looked like real women, not skin and bones. I think it’s time for American women to begin moving back towards that image.”
Jones maintains that even if readers ultimately don’t embrace cover images of full-figured Sophie Dahl, she’s making major changes at Marie Claire.
“We still will not use models or celebrities who look skeletal and ill,” she said. “Pammy [Anderson], although tiny, looks healthy. She isn’t a bad cover choice for our readers, just an alternative.”
She also says she’s not planning to dump über-models such as Gisele, whom she considers a “bag of bones.”
“We’ll still use those models if they look healthy; Gisele is a teenager, naturally slim and tall,” she explains. “I am just saying that we need to offer readers alternative role models.”
Sarah Mahoney, editor-in-chief of the women’s magazine Fitness, says that when she’s run pictures of larger-size models, the response has been enormous.
“Last February, we ran a piece called ‘target your body type,’ which included a picture of a model who was over 200 pounds, and the response was phenomenal,” she recalls.
“We got a lot of readers calling and writing saying, ‘Thank you, that’s exactly what I look like.’”
But Mahoney also acknowledges the magazine won’t give up using regular models any time soon.
“Our readers don’t want to aspire to an image that could kill them,” she explains. “But they do need an image to aspire to.”
New York Post—May 22, 2000
Thin Stars on TV “Put Pressure on the Young”
by Sandra Barwick
The abnormal thinness of women on television and in magazines may be putting so much pressure on young women that it is contributing to eating disorders carrying a high death rate, the British Medical Association said yesterday.
The image of the female form being projected in the media was so unrealistic that it encouraged vulnerable young women to try for the impossible, it warned. But extreme skinniness—particularly as demonstrated by some fashion models—was “both unachievable and biologically inappropriate,” the association said in a new report.
A BMA spokesman said: “Young girls try to emulate the very thin women they see on television and in adverts, and it’s not possible without starving themselves. Even if they don’t die they can cause themselves permanent, irreversible damage.”
Research has estimated that most fashion models and television actresses in the Nineties had 10 to 15 per cent body fat—as opposed to 22 to 26 per cent for a healthy woman. The gap between the media ideal and reality appears to be making eating disorders worse. A BMA report, Eating Disorders, Body Image and the Media, said: “Models are becoming thinner at a time when women are becoming heavier, and the gap between the ideal body shape and the reality is wider than ever.”
The result is that women are pressurised, feeling their bodies are fat by comparison, and vulnerable adolescents are particularly susceptible. Low self-esteem is part of the reason for the development of eating disorders, which have complex causes.
The report says: “At present certain sections of the media provide images of extremely thin or underweight women in contexts which suggest that these weights are healthy or desirable.” Normal women in the upper reaches of a healthy weight should be “more in evidence on television as role models for young women,” it recommends.
Models and actresses are often dress sizes 8 to 10: ordinary healthy women can range up to size 16. Half of adolescent girls are thought to read fashion and beauty-related magazines, and at the same time are at their peak exposure to television.
The report does not name any programmes or adverts, but television’s Ally McBeal, played by Calista Flockhart, Liz Hurley, the face of Esteé Lauder, and “Posh Spice,” Victoria Beckham, have, with many others, been criticised for their extreme thinness.
The death rate from eating disorders, which typically begin in young women, is one of the highest in all psychiatric illnesses, and the number of sufferers from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa is rising.
Chloe Cunningham, of Cunningham Management in west London, an agency representing television presenters, said that the report highlighted concerns she had had for a number of years. She said: “I get terribly fed up with producers saying a client of mine is overweight, and being asked ‘Could she lose a few pounds?’, when she’s absolutely not. I think it’s ridiculous. I’d rather lose the job than tell someone that.
“I’m a woman, and it’s something I feel strongly about. It’s getting to be a different race on television to normal life. It’s disgraceful. Even people like Gaby Roslin and Carol Vorderman, who weren’t fat, have felt the need to lose even more weight. Television has created a fake idea of what’s normal. To look good on television you have to have an angular face, and some women in prominent jobs are getting so vain they want to look like a skull. In real life they look ill.”
Jade da Silva, 38, an actress from Camden, north London who has recently arrived in Britain from Australia, said that there were very few roles for anyone her size, which would be seen as perfectly normal on the High Street. She said: “I’m five foot seven inches and a dress size 16—I’m not obese, but I am quite large, and I’ve had quite a few agents tell me I would have to lose weight before they would take me on.
“On auditions, people make up their minds before they’ve even seen you perform. You do have to be thin to be successful. You might be a better actress, but the leading role will always go to a skinny person.”
Around 60,000 in Britain are believed to suffer from eating disorders, the majority of whom are young women. Anorexia nervosa affects up to two per cent of females between 15 and 30. The report says that up to 20 per cent of these cases are likely to end in death.
Television producers and those in advertising should review their employment of very thin women, and the Independent Television Commission should review its advertising policy, the report recommends. Schools should work harder to prevent fat children from being bullied or teased and they should educate all children to be more critical of food advertisements.
The report calls for more research into the link between media images and eating disorders, and into the reasons why some groups appear to be resilient to them. Only one in 10 sufferers is male, and black women appear to be less susceptible to them.
The Telegraph [U.K.]—May 31, 2000
Super-Skinny Cover Girls Called Health Danger
Media accused of bending women’s psyches out of shape.
by Olivia Ward
A new report by the British Medical Association levelled an unprecedented accusation that popular images of super-skinny “girly” models have a direct, negative influence on women’s health and self-esteem.
The report, entitled Eating Disorders, Body Image and the Media, blames the media for the growing incidence of sometimes fatal eating disorders that are afflicting young women.
“Proving a link is very difficult,” said Professor Vivienne Nathanson, head of the association’s research group. “But the association is very strong.
“It is the same kind of evidence which linked smoking and lung cancer.”
The report is the latest contribution to a debate on thinness that has been raging in Britain, where an estimated 2 per cent of women aged 15 to 30 are suffering from anorexia, statistics say.
Worse, up to 10 per cent of anorexics eventually die, some in spite of strenuous efforts to treat them.
Even men in Britain have been stricken by the fashionable imperative to be thin: one million of them are said to have eating disorders.
So worried are parents, doctors and government officials about the rise in anorexia—and the bulimia that was made famous by Diana, Princess of Wales—that the government is hosting a “thin summit” this month to bring the issue to national attention.
“Female models are becoming thinner at a time when women are becoming heavier, and the gap between the ideal body shape and reality is wider than ever,” said the report.
“There is a need for a more realistic body shape to be shown on television and in fashion magazines.”
The report also calls for more emphasis on better eating and health to increase awareness about the impact of poor nutrition and dieting on young women.
Junk food is more available than ever, and the amount of time average families spend cooking more nutritional “fresh” meals is declining.
But cutthroat competition for top jobs has made looks a major bargaining chip.
Career women as well as teenagers are starving themselves to dress for success, and women’s groups have complained that those who are not razor-blade thin have a more difficult time getting hired in elite firms.
There are factors which we can’t affect and there are factors that we can affect,” Nathanson told a news conference this week.
“We can change socio-cultural expectations. We can change the image of what it is to be an average woman.”
The staff of the magazine Marie Claire did its own test of women’s expectations this month.
The headline over each reads, “Is this the ideal body shape?”
Editors report overwhelming support for Dahl’s more realistic, size 14 figure, endorsing the BMA’s theory that the media, rather than their female audiences, are bending women’s psyches out of shape.
But health advocates are fighting an uphill battle for image reform.
Fashion magazines, catwalk shows and advertising campaigns use child-like, painfully thin models to promote their products.
Producers say they are delivering what the multi-million-dollar advertisers demand.
“There are almost no positive role models of women not in this undernourished group,” said Nathanson.
For the foreseeable future, being too thin and too rich will still go hand in hand.
The Toronto Star—June 2, 2000
Magazines Ban Anorexic Models
by Tara Womersley
Anorexic models will be banished from the pages of women’s magazines under a voluntary code agreed by editors yesterday.
Details of the scheme have yet to be finalised, but it would include “monitoring images” and “using models who varied in shape and size.” A self-regulatory body made up of editors, stylists, photographers and women who would check the contents of fashion pages, is also likely to be created.
The announcement was made at a Body Image Summit organised by the Government, following a damning report by the British Medical Association that claimed the media obsession with thin women was one of the main causes of eating disorders reaching a record level.
Tessa Jowell, the Minister for Women who hosted the summit, said the Broadcasting Standards Commission would monitor television to see whether a “diverse” range of women are portrayed. But the commission later issued a statement denying that it had been ordered to count the number of thin and fat women, saying that it was only “considering” undertaking research.
Liz Jones, editor of the women’s magazine Marie Claire, said: “A lot of people came up to me at the end of the discussion, including fashion stylists and fashion editors, and they want to get together to do something.” She said a lot of models had been told to lose weight and that fashion designers were also to blame because it was much harder to find clothes for larger models such as Sophie Dahl.
She said: “A code of self-regulation would mean if an agency sent us a very thin model whose bones were showing through her skin, we would send her back and write to the agency as well as other magazines telling them not to use her. Some girls are naturally very small but we have decided not to use girls who are known to have an eating problem.
