Are you too big to model? How would you feel if you thought you weren’t fat, but people in the fashion industry felt you were? What if they told you that you needed to lose weight in order to save on a couple inches of fabric? What if they told you all of this and you were only a teenager?
Well listen to this story.
Gerren Taylor had it all as she walked the runway for the first time at the Los Angeles Fashion Week in 2003. Only 12 at the time, she went from being a school girl studying pre-algebra, to becoming one of the world’s youngest Supermodels the industry had ever seen. She was everything the modeling and fashion industry desired, tall, thin, and photogenic. Gerren was booked by designers Tracy Reese, Tommy Hilfiger, and Betsy Johnson in a heartbeat. Many stated that her long legs and confident walk resemble that of Naomi Campbell. She was a “big star” that had a bright future as being one of the top models in the business.
But at 14, her dream came to a screeching halt when people in the fashion industry called her obese, at 6 feet, 120 lbs, and a size 4. She was told that in order to continue to model, her frame should only measure 35 inches around. Gerren was 38 inches. This was the end of Gerren’s career as a model, and it was the beginning of another sad story about a young girl who hated the way she looked. In an interview Gerren expressed her feelings:
“At first, I was like, Whatever! So I went to Paris and London to see if maybe I could model there. And they said, ‘No, you have to be a size 0, or negative.’ I didn’t even know negative existed. After that, I came back to the States and I was really depressed. I developed an eating disorder and wasn’t eating. It was really hard for me and I thought I was ugly.”
Many women and girls like Gerren who are models experience issues with their bodies based on what the industry views as perfect, which is to be super thin. According to USA Today, body-image researcher Sarah Murnen, who is a Professor of Psychology at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, discusses how body image in the fashion industry promotes ‘thin is in’. However, what they fail to mention, (or purposefully left out) is that because this image is being portrayed as the ‘ideal’ image, the majority of girls and women begin to hate the way they look. Due to this dissatisfaction, girls and women start participating in very unhealthy behaviors, like illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia that damage the body.
In order to bring more awareness to this issue, on October 20, 2010, the Women’s Center will be showing the documentary, America the Beautiful, that takes a critical look at our nation’s obsession with beauty. This film, produced by Darryl Roberts, takes us on a journey through Gerren Taylor’s career from the beginning when her career flourished, to its ending when she hit rock bottom. In addition to following Gerren, it also focuses on plastic surgery, the cosmetics industry, and other related factors that facilitate women and girls in their often extreme pursuit of beauty. A discussion will follow the movie screening led by staff from UMKC Counseling, Health, and Testing.