Katia Elizarova, age 27, is a veteran in the modeling industry and her star is continuing to rise. She's not just a model but also an actress, reality TV star, and activist. Most recently, she's chosen to use her fame to shed light on the ugly side of modeling for teens and young women.
In a recent interview with the Times of London, Elizarova spoke candidly about her experiences as a young model, calling for change. We're nearing the end of Fashion Month with Paris Fashion Week underway, and it is inevitable that while we spend the month seeing beautiful ready-to-wear collections, we are also forced to see the issues in our industry: from impossible standards and a skewed image of what the "perfect" body is, to the conditions models have to work under. Young women in the modeling world are often lured into poor situations, she explains.
"This is not a nice part of our job. If you're a model and your agency hasn't paid you in months, you don't have anything to eat - and then someone comes over and says, 'We're doing free dinners in the club, come and bring your girlfriends,' of course you go," she said. "Then you have 20 men perving at you, but you're so hungry you don't care."
In these situations, she explains, girls as young as 16 or 17 are drinking alcohol or being slipped drugs by older men. Elizarova was scouted when she was 14, and while she's modeled for the likes of Chanel and Versace, she's also witnessed the extremes her peers would go to in order to land a job. From bulimia to relying on cocaine to "make their cheeks hollow," she even knew of a few who pulled out their own teeth in order to look thinner.
Elizarova isn't the only individual to step forward in defense of young models, The Model Alliance has worked to pass legislation in support of underage models with the support of Coco Rocha and other big names. In June, the New York State Senate passed a motion to protect models under 18 in the state of New York, one of the fashion capitals of the world. This legislation is an effort to make the working environments safer for minors, to provide pediatric healthcare, safety information for the models and their families, as well as making sure that any model under 16 has a responsible adult with them at all jobs.
Vogue has also taken important steps in the interest of young models, prohibiting children under 16 from posing as adults, capping a workday at 10 hours and making sure the models receive prompt pay, proper meal times and frequent breaks.
One former Vogue Australia editor, Kirstie Clements, told the Guardian about her experience with "size zero" during her reign. She spoke about an American model who felt it was normal to faint a lot -- often daily -- because of hunger, of a casual lunch in 2004 in which an agent told her that her clients were eating tissues as they made them feel less hungry, of the telltale signs of anorexia wherein a woman's face and arms would develop a light fuzz to attempt to keep her body warm.
The most disturbing thing that Clements told the Guardian, though, was the story of the "fit model." A top Australian model was discussing her roommate, who she would rarely see because she was in the hospital hooked up to an IV most of the time. Her roommate was a "fit model" -- used in top designer workrooms as the body around which the clothes are created. Is this the "ideal body type" for the garments, someone who needs to be hooked up to a drip because she's so thin?
While we're glad to see improvements in the modeling industry, especially for young impressionable girls, there is still clearly a long way to go. We have to slash the standards that perfection is a size zero -- not just for the sake of the women everywhere trying to live up to that impossible standard, but for the women going to such extremes to maintain this look. It's a vicious cycle.