“We also have a policy not to use girls of a certain age.” Concerns have been raised about the thinness of models, actresses and singers such as Victoria Beckham, known as Posh Spice, Courtney Cox and Calista Flockhart, who are seen as role models by young women. Research shows that there are 60,000 people with eating disorders in Britain. One in 10 sufferers is male, but the majority are young women.
The summit, which included representatives from the BMA, the Advertising Standard Authority, women’s and girls’ groups, was told that models and actresses tend to have between 10 and 15 per cent body fat, whereas the average body fat for a healthy woman is between 22 and 26 per cent. Marilyn Monroe’s body fat was below this at 20 per cent, but people think of her as having a fuller figure.
In 1950, the average woman weighed about eight-and-a-half stone and had a 24-inch waist. Today her weight is more than 10 stone and her waist size is 32 inches. Other issues raised included carrying out more research into eating disorders. The editors said they would work together to produce a survey that would aim to fill some of the “gaps.”
Dr. Vivienne Nathanson, head of health policy for the BMA, welcomed the editors’ decision. She said: “If the Government had decided on legislation you would not know how it would work. Self-regulation means bowing down to peer group pressure and is likely to be much more successful and probably in a shorter time.”
Jo Daly, 14, of Northolt, west London, also praised the move to regulate the magazine industry. She said: “Models make me feel that I’m different from them because there are so many perfect people. Sometimes you are made to believe that they are perfect but then you look at them and think that they are too thin. But you are still always trying to change the way you look because of these images.”
Steve Bloomfield of the Eating Disorders Association said that changing the content of magazines would help, but not solve the problem. He said: “There are further issues that need addressing. For instance, there are some parts of the country that have no services for people with eating disorders.”
Miss Jowell told the meeting that the belief “to be beautiful is to be thin” was often passed from mother to daughter. She said: “The view is that by beginning to talk about this we are beginning to break down a lot of isolation and loneliness that young girls feel about the pressures on them.”
The Telegraph [U.K.]—June 22, 2000
Bigger Girls Get More Bookings
by Alexandra Frean and Conal Urquhart
When Philippa Allam first entered modelling at the age of 16, her agency put her on a diet and asked her to slim down from a size 10 to a size 8. She soon got fed up with dieting and gave up modelling to concentrate on her school and university work. “They wanted that boyish look with no hips, but I am really curvaceous. I just thought, I want a normal life and to be able to eat,” she said.
Now aged 23 and a happy size 16, she is a leading model with the Excel agency, which specialises in fuller-figured women. Ms. Allam has noticed a marked increase in demand for her services in the past 18 months, and believes that British women would rather see pictures of models who reflect their own fuller figures.
“I’ve done a lot of work in America and there it is totally normal to use bigger models. It is happening here, but slower. We do want pictures of small women, but only if they look healthy,” she said.
Charlene Cullen, 20, another size-16 model, agreed that it was a good idea to ensure that women of all sizes were represented in the media. “Everyone is different, every size should be represented.
“Even though Marilyn Monroe was a big woman, it’s only recently that we are seeing curvy women in magazine and television again and that can only be a good thing.”
The Times [U.K.]—June 22, 2000
Lawsuits over Ephedra on the Rise
Firms have settled dozens of suits; dozens more pending.
by Guy Gugliotta
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed around the country against makers of the controversial dietary supplement ephedra, blaming the stimulant for causing serious illness or death.
The Washington Post found 33 cases that companies have settled since 1994 with claimants reporting adverse reactions ranging from nervousness and insomnia to cardiac arrhythmia, high blood pressure, seizure and stroke. The Post found another 42 cases that are still pending, including two seeking certification as class action suits, representing potentially hundreds of people.
With the Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to impose restrictions on ephedra stymied by the industry, the nation’s courts have become the main battleground in the fight over the supplement, enabling consumers to recoup damages from companies that aggressively promote their products as a safe way to lose weight or boost energy. Lawyers are often bound by settlements not to disclose their terms, but one plaintiff has received a $2.5 million award.
“You’re dealing with such a large industry and you’re so angry, there’s nothing you can do,” said New Jersey’s John Lesemann, whose son John, 21, collapsed and died during a workout last year after taking an ephedra product. “Unfortunately the only way you can go after these people is through the courts.”
One knowledgeable insurance broker said lawsuits have already prompted insurers to raise ephedra companies’ liability rates, and appear to have begun affecting how the firms do business. Company attorneys today routinely review and suggest changes in ephedra product labels so consumers will no longer be able to misuse supplements and plead ignorance in the courtroom.
Despite these changes, companies maintain that their products are safe if taken as directed, and, with help from congressional supporters, have been able to discredit the FDA’s efforts to amass data to the contrary.
On Aug. 8, the FDA will hold a “public meeting” to discuss 148 new reports of serious illness and death related to ephedra, cases the industry’s research and lobbying group, the Ephedra Education Council, already has dismissed as being based on “insufficient data.” A council study issued in May identified only serious adverse events” as a result of some 3 billion doses of ephedra products consumed in 1999.
“These figures are very much in line with virtually all other food products that companies manufacture and market on a regular basis,” said Wes Siegner, counsel to the Ephedra Council. “Why does the FDA keep reporting [their] numbers out and using the phrase ‘associated with ephedra,’ promoting some sort of causal relationship that doesn’t exist?
ASTHMA TREATMENT IS A STIMULANT
Ephedra is derived from the Chinese herb ma huang, and has long been used as a treatment for asthma. But as a powerful stimulant, supplement companies today promote it either as an energy-booster or a weight loss aid under brand names such as Metabolife 356, Ripped Fuel, Ultimate Orange and Hydroxycut. And because of its potentially powerful “rush,” it is still occasionally sold as “legal speed.”
There is no agreement on what constitutes a “safe dose” of ephedra. Most companies have agreed to a labeling standard of 25 milligrams per serving and no more than 100 mg per day. The FDA tried but failed to impose a standard of 8 mg per serving and 25 mg per day after the industry successfully called the agency’s research into question.
Under the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, ephedra products may be marketed without FDA screening, and are sold with almost no restrictions—much like vitamins or chewing gum.
In the absence of stronger federal regulation, at least 12 state or local governments have imposed some restrictions on ephedra sales, and deaths linked to ephedra have inspired legislation in New Jersey—because of the Lesemann case—and at least two other jurisdictions, California and New York City.
But lawsuits may provoke the greatest changes in the industry. The Post reviewed 75 cases handled by 30 plaintiff lawyers in 12 states that involved at least 16 deaths. Information was gathered during interviews with trial lawyers across the country, but does not represent a comprehensive survey of all the case filings against scores of ephedra companies nationwide.
Ephedra first gained legal notoriety in 1994, when an Austin woman died and more than 100 Texans fell ill after taking Nature’s Nutrition Formula One, an ephedra product made by Chemins Co., of Colorado Springs, and distributed by a Texas company.
Over the years Chemins and the now bankrupt Texas distributor settled at least 21 separate lawsuits. Terms of the agreements were sealed, as were most of the accompanying court papers.
Then in March 1996, Peter C. Schlendorf, 20, a student at the State University of New York, in Albany, died in a hotel room in Panama City, Fla., on spring break after taking 300 to 400 mg of the ephedra stimulant “Ultimate Xphoria.”
In 1998, the defendants in the resulting lawsuit settled for $2.5 million, probably the only time that terms of a large ephedra settlement were disclosed. Virginia Buchanan, the Pensacola attorney who represented the Schlendorfs, said she refused confidentiality because she wanted to make the case a “demonstration” of how the companies operate.
In more recent years, as ephedra has become more popular, companies are having to cope with more elaborate legal consequences. In May 1999, Michael Ellis, founder and president of Metabolife, which as the leading seller of ephedra boasted sales of $900 million in 1999, told The Post that he had never been sued.
At present, The Post found 13 lawsuits pending against the San Diego-based company, including two seeking certification as class actions. “Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society,” Metabolife spokesman Michael Sitrick said. “Increased visibility unfortunately brings with it lawsuits.”
AN INDUSTRY’S CONFIDENT FACE
The industry’s confidence in combating the government has given it an intimidating public presence, but the lawsuits tell a different story—of image-conscious companies willing to settle for damages in exchange for having case records sealed from public scrutiny.
“There is no public litigation,” said Los Angeles trial attorney Ward Benshoof, who settled an ephedra case against Herbalife International in 1997 in favor of an Herbalife executive who suffered a seizure in the shower. “Lawsuits either get snuffed out real quick, because the [plaintiff] firms don’t have the [financial] legs to stay the course, or they get settled like tobacco litigation—with a confidentiality agreement.” Benshoof cannot discuss his case.
Company attorneys acknowledge this technique, but say the calculus is the same as in any civil damage suit: “You sell product, you’re going to get sued,” said Los Angeles attorney Bob Leck, who has represented supplement manufacturers. “Sometimes you make a mistake. Sometimes you don’t make a mistake, but you give money away so you won’t have to deal with it.”
Because the cases involve both human suffering and potentially large amounts of money, the atmosphere on both sides can be ruthless. Plaintiff lawyers cherry-pick clients to make sure there is no history of drug abuse, overdose, or interaction with prescribed medications for existing medical conditions.
“And obviously you need a lot of money to take on an industry which is so well-funded,” said Mark Hefter, of Austin, a plaintiffs’ attorney in three ephedra cases. “The economic realities are such that you cannot take on someone who has a discernible injury, but which is not catastrophic. If it was a stroke, but the effect is a drooped lip, maybe it’s not a real good candidate.”
As the number of lawsuits has grown, the attorneys who bring them have developed a body of knowledge and techniques to enhance chances of success. In Newport Beach, Calif., Anne Andrews serves as an informal clearinghouse for ephedra case information, organizing conference calls among colleagues and helping them obtain depositions from past cases.
In Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Mark Baumkel has a client who was briefly hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat after taking Metabolife 356. He doubted the injury was serious enough to sustain an individual case, but the FDA’s ephedra statistics and television exposés convinced him that adverse events were widespread enough to merit a class action suit.
“Our hope in the case is to compel Metabolife to disgorge inappropriately earned profits that would not have been earned if Metabolife had put accurate information on the label,” Baumkel said.
This will not happen without a fight: “The cases are all meritless, because Metabolife is a safe and effective product,” said Steven Mansfield, an attorney overseeing suits for the ephedra giant. “The company is going to continue to defend itself against these false accusations.”
In Philadelphia, Peter Kohn, who filed suit on behalf of the Lesemann family, got a lesson in “divide and conquer” when a Colorado law firm offered him information to help prosecute the makers of Hydroxycut, the principal defendant in the case.
Kohn declined, and subsequently filed against two other ephedra companies whose products Lesemann may have taken. One new defendant was Next Proteins, of Carlsbad, Calif., a client of the Colorado firm.
In an office memo written later, Kohn described how Next Proteins President David Jenkins telephoned him May 19 to complain that after he had “told his attorneys to provide me with materials” against Hydroxycut, “‘you go ahead and file against me.’” Kohn told Jenkins he would speak only to Jenkins’s attorney.
Jenkins said he had called Kohn, but would not confirm the conversation: “If that’s his recollection, then that’s his recollection,” Jenkins said. “I don’t recall saying that.” He said later in a statement that he was “extremely confident” that his company would prevail: “Please recall that it is very easy to file a lawsuit,” Jenkins said. “The difficulty is in winning.”
Somewhat surprised by the exchange, Kohn nevertheless noted that “it is always in the best interest of the victim to put all of the conspirators together; there is nothing more satisfying than…where a jury has to watch the defendants proving the case against each other.”
INDUSTRY VICTORY VACATED
In Anchorage, the verdict in the only ephedra case ever to come to trial—a victory for the industry—was voided, because the defendant company, E’Ola, of St. George, Utah, inadvertently withheld evidence. On July 6, the judge ordered E’Ola to pay attorney fees for the first trial. A new trial is scheduled for January 2001, unless the case is settled first.
And on July 7, in Denver, a federal judge sentenced James R. Cameron, founder of Chemins, to 21 months in prison and fined him and the company $4.7 million for fraud in spiking his ephedra product with ephedrine, the synthetic equivalent of herbal ephedra.
These events, however, have not made personal injury lawyers sanguine about their ability to beat the industry in court. “They take a scorched-earth approach,” said San Francisco’s Christopher Grell, who has settled one ephedra case and has seven others pending. “They go back looking for any and all medical records from the day you were born.”
And while companies will cut deals, settlement does not necessarily mean plaintiff satisfaction. In Ventura, Calif., where athlete Rosanna Porras, 15, dropped dead at soccer practice after taking an ephedra product, an autopsy found that she suffered from a rare heart valve problem, and had significant heart damage before her death. The coroner discarded the contents of her stomach before a chemical analysis could be completed.
“There wasn’t enough evidence, so we didn’t go to court,” said Rosanna’s mother, Katy Porras. The family settled for $25,000. “Our whole argument is that there are a lot of people with undiagnosed heart disease who take this stuff unknowingly,” said Porras attorney John Tiedt, who has been involved with at least 15 ephedra cases. He added, however, that “sometimes there are just cases where there are rotten circumstances.”
Win or lose, however, it is clear that lawsuits, far more than FDA saber-rattling, are forcing changes in the way ephedra companies do business. Defense lawyers increasingly urge companies to make sure that ephedra labels tell consumers exactly what to expect, and in recent years, industry groups have also agreed to stop marketing ephedra as an herbal high and have added label language to discourage teenagers from using it.
At least in part because of the Schlendorf case, most firms condemn ephedra’s use purely as a stimulant. And while new language on warning labels may help ward off lawsuits, it also gives better protection to consumers.
“You can’t give anybody advice in advance,” said Denver attorney Jim Prochnow, who has represented ephedra companies for years. “You help them develop strategic plans to reduce their risk—by reviewing labels, warnings, brochures and how they sell products.”
Finally, the cost of doing business is going up: “Fewer and fewer insurance companies are willing to insure manufacturers of herbal and dietary supplements,” said Seattle insurance broker Dick Griffin, a supplement specialist, and ephedra companies “are going to pay more.
“Insurance companies are not sure if these products are really what they say they are and don’t cause harm. Companies have been quite skittish,” Griffin said. “A company doing $1 billion in sales may pay 20 cents [for coverage] per $1,000 of sales, while a small company with trouble may pay up to $20 per $1,000.”
But while plaintiffs can expect hard battles, plaintiff attorney Tiedt noted that the companies can be vulnerable. “My experience is the insurance companies are interested in settlement,” Tiedt said, while “the corporations are strongly opposed because of the floodgate theory.”
The Washington Post—June 23, 2000
Now Bigger is the Ideal Figure
With women’s vital statistics growing, M&S gives a boost to size 14s.
by John Arlidge
Are you a size 14 woman with a 36in C cup bust, a 28in waist and 38in hips? Do you stand around 5ft 6 ins tall on size six feet? If the answer is yes, grab your credit card and head for your favourite designer clothes store. You are the model of female beauty.
The biggest-ever study of the female figure has revealed that British women have grown up to 20 per cent curvier and taller. Marks & Spencer, which conducted the survey, is responding by becoming the first retailer to abandon size 12 fashion models in favour of size 14.
Britain’s biggest women’s clothing retailer has spent a year measuring thousands of women and comparing the results with its archives which date back to the 1920s. The results show that the average British woman’s bust has grown by four inches and gone from a B to a C cup.
Her waist is eight inches bigger. Six inches have been added to her hips. She is one inch taller and her feet are up to two sizes larger. Overall, the average 32B-20-32 figure of the 1920s has been replaced by 36C-28-38 today.
Although most women like to think they can squeeze into a size 12, size 14 to 16 is now the norm. Sophie Dahl, Kate Winslet and Lisa [sic] Tarbuck—not superwaif models such as Kate Moss—are the new figures of beauty.
When this autumn season’s clothes begin arriving in stores, Marks & Spencer will use 14 as its “base” size. Size 14 models will be used in advertisements, mail order catalogues and on the catwalk. Tailor’s dummies have been redesigned. Five years ago many women would have considered 14 to be fat.
David Rowlinson, who coordinated the size survey, said: “We have always used size 12 models to try on our clothes and appear in advertisements and on the catwalk, but modern women are taller, with bigger frames, larger hips and breasts. From now on we will use 14.”
The retailer’s move will be welcomed by health officials and Ministers, who last week hosted a body image summit at Downing Street to persuade editors, advertisers and fashion designers to use fuller figure models in an effort to tackle the growing problem of teenage eating disorders.
Marks & Spencer used body scanning technology to measure thousands of women in Glasgow, Chester, Nottingham, Cardiff, and Surrey. Every aspect of the body from finger diameter to cup size was recorded and compared with the company’s archives.
The study shows that every 10 years the average British female adds half an inch to her bust, one inch to her waist and three-quarters of an inch to her hips. Although one woman in two claims she is a size 12 or under, more than 60 per cent are a size 14 or above.
The retailer dismisses suggestions that its decision to abandon size 12 models risks making women who buy its clothes feel fat. “We certainly do not want to make women feel large,” Rowlinson said. “Every size is important to us but what we are saying is do not worry about being a 14. Size 14 is good. We want to dress real women, not models, and real women are size 14.”
When Marks & Spencer asked traditional modelling agencies for size 14 models to show off their autumn collection, they said they did not have any on their books. So the company appointed a firm to work in-house. Mike Bunting, of Mase Management, spent six months choosing size 14 women—including amateurs—to model the new look.
“We had to recruit and measure hundreds of women to find the right ones,” he said. “Everyone in the building feels it is the right way to go. Size 14 is not fat or overweight.”
Researchers say fattier diets, lack of exercise and the introduction of the contraceptive pill are responsible for the fuller figure. They welcome Marks & Spencer’s decision to “size up.”
Stephen Gray, head of Computer Clothing Research, said: “By using the shape measure as well as the tape measure, you can make the modern size 14 lady look great.”
Alison Gingell, who set up the Woman at Large clothes chain 10 years ago, added: “M&S is being courageous and honest. It is a very important move away from a culture that says women should conform to a certain shape.”
The Observer—June 25, 2000
Too Thin Isn’t In for Most People
Reuters Health Information
NEW YORK—Although fashion models and the Friends cast suggest otherwise, rail-thin bodies are unappealing to the average person, researchers report. In a study, people of all ages said they found bodies with a little extra padding most attractive.
When investigators asked more than 1,300 adults and children to rate the attractiveness of various body sizes in drawings, they found that, with “striking uniformity,” respondents preferred medium-sized bodies. Researchers led by Dr. Colleen S. W. Rand report the results in the July issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
Rand, who was at the University of Florida Medical School in Gainesville at the time of the study, told Reuters Health that these are positive findings. Still, she said, people—especially women—continue to compare themselves with the twiggy bodies in magazines, on television, and in movies.
“The media images are glamorous,” Rand noted. If the image is of a scrawny model, she added, it will encourage “body dissatisfaction,” even if people feel a more realistic body is truly more attractive.
In the study, participants looked at drawings of babies, children and young, middle-aged, and older adults. For each age group, there were nine body sizes, ranging from extremely thin to obese. Participants picked what they thought was the ideal body size for each age, as well as the sizes they thought “look OK.”
Rand’s team found that no matter what their age, respondents typically picked a mid-sized body as the ideal. Less than 10 percent considered either the very thin or very heavy bodies acceptable.
A surprising finding, Rand noted, was that elementary school children were the least accepting of various body sizes, although they too tended to pick a medium-sized body as the ideal. Rand said she expected high school and college students to be the most narrow in their body-image views.
An explanation, she added, may be that when children get an idea of what’s right, they stick with it. “They’re very rule-conscious. They may not have wanted to deviate.”
But body acceptance increased with age, with high school students choosing a wider range of sizes than younger kids, and college students and middle-aged adults showing still more acceptance.
Rand noted that when she assessed body sizes in consumer magazines and clothing catalogs, she found most models were far thinner than the ideal her study participants had picked. In fact, only a catalog aimed at larger-size women featured models that fit what the participants typically found most attractive. Male models, Rand found, were also thinner than the study ideal, but the difference was less extreme than that for women.
“My hope,” Rand said, “is that there will be a relaxing of the (thinness) standard in the media.”
Last week in London, a panel at the U.K. Cabinet’s Body Image Summit called for the media to stop promoting unrealistic images of women. Among its recommendations was the suggestion that the Broadcasting Standards Commission create body-image regulations.
Reuters—June 26, 2000
Letter to the Editor: The Media’s Beauty Myth
Liane Ross is a model for 12+, a division of Ford modelling that specializes in plus-size models. Ross says the media are responsible for promoting the notion of unattainable thinness.
I am writing this in response to articles by fashion editor Bernadette Morra.
On July 13, she reported from Ford Models’ Canadian 5th anniversary party, held in Toronto. A week earlier (July 7), her article cut up the fashion industry’s approach to body image and quoted singer Chantel Kreviazuk’s view that “One of the greatest poisons in our society is this promotion of unattainable thinness.”
What Morra and others have seemed to blatantly overlook is that they, the media, are the ones more directly responsible for this “poisoning” of women’s body images everywhere.
At the party Morra attended, Ford [Toronto] introduced 12+ division (a plus-size division), an event ignored by the media.
The cameras and reporters were there all night, interviewing the skinny models, but not one plus-size model was approached.
Morra stated that the Ford party was “filled with skinny young things,” but failed to mention, or perhaps notice, the presence of the 12+ division, a group of women who exemplify positive body image.
Eventually, one hopes, society will change its ideas about beauty. But this kind of societal makeover cannot happen if the media do not support it.
It would be refreshing to see plus-size models and skinny models showing the latest collections and to have the media, the greatest influence on society, reporting it.
The Toronto Star—July 19, 2000
Artist Creates Controversy with Ad
SEATTLE—There she is, right in the middle of the regional section in Sunday’s newspaper—a rather large model in a very small outfit.
“I wanted to come as close to Calvin Klein as I could without being sued,” said Therese Stowell, a local body image artist who, she says, is trying to reach a broader audience.
“So I thought what better way than creating an ad and putting it out in the media, which is where we get most of our ideas about what women look like,” says Stowell.
It’s an ad that’s getting mixed reviews from Seattle readers.
“I don’t think it’s really a good image to portray to kids,” said one woman.
“I’m not offended…but it seems typical that someone would be offended,” said another.
Stowell paid for the ad herself. She also wanted to place it on local buses and billboards, but she claims AK Media refused to run it.
“They basically said it was offensive,” she says.
Stowell considers that offensive.
“There are all kinds of beauty, and just not the idealized version we see in media,” said Stowell.
And so while Seattlites seem undecided whether to applaud or protest this picture, the artist who created the campaign claims so far she has received mostly rave reviews.
“Most of the people just call up on my answer machine and say, thank you, thank you, thank you! It’s about time!” she says.
E-mail your feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
King TV—July 24, 2000
Questions & Answers: Big Girls Don’t Cry
Anna Nicole Smith makes a comeback with a plus-sized jeans campaign and plenty of plans for the future.
Newsweek Web Exclusive
August 12—Anna Nicole Smith is back, big—and basking in it. The bodacious model, who’s now posing for plus-size retailer Lane Bryant, turned up in Manhattan last week to unveil a billboard in—where else?—Times Square.
Ads placed in The New York Times and other newspapers advertising the event (the tagline read “who knows…you might get lucky”) caused such a mob of on-lookers that Smith was unable to leave her limo. She was, however, able to check in two days later with Newsweek’s Dharma Betancourt via phone. While the 32-year-old couldn’t talk about her protracted court battles with the family of her second husband—billionaire oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, who died at 90 in 1995—she had plenty of thoughts on finding love, dealing with scandal and of course, her body.
Big Girls Won’t Cry
The high street stores are adding more wearable larger sizes to their autumn ranges. Julia Robson reports.
Meet Amy Davis, the new face and, more importantly, body of Marks & Spencer. From now on, you will be seeing a lot of her. In a 30-second television commercial, part of a £20 million advertising campaign, Amy is seen running up a hill, ripping off her clothes before shouting: “I’m normal!”.
Despite having 34-in legs and standing nearly six feet tall, as a size 16, Amy is the national “average” a statistic derived from the largest survey of women’s bodies ever conducted in Britain. M&S hopes the campaign will be welcomed by the thousands of normal women who are size 16 and above, who have been denied stylish, fashionable clothes. Its new range includes many styles that were previously exclusive to 10–14s.
It is not, however, the only store to capitalise on big chick chic. This month, Anna Scholz, a designer who specialises in high fashion garments in larger sizes, has created an affordable and funky range for Debenhams. Meanwhile, New Look’s size 16–24 Inspire range, which carries the same styles as regular 10–14 items, continues to be a big seller. No one is happier about this than 27-year-old Amy.
“Clothes for bigger women have totally changed over the past four years. I wish New Look’s range had been around when I was younger. I remember going shopping with my friends and only coming back with shoes.”
Davis, a “late bloomer,” began modelling aged 14 as a skinny size 10. She worked for teenage magazines and did some catalogue work until her career was cut short aged 17, when she started to grow upwards—and outwards. “The pressure to stay thin was incredible,” says the red-head from south London. “I’m nearly six feet tall and not designed to be a 10.”
Not surprisingly, Amy quit the fashion world and went to art college in Wimbledon. Six years later, however, she was spotted by Allison Bramwell, who runs Excel Plus Models.
“I saw this gorgeous redhead wearing no make-up, with a perfectly proportioned body and knew she had a fantastic career ahead of her. From the outset, she worked every day,” says Bramwell.
So who better than Amy to give the once-over to the new M&S range and the many other plus size collections on the high street?
“I am impressed with the Anna Scholz range for Debenhams. I love the colours—fuchsia pink and black—and the fabrics are stretchy and sexy. She is one designer who understands what works past a size 10. It’s also good to see M&S doing simple black trousers with a fashionable wide leg and using nice fabrics.”
Amy singled out pussy-bow tops and boot-cut trousers from Etam; tweed items by George at Asda; New Look’s leather jackets; Elvi’s ethnic styles and Next’s crêpe bustier and skirt. “I appreciate it’s harder to scale up some catwalk trends but some plus styles don’t seem to change. I buy a lot of clothes in America. Over there, outsize models are called ‘women.’ You have the regular models and then the ‘women’s’ division. I like that.”
The Telegraph [U.K.]—September 13, 2000
Boys Eat Too Much Junk and Girls Eat Too Little
by Sarah Galashan
Boys hate broccoli and 74 per cent of them despise spinach. But no matter how much junk food they eat, the average male teen’s diet is still healthier than his female counterpart. A recent study of 177 Canadian teenagers, aged 13 to 17, shows that while young girls tend to eat more nutritious foods than boys—like fruit and fruit juices—the total amount of food they eat is considerably less than their bodies require.
Dr. Katherine Gray-Donald, the McGill University professor responsible for the study, says girls lacked calcium and consumed only borderline amounts of iron and zinc.
But it’s a problem easily fixed by increasing the amount of junk food they eat, she says.
Not all junk foods are created equal and “convenience foods,” like hamburgers and pizza, are among those that are relatively high in protein and other essential nutrients.
During her study of teen eating habits, Gray-Donald noticed girls were apt to eat bowls of plain, white pasta drizzled in melted butter. They ate fewer meats and dairy products.
She attributes the trend to a misconception of the calories and fat content of fast foods that could actually provide them with the iron and calcium they lack.
Salty snack foods, cookies, cakes and, above all, soda pop are what she calls junk foods.
And while girls tend to limit such foods, they account for one-third of the average male teenager’s diet.
Gray-Donald says boys should eat healthier but that during their growth spurt, they can afford to eat large amounts of junk food. “When it replaces some (food group) they should be getting, that’s when we worry,” she says.
Results from the unpublished study were presented in Ottawa to delegates at the Canadian Public Health Association conference. “It’s not a perfect picture, but at least it’s a picture,” says the professor, of the low number of teenagers who took part.
According to Linda Gillis, a registered dietician with Hamilton’s Children’s Exercise and Nutrition Centre, the value of the data is considerable. The dietary habits of young people have not been monitored since the 1970s insists Gillis, who has recently completed a nutritional study of 200 Hamilton children ages four to 16.
While Gillis insists her findings are more specific to obesity trends and have yet to be released, she says the diets of Hamilton’s youth follow similar patterns found in the national study.
Gillis says studies have shown there is a link between poor diets and illness, and this latest data should prove helpful.
“With information like this we can catch (poor eating habits) when they develop in childhood.”
The Hamilton Spectator—October 27, 2000
A Lively Look at Plus-Size Models
Camryn Manheim (The Practice) is being considered for the lead in Balancing the Scales, a look at the fashion industry—and how plus-size models are stealing the spotlight from waif-like models.
The movie’s producer is Ellen Lively Steele, an ex-New Mexico State Senator who’s now a literary agent. The script is being written by Aden Romine and Mary Romine.
Actress Kathryn Jenkins Smith—who weighs about 240 pounds—and waifish Chicago model Tracey Walker (about 84 pounds) have already been hired for the movie.
The New York Post—November 20, 2000
Book Encourages Large Women to Enjoy Themselves and Stop Dwelling on Weight
by Yomi Wronge
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Bonnie Bernell gets tickled when her friends accuse her of being a “girlie girl.”
They razz her for adoring designer dresses and sexy underwear. They tease that her makeup is always polished and her natural curls perfectly coiffed.
And when she struts out of the gym Tuesday mornings wearing a “Woman of Substance” T-shirt and high heels? Well, then she’s just a scandal!, says friend Shelley Bond.
After a workout on a recent morning, Bernell and three friends laughed and swapped advice over breakfast at a Redwood City, Calif., cafe.
Besides sharing time at the gym, the women have something else in common: They are considered large—or fat—by most standards.
Each has a story to tell about cruelty and injustice suffered because of their size. But they don’t dwell on that. On this day, they celebrate Bernell and her book, Bountiful Women: Large Women’s Secrets for Living the Life They Desire (Wildcat Canyon Press, $15.95).
The book, which encourages women to shed body-image baggage and start living now, has sold almost 10,000 copies since its release early this month, and there’s talk of a second printing.
Borrowing tips from her friends, Bernell, who is a psychologist, presents strategies large women have developed for handling challenging situations. Readers learn everything from the proper way to request seat belt extenders on airplanes to how to stand up to rude people.
Ginny Lee, a professor at Mills College, added this little jewel to the travel section of the book: “When going by plane, wear panty hose to keep ankles from swelling.” In the chapter on health, Lee tells women they don’t have to know their weight when they go to the doctor. “Just look away from the scale,” she says.
Now, that’s important for anyone to know, regardless of size. And that’s the message Bernell hopes to send with Bountiful Women.
“Being bountiful is about attitude,” says Bernell. “It’s about embracing a rich, full way of living. I want women to read this and be inspired to stop waiting to live life until they can reach some imagined perfect size or goal.”
Bernell used to wait. The daughter of a physician and a fashion model, she always felt pressure to achieve. She also felt pressure to be thin.
“I tried every diet on the market,” she says. “And I always used to say. ‘When I lose weight, I’ll do XYZ.’”
But diets didn’t work, so she held off on the things she really wanted to do, such as shopping for exquisite clothes. It took a string of tragic events to make her realize she was entitled to enjoy life at any size.
For Bernell, her change in perspective happened in stages. She survived divorce and major surgery 27 years ago and decided then that she had to go through life feeling either “less than” or “entitled to.” She stopped dieting and started to embrace life as a woman with an abundance of goodness to share.
She met San Francisco Bay Area psychologist Debora Burgard, who introduced her to a whole community of large women who weren’t hung up on weight.
“They are activists and artists, professionals and fitness trainers,” Bernell says.
She started working out—not to lose weight, but to get fit. Socially, her life was on the upswing. Eventually, she met Gary Embler, a high-tech engineer. He asked her to go bike riding, and she almost let those old insecurities take over.
“He was thin and really fit, and I thought, ‘There’s no way I’m going to be able to keep up with him,’” Bernell says. Six miles and a few weeks later they were a serious couple. They have been married for 14 years.
Bernell laughs easily and commands attention wherever she goes, but she is more subdued around her soft-spoken husband. He calms her.
“I learned from him that it’s OK to be quiet with another person,” she says.
She’s also learned to trust her inner voice. After losing a close friend to leukemia a few years ago, Bernell wanted to get her affairs in order. She made out a will and, following a family tradition, tried to make arrangements with Stanford Hospital to have her body donated to science. They told her she was too fat.
“I was angry,” Bernell says. “I thought, ‘How dare they say I can’t make a contribution to medicine because I’m overweight.’”
Instead of slimming down, Bernell stepped up plans to write the book she’s had in mind for years.
Bountiful Women is Bernell’s inspirational gift to anyone, regardless of size. It is a rich chorus of voices from a community of women who have learned that, by living bountifully, one can transcend life on hold and engage in a more plentiful way of being.
Star-Telegram [Fort Worth, TX]—December 12, 2000
DNA Pioneer Hit by Race-Sex Row
by Jonathan Leake and Sophie Petit-Zeman
James Watson, the scientist who jointly discovered the structure of DNA, has shocked academia with a speech suggesting a link between skin colour and sex drive.
The Nobel-prize winner left an audience of academics stunned when he suggested that darker-skinned people have stronger libidos…
About 200 researchers had gathered at Berkeley University in California for the lecture, but by the end many had walked out in disgust, accusing Watson of sexist and racist comments. Last week there were calls to stop him making any more scientific presentations at Berkeley.
Watson’s latest remarks have opened a transatlantic rift. Some American scientists accuse him of trading on past successes to promote opinions that have little scientific basis.
Their British counterparts argue that subjects should not be off limits just because they are politically incorrect. Watson has discussed links between fatness and libido before, but has never pushed the link with race to the same extent.
Suggesting a link between skin colour and sex drive at the lecture last month, Watson told his audience: “That’s why you have Latin lovers,” adding: “You’ve never heard of an English lover. Only an English patient.”
Among the outraged was Susan Marquesee, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Berkeley. She walked out after Watson suggested that men found fat women sexually attractive, and used a slide of a dejected-looking Kate Moss to “prove” that thin women were more miserable. “There wasn’t any science,” she said. “These aren’t issues one can state as fact.”
Susan Greenfield, president of the Royal Institution, who knew Watson when he was working in Britain, defended his outspokenness, although she was not at the lecture. “I think it is right to make bold and sometimes provocative connections,” she said. “Nothing should stop you ascertaining the scientific truth; science must be free of concerns about gender and race.”
Watson’s speech was ostensibly about the role of a protein called pom-C in promoting happiness. Pom-C is involved in the production of various hormones, including melanin, whose concentrations determine skin colour; beta endorphins, which control mood swings; and leptin, involved in fat metabolism.
He suggested that concentrations of these hormones might be increased by sunlight and described how men injected with melanin in an experiment had experienced surges in their libido. This, he said, implied that people exposed to the sun would experience surges in melanin levels, boosting sex drive.
He illustrated the point by contrasting slides of bikini-clad girls with others of veiled Muslim women, suggesting that the latter’s sun-blocking clothes served to reduce their sexual appetites.
Watson’s other controversial assertions included the notion that people living in northern climates drink more alcohol to compensate for the unhappiness they suffer through sunlight deprivation.
Last week, anger at Watson’s talk was growing among American academics, especially at Berkeley. Thomas Cline, professor of genetics, said the lecture had “crossed over the line from being provocative to being irresponsible because the senior scientist failed to separate fact from conjecture.”
Cline said the talk had been “more embarrassing than having a creation scientist up there.” He added: “If he wants to give a talk like this in his living room, that’s his business, but to give it in a scientific setting is wrong.”
Lewis Wolpert, professor of biology at University College London, however, supported Watson. “One should take Watson seriously,” he said.
“I am adamant that reliable science has no ethical content; it describes the way the world works and how we are. One cannot censor reliable science because one does not like what it tells us.”
Last week, Watson was unavailable for comment. A spokesman at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory confirmed the gist of his remarks and said he would soon publish a scientific paper on the subject.
Francis Crick, Watson’s collaborator in his pioneering DNA work in Britain, was also unavailable. Crick and Watson have long since parted scientific company, and Crick now researches the workings of the brain and consciousness.
The two men were awarded the Nobel prize in 1962 after deducing the double-helix structure of DNA, the molecules inside genes that contain the blueprint for life.
In 1990, Watson launched the human genome project, which has since unravelled the structure of DNA. Now in his early seventies, he remains president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in New York state, one of the world’s most prestigious research centres.
History suggests, however, that even Nobel laureates can trade on their reputations once too often. Among those who have fallen from grace are William Shockley, the British scientist who won a Nobel prize in 1956 for inventing the transistor.
He was ostracised after suggesting some races were genetically inferior, and recommending that people with IQs under 100 be paid bonuses if they agreed to be sterilised.
The Sunday Times—December 31, 2000
Healthy Eve: The Pursuit of Physical Perfection
by Linda Carroll
Special to MSNBC
Jan. 30—Calista Flockhart eyes an Ally McBeal impersonator on an episode of “Saturday Night Live” and pokes fun, urging her to go eat a burger. On the HBO comedy “Sex and the City,” Sarah Jessica Parker refers to the beautiful, young, tall and exceedingly thin woman who stole her man as the “stick figure with no soul.” It’s become fashionable these days to deride the emaciated model look that is currently held up as the ideal for us women. But are we really getting the joke?
“Even though people may say it’s silly to try to look like a toothpick, I think there is a powerful admiration for thinness in this country. You hear it every day. If someone becomes ill and loses weight, their friends are jealous.”—Dr. Nada Stotland, psychiatrist
If you look at the number of women struck by eating disorders, it would seem that we are not. Despite countless magazine articles and TV news programs documenting the damage done by these disorders, they are not in decline. And a big part of the problem, experts say, is the popular acceptance of an image of beauty that the majority of American women cannot possibly attain.
The bony look is still with us, splashed all over women’s fashion magazines and front and center on popular television shows. And nowhere, it seems, are there images of strong, healthy, well-nourished women. I’m not sure I even would recognize the look if I saw it.
“The reality is that the ideal remains as skinny as ever, if not more so,” says Dr. Nada Stotland, an expert on body image and a professor of psychiatry at the Rush Medical Center in Chicago. “Even though people may say it’s silly to try to look like a toothpick, I think there is a powerful admiration for thinness in this country. You hear it every day. If someone becomes ill and loses weight, their friends are jealous.”
And as long as women link their self-esteem to an impossibly thin body shape, eating disorders, like bulimia and bingeing and anorexia will flourish among those born with a susceptibility, says Dr. Michael Devlin, co-director of the eating disorders clinic at the New York Psychiatric Institute and an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Clearly not everyone is so severely affected by the popular vision of perfection, Devlin points out. In fact, most of America—male and female, alike—is packing on the pounds with super-sized meals and sugar-saturated desserts. But, Devlin says, there is a certain segment of the population who falls prey to eating disorders when the right environmental factors converge.
He compares it to alcoholism. If you are genetically programmed to have a susceptibility to alcohol and you live in a society where people don’t drink, you’ll never know you that you’re a potential alcoholic.
AGE OF PLENTY
But we live in an age of plenty. We are bombarded with visions of luscious food while physical exertion has become a luxury, rather than a way to make a living. And all the while, we are haunted by images of lanky, lettuce-fed giraffes with makeup.
How did we become so admiring of such extreme thinness? There was a time when curvaceous movie stars like Marilyn Monroe were the rage. But that was after war-time rationing of food, Stotland says.
Ultimately, it comes down to supply and demand. We prize whatever is rare. And in an economy of plenty, the ideal body shape is lean and lanky.
Sadly, public health messages designed to help the obese only feed the hysteria over thinness. “We continue to hear from medical professionals that it is better for you to be on the thin side,” Stotland says. “So that certainly reinforces the social preoccupation with thinness. Everything we admire gets rolled into thinness.”
Ultimately it starts sounding like thinness is next to saintliness. And the thinner you are the more Godly you are.
NO IDEAL BODY TYPE
And while it’s true that some people will always be susceptible to eating disorders, a change in what we think is beautiful in a woman might reduce the numbers afflicted with the problem.
We need to realize that “there is no ideal body type to suit everyone,” says Thomas Wadden, director of the weight and eating disorders program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Wadden holds up the example of a man with a body mass index—a measure that takes into account a person’s weight and height—of 30 who is in good health and runs a couple of miles a day. Although the man’s BMI is higher than what is normally recommended, Wadden says, “From my standpoint, he has achieved an ideal body weight.”
If we all focused on developing a fit and healthy body, rather than an emaciated one, we might see not only fewer eating disorders but also less obesity.
A Male Sex Symbol Enjoys the Company of Larger Women
by Courtney Kane
The new ad campaign for Lane Bryant features actor Chris Noth of HBO’s Sex in the City, flirting with plus-sized women.
Women don’t have to be a size 6 or smaller for rich, powerful, handsome single men to find them desirable.
That is the relieving message that Lane Bryant, the specialty retailer for plus-size women, hopes to convey as it introduces a campaign using Mr. Big, a character in the hit HBO series Sex and the City. In the ads, the debonair Mr. Big, portrayed by the actor Chris Noth, is shown nuzzling with and thoroughly enjoying the company of several beautiful plus-size models.
It is not unusual for fashion advertising to use sex appeal to sell women’s clothing. But what is not as common is that marketers are now using sex in ads that focus on heavyset women. In the past, fashion advertising for plus sizes usually just showed models posing alone in attractive outfits.
Taking the bold step of showing men interested in women who are not the typical waif fashion models is part of Lane Bryant’s strategy to position itself as a fashion leader in plus sizes and reinforce positive images about the type of woman who buys the retailer’s products.
“She is powerful and smart and stylish and sexy,” said Chris Hansen, executive vice president for marketing and creative at Lane Bryant in Columbus, Ohio, a unit of Limited.
After two and a half years of featuring plus-size celebrities like Camryn Manheim, Kathy Najimy, Anna Nicole Smith and Queen Latifah in its ads, Lane Bryant decided to take a different tack and feature its first male celebrity.
The company projects a distinct attitude in its marketing, Ms. Hansen said. One way to show that was using female celebrities, she added, while another, “we thought, was to have a man acknowledging who these women are outright.”
“And,” she added, “have him be somebody who, quite frankly, is on the sexiest show on television with a number of regular size women and watch him move to a plus-size arena and be as flirtatious.”
Lane Bryant approached Mr. Noth with the idea of starring in the ads. It was important to him, Ms. Hansen said, that he display the qualities of Mr. Big, whom Mr. Noth sees as debonair, a man about town, a savvy New Yorker who loves women and is a gentleman.
“It was kind of one of those things where you’re sitting around brainstorming and you go, ‘Who would be really right for this?’” Ms. Hansen said. “And not only was his personality perfect, but the fact that his character is named Mr. Big was more perfect for a plus-size company that does sell to bigger women.”
The Mr. Big campaign was created by an in-house team. Though billings were not disclosed, Lane Bryant spends about $2.5 million on advertising and public relations each year.
The first portion of the campaign, which is timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day, features the retailer’s intimate apparel line. In the print ad, Mr. Big is dressed in a tuxedo, with a couple of beautiful, curvy size-14, or larger, women dressed in red and black satin lingerie, fawning over him. With his thumb in mouth, the smirking, mischievous expression on his face says it all. The headline reads, “The big idea. Seriously sexy intimates.”
Those ads began running in the January and February issues of fashion and style magazines like MODE, People and Talk.
The second ad featuring Mr. Big introduces the retailer’s spring selling season. A blond model clad in a jeweled pair of blue jeans leans on Mr. Big, who is dressed all in black. The model looks as if she is about to pull Mr. Big in for a kiss. Mr. Big looks once again like the cat that swallowed the canary. The headline reads, “Win big. Not your ordinary jeans.” That ad begins in March magazines.
To support the print effort, Lane Bryant’s estimated 700 storefront windows across America are set up to display the same ads on 12-foot banners. In addition, a direct marketing effort featuring Mr. Big was sent to about a million customers.
“The purpose of advertising has been to bring in a younger target and to communicate that we are the fashion leader, that there have been fashion changes going on and that we’re interested in this younger, more fashion-conscious customer,” Ms. Hansen said.
Lane Bryant, one of the oldest and most recognizable names in plus-size clothing, has sales of nearly $1 billion a year. Yet the marketplace is constantly changing, with many designers interested in joining. Growth in retail sales is basically flat, Ms. Hansen said, but growth in the plus-size segment is at 10 percent a year and has been increasing consistently.
“It’s a market that has been, for the large part, ignored from a fashion point of view,” she said. “So there’s even more pent-up sales. I think we all feel if the customer were offered true wardrobing choices, there would be even a higher amount of expenditures.”
Ms. Hansen said the company did not know whether Mr. Noth would star in future ads. But if he is anything like his commitment-phobic character, don’t hold your breath.
The New York Times—February 1, 2001
Swainsboro Teen Model Will Appear on the Cover of People Magazine
by Jaymi Freiden
Audrey Perkins almost seems like she’s living two lives.
At home, she’s Audrey, the girl who plays basketball for her high school, goes to movies with her friends and loves Oreos.
She’s also Audra Marie, the model who’s walked the runway in New York, mingled with celebrities like Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and appeared in numerous magazines, most recently on the cover of MODE.
Perkins, an 18-year-old from Swainsboro with the accent to prove it, has been modeling for four years and will soon get her biggest break of all when she appears on an upcoming cover of People magazine for a story on plus models.
“My goal has been to be in a well-publicized magazine,” Perkins said, and it doesn’t get much bigger than People.
Women who do plus modeling are size 10 and up, such as Emme, the host of the popular television show “Fashion Emergency.” Emme will also appear on the cover of People.
Perkins started modeling out of boredom during the summer when she was 14 and ended up loving it so much she kept at it. She wasn’t really expecting the hobby to take her anywhere, but she was wrong.
Modeling has meant making sacrifices along the way, but Perkins still manages to have a normal, balanced life. She’s had to miss some school over trips to New York or Miami, but her teachers and principal have been more than willing to work with her and allow her to make up the work she missed.
As for her diet, her mother said Perkins eats normal food in regular-sized portions, and that two bags of Oreos had recently disappeared from the pantry.
Perkins saves most of the money she earns from modeling jobs, though she does get to use some of it for one of her favorite pastimes—shopping. She loves going around in New York, buying new clothes and makeup. Her friends often ask her to do their makeup if they’re going somewhere special.
After graduating high school this spring, Perkins plans to become a full-time model. For girls who are interested in going into modeling themselves, she has a bit of advice.
“I tell them to do it, but don’t try to be a size two if you’re not,” she said. “Don’t change anything.”
Savannah Morning News—March 3, 2001
[NOTE: modestyle.com visitors may recall that a cover story about plus-size models was initially slated to appear in a December, 2000 of People magazine.—HSG]
Plus-Size Youths Finding Larger Clothes Selection
Retailers are tapping into a lucrative and long-ignored market with fashionable, edgy items for young women who wear 14 and up.
by Leslie Earnest
Gina Russo bristles when she describes the loathsome task of finding clothes that suit her in a size 16.
If the waistline fits, the skirt hangs. If the shirt’s roomy, it’s cut too short. And don’t get her started on “electric orange muumuus” and elastic waistbands.
“It’s like, ‘Thank you, I wanted that because I’m 24 years old and I want to look 60,’” the West Los Angeles resident says sarcastically.
But shopping might become less onerous for the associate producer and millions of other young, large, fashion-conscious women like her.
Retailers and manufacturers, tapping into what analysts say is a potentially lucrative and largely ignored market, are stocking larger sizes for teens and young women.
In the boldest example, counterculture retailer Hot Topic Inc. this month is launching a chain of mall stores that will sell edgy apparel—including vinyl skirts, sheer tops, camouflage pants, fishnet hose and punk jewelry—in sizes 14 through 26. The first Torrid store is scheduled to open Thursday at the Brea Mall, and five more will be operating nationwide by June.
“There’s a huge need for it,” said Elizabeth Pierce, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities. “Everybody knows the demographics are there.“
In fact, a growing number of more mainstream companies has been adding larger sizes for younger women. Gap Inc. has nudged its selections up to a size 16 in its 1,988 stores nationwide over the last year. Target Stores’ new Mossimo line for juniors includes plus sizes for such items as board shorts, tank tops and knit capri judo pants. This fall, Tommy Hilfiger Corp. will launch a plus-size line.
Retailers and analysts cite two key factors driving the trend: The population is getting larger, and bigger women are increasingly unwilling to shroud themselves in fabric.
“The shorts are getting shorter,” said an employee at Lane Bryant, a plus-size chain that’s been trying to woo younger women. “It’s no more about covering yourself up. It’s about being in style.”
Clearly there’s a growing market for trendy, youthful fashions in larger sizes.
Over the last two decades the number of overweight children and teens nearly doubled, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which announced last month that the latest study, in 1999, found that 14% of all children ages 12 to 19 were overweight. Sales of women’s sizes 16 and up have risen steadily since 1997, jumping 22.2% last year alone.
In another sign of the trend, modeling agencies are fielding more requests for full-figure models.
“Retailers are recognizing, on a large scale, that even in a bad economy like there is now, there’s a buyer for over size 12,” said Thomas Winslow, an agent at Wilhelmina Models Inc. in New York, where assignments for larger models are the fastest-growing segment of the business.
Health-care professionals welcome the shift, saying larger children and young adults have enough trouble without being able to find clothes similar to what their friends wear. Overweight children are often teased by peers, teachers and coaches and pushed by parents to be thinner, said Stewart Agras, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University.
“Particularly, it’s the peer teasing that does a great deal of damage and begins to lower their self-esteem,” he said. “That sets them up for an eating disorder.”
Shopping can be especially painful for larger teens, who so desperately want to fit in.
“You see Britney Spears on TV with these trendy, great things on and you want them, but you can’t get them,” said Kristine Scichilone, event coordinator for MODE magazine, which caters to larger women.
Scichilone, 26, who generally wears a size 22, has had her own share of miserable shopping excursions. For example, the New York resident couldn’t find anything jazzy to buy for her 24th birthday party and had to resort to wearing a basic black skirt and top that was hanging in her closet. Her size-8 girlfriend, who was also celebrating a birthday at the party, had no such problem.
“She showed up in a zebra print skirt, just to ruin my night,” Scichilone said.
Shopping also is trying for Russo, the associate producer, who earlier this year had trouble finding something to wear to the opera. She knew exactly what she wanted: “a ruby-red, strapless, floor-length Catherine Zeta-Jones-at-the-Oscars type of dress.” She settled for a red dress with black sequins that didn’t quite fit her and cost $300.
“They think for some reason, if you’re a large size you don’t want to be flashy,” Russo said.
Although clothing makers and retailers have been slow to recognize the potential market for larger trendy clothes for younger shoppers, they have not been completely oblivious.
Target introduced larger juniors sizes in 1997. A year later, sportswear maker FUBU, known for its urban street wear, began offering larger sizes after being coaxed by customers.
“They would say, ‘When are you going to make stuff for the big girls? Don’t forget about us,’” marketing president Leslie Short said.
Sears Roebuck & Co., the nation’s largest department store chain, also went after larger-size teens in 1998, putting plus sizes for juniors in 60 stores. Now, 500 Sears nationwide carry plus sizes for teens.
Some retailers charge about 10% more for plus sizes, largely because of the additional material needed to make the clothes.
The plus-size pioneer is Lane Bryant, a 101-year-old company with 740 stores nationwide. The chain began adding more selections for younger customers 15 years ago, after it was purchased by the Limited Inc., which caters to a younger shopper.
About five years ago, Lane Bryant discovered that its fastest-growing group of shoppers was ages 17 to 26, spokeswoman Catherine Lippincott said, prompting the company to try harder to keep up with fashion trends. The South Coast Plaza store, for example, sells printed capris, white denim pants with frayed hems and waistlines, and red halter top shifts.
But young shoppers still tend to see Lane Bryant—which the Limited is now trying to sell—as a store for older women, analysts say.
Indeed, clothing makers say retailers still have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to offering bigger sizes for teens. Large girls still are generally forced to shop in women’s plus-size departments—not hotbeds of fashion—whereas their girlfriends pick from an array of trendy clothes in the juniors section.
“The problem is [stores] don’t have a space for it or don’t know how to deal with it,” said FUBU’s Short. “Even to this day, it’s hard sometimes to get our line into department stores.”
“Our dream,” she added, “is to get a size 2 and a size 22 all on the same rack.”
Some analysts think Hot Topic might help break down barriers, moving edgy clothes for larger young women into the mainstream.
The city of Industry company, which has 291 stores nationwide, began testing the market a couple of years ago by putting a limited selection of larger sizes in its Hot Topic stores. Soon the No. 1 request was for more plus sizes, Chief Executive Elizabeth McLaughlin said.
“Every item that was a bestseller in the regular sizes at Hot Topic was also a bestseller in the plus sizes,” McLaughlin said.
The company maintains that more than 30% of young women in the United States wear size 14 or larger.
In addition to the Brea Mall, Torrid stores will open in San Diego, Denver, Omaha, Boston and Annapolis, Md.…
The Los Angeles Times—April 16, 2001
Pushing out Plus Sizes
[The following is a transcript of the opening segment of ABC’s television program, The View, from May 4, 2001.]
STAR JONES: Did y’all watch the show yesterday? Is it me, or don’t chubby girls go to the prom? Do you know what I’m talking about? We do this fashion show yesterday, and we have all these beautiful young girls, and I was waiting for the plus-size models.
MEREDITH VIEIRA: We were told they were going to be there.
JONES: We were told there were going to be two plus-size models. And this beautiful young girl in the long blue dress, the strapless, is supposed to represent the plus-size teenagers? [Image of faux-plus model appears on screen, evoking sustained laughter from the audience.] What the hell is going on? I am so pissed! [Applause] I am! I’m sorry.
LISA LING: I haven’t seen you this angry in a long time.
JONES: You have not seen me this angry…Yesterday, I went berserk, because we were told by Seventeen that they were going to bring two plus-size models, and they brought a girl who is a gorgeous young girl, and no comments on her body, she’s stunningly pretty. All the girls were beautiful. But there are teenagers out there who, like 50% of the women in America, wear over a size 14, and we damned well need to put them on The View! I am so sick of it. It makes me nuts. Makes me berserk! Makes me berserk.
JOY BEHAR: I have a quote here from one of the male writers on the show that I thought I would share. He says, “Round is sexy, flat is not. Curvy is feminine, angles are masculine. Women are their sexiest when they’re pregnant because they finally allow their bodies to be round and curvy and feminine. No man wants to go to bed with a woman who is so thin she makes him feel like a war criminal. [Laughter] If men really liked skinny, bony women, they wouldn’t insist on being on top.” Thank you! From a man.
BARBARA WALTERS: Unless you’re a fashion designer.
BEHAR: And that’s the point.
LING: The unfortunate thing is that it’s not usually for men, though. It’s for other women, you know, want to be thin for other women.
BEHAR: It’s for ourselves. We are our own worst enemies.
VIEIRA: We were thinking about Lane Bryant. I mean, they design clothes for full-figured women. And they have an ad, it’s run in sort of the general interest magazines. There it is. [Image of ad appears on screen, showing Tami Fitzhugh-Thompson, Chris North, and Philippa Allam.]
JONES: Went berserk on that ad.
VIEIRA: Now that’s their ad, and they use their smallest plus-size models, which are a size 14.
JONES: Would you tell me where there is some “plus” on that child with the garter belt on [i.e., Philippa Allam]?
WALTERS: A little plus on the thighs.
JONES: One girl has heavier thighs. But Lane Bryant doesn’t even sell clothes in sizes under a 14. Why don’t you reflect that?
BEHAR: I don’t think those girls would even go to Lane Bryant, is the truth.
JONES: Yeah! You know what, this is the point. You don’t have to think that a person that wears a size 18 is beautiful, sexy, or whatever. But you have to acknowledge that other people do. So we’re here.
WALTERS: But you know, you will not find one fashion magazine—and not just a fashion magazine, that will do that, that shows real life. Or go to a fashion show, if there’s anything more than a size two. I mean, forget about it, I’m heavy compared to what—
BEHAR: Well, there are alternative magazines that show bigger.
[Mumbling from panel: “What is it?” “MODE magazine?” “MODE.”]
JONES: Essence magazine has shown women of all sizes, shapes, and colours since the beginning, and that’s why my sense of self is just fine. Okay? Just want you to know.
BEHAR: And I was stuck with “Anorexia Magazine” all those years.
VIEIRA: “The Bulimia Journal.”
LING: We’re all very sensitive to this issue, especially because you’re so passionate about it. But if you look at that ad, Chris North, I just wonder. Chris North is a very, very big guy—hence the name, “Mr. Big.” Okay. So these women don’t look very small next to him. So I wonder if they may be, in fact, what they say they are, which is a size 14. I just wonder, looking at it, just taking his size into consideration.
JONES: Well, I tell you what. We called the three model agencies in New York. Their plus-size divisions…Elite has none. Ford says you should be at least 5'9, and they consider “plus size” size 10 to 16. HUH? Wilhelmina says you have to be 5'9, and their plus sizes are 10 to 20.
WALTERS: By the way, just try going into a store—I don’t know what it’s like in every other city—and even buy a size 14.
VIEIRA: But let’s look at this. Lane Bryant sells to a larger woman. That’s their market. Maybe they’re saying, when we go into these magazines, like People, if we put an ad of a size-28 model, people may not want to see that. So let’s introduce 14 and build, and sort of indoctrinate the audience, so to speak, and get them used to seeing women who have some flesh on them, who are curvy.
WALTERS: Which is true. We’ve only been doing that for the last four years.
JONES: But those girls [indicating Lane Bryant ad]? If you tell me those girls are a size 14, man…
VIEIRA: So Lane Bryant is lying when they say—
JONES: If you look at that ad…I know a whole bunch of 14s. Most of them are my friends. That doesn’t look 14 to me, and even if it did, that’s not what Lane Bryant markets to. I go to Lane Bryant. I shop there. [Mentions some merchandise and prices.] The girls that go in there don’t look like that. It’s just offensive to the little girls out there, ’cause if you tell them that that size 10 or 12 girl that we had on yesterday is a plus size, what does the size 16 say at home: “I’m too fat to wear any of these clothes. I can’t go to the prom.” And that’s wrong, ’cause baby, you can go to the prom. Go, put your clothes on, look cute, you’ll look cuter than any of them other little broads. Okay? Don’t worry about that. Go on. I’m finished.
The View—May 4, 2001
Model’s Bizarre Suicide
by Larry Celona, Brad Hunter and William Neuman
A 21-year-old plus-size cover girl apparently committed suicide inside her Manhattan apartment by stabbing herself several times in the neck, police said yesterday.
Natasha Duncan’s roommate found her body in the kitchen of their East 59th Street flat at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, cops said.
Duncan’s brother Alec said he spoke to her just five hours before the tragedy and she seemed upbeat—except when she complained about her boyfriend.
“She said she was having some problems with some guy she’d been seeing, some kickboxing instructor,” said Alec, 24, who spoke to his sister by phone from his home in Florida.
“She said he was messing with her mind. I told her she didn’t need him.”
Duncan’s roommate, Johanna Edelberg, another plus-size model, also told police that Duncan was upset about her beau, who was not identified.
Cops said Duncan had been smoking marijuana shortly before she killed herself.
Duncan began modeling for the Wilhelmina agency last year, and her career quickly took off.
The green-eyed, red-haired beauty was on the cover of MODE magazine last April, and appears in a fashion spread in the magazine’s August issue.
Edelberg, 20, told cops that she and Duncan were talking about going to a movie Saturday night.
Edelberg went briefly into her bedroom, then came out a few minutes later and went into the kitchen, cops said.
The stunned model found Duncan’s body on the floor of the kitchen, face up in a pool of blood, with a 12-inch kitchen knife lying nearby.
It appeared Duncan had stabbed herself several times in the neck, and police were treating her death as a suicide.
Police said there was no suicide note but they found something written by Duncan that indicated she was depressed.
Yesterday, there were bloody footprints in the hall outside the third-floor apartment where Duncan lived for the last year.
“She was a really a nice person, so beautiful. This thing is really weird,” said neighbor Meir Saba.
Duncan’s brother Alec said, “I’m dumbfounded, I don’t understand it.
“She was making plans for the future. She was very happy. She’d just been in Houston this past week doing a modeling thing for a JCPenney catalog. She had all kinds of jobs going. She was in MODE, in Seventeen. It doesn’t make any sense.”
He said his sister chatted on the phone Saturday about plans to meet in Washington next month and asked his advice about buying a new computer.
Duncan was born in New York and grew up in Connecticut, France and Florida, returning to New York after high school with dreams of becoming an actress.
Bill Swan, MODE’s photo director, said Duncan was “absolutely gorgeous.”
“It was all sort of new to her, so she was very excited about it. Her career took off very fast.”
The New York Post—July 23, 2001
Model’s Brother: It Couldn’t Be Suicide
by Larry Celona and William Neuman
The brother of a 21-year-old Manhattan model who cops say stabbed herself to death “seriously” doubts his sister committed suicide—despite an autopsy which concluded yesterday her wounds were self inflicted.
“I asked everyone in the family if they ever thought she’d try suicide or if she’d talked about it and everyone said she never even said it jokingly,” said the brother of plus-size model Natasha Duncan.
“I question it seriously,” the brother, Alec, said of the investigators’ conclusion of suicide. “I don’t think that it was [suicide].”
The autopsy, completed yesterday, said the up-and-coming cover girl stabbed herself in the neck and chest with such intense fury she punctured a lung during a self-inflicted fit of violence in her East 59th Street apartment Saturday night.
The green-eyed redhead, whose modeling career was just taking off, pricked herself tentatively in the neck a few times before plunging a 12-inch kitchen knife into her chest, the autopsy showed.
The chest wound that punctured a lung proved to be the fatal stroke, police said.
Investigators said relatives told them Duncan had been depressed for some time and at one point had seen a therapist for her depression.
Alec Duncan, 24, said he had yet to speak with detectives—but he said he did not think his sister was capable of killing herself.
The family hoped to speak yesterday with Duncan’s roommate, fellow model Johanna Edelberg, who discovered the body—but they were told she had left town.
Alec told The Post his parents met yesterday with a kickboxing instructor Duncan had become infatuated with.
“They had a platonic relationship. They’d known each other a couple of months,” the brother said the family was told. “He wasn’t pursuing anything and she thought there was more to it than there was.”
Duncan complained to her brother about the relationship a few hours before she killed herself. The brother did not know the kickboxer’s name.
The New York Post—July 24, 2001
Diaries Bare Pain of Suicide Model
by William Neuman
The 21-year-old plus-size model who stabbed herself to death in her Manhattan apartment was tormented by doubts about her looks and upset by what she saw as the shallowness of the people around her, her diaries reveal.
“Growing up, she was a little overweight in high school and had problems with the way she looked,” said Alec Duncan, the brother of Wilhelmina model Natasha Duncan, who transformed from an awkward teen to a beautiful cover girl.
“And now that she lost all the weight and became a model, she had a problem with people looking at her as a piece of meat,” Alec said.
He said his sister wrote in her diaries about feeling that men she met were trying to “use” her and were drawn to her just for her looks.
“She felt like a lot of people in the industry and New York in general were fake,“ Alec said after reading the diaries.
“She was very intelligent and she read a lot, and I feel she wasn’t from this world and she didn’t want to be here anymore. She’s in a happier place now.”
Alec said he talked with Wilhelmina head Dieter Esch about his sister.
“The president of Wilhelmina said that usually, when women get into modeling, they see themselves in magazines and finally realize how beautiful they are and they get comfortable with their bodies. Just the opposite happened with Natasha,” Alec said.
“She became more self-conscious…She was very critical of herself.”
Duncan’s brother said cops have dispelled his doubts that his sister’s death was a suicide. They told him there were no signs anyone had attacked her or that there had been a fight.
A memorial service will be held 6 p.m. Friday at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel on Madison Avenue.
The New York Post—July 25, 2001
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