Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004





In Fashion…Beauty is not anorexia

Beauty and health have to be synonymous. Each has to complement the other, and I believe that an undernourished or even a malnourished body will not please the eye of the beholder.

Anorexia continues to haunt catwalks. Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen has said in what is probably the most significant fashion statement of our times that “weak families are to blame for anorexia, not the industry that has been widely criticised for promoting scrawny silhouettes…I never suffered from this problem, because I had a very strong family base. Parents are responsible, not the style segment.”

Kate Winslet...Beauty with sense 
Gisele’s comment comes in the wake of ramp tragedies. Late last year, a young Brazilian model, Ana Carolina Reston, died of complications arising out of starvation. Two months before this, Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos died of heart failure after eating nothing for days

The Brazilian fashion czars promptly banned girls who were too thin or below 16, and made it mandatory for them to produce proof of good health before they could participate in shows.

Spain and Italy too took the cue from Brazil, and laid down conditions for modelling.

Gisele, the former girlfriend of Leonardo DiCaprio (now seen in films such as “Blood Diamond” and “The Departed”), said "everybody knows that the norm in fashion is thin. But excuse me, there are people born with the right genes for this profession”.

Obviously, there are. Kate Winslet, the British actress, is one. Best remembered for her performance in “Titanic” (1997), and now hailed as the youngest star at 31 to have won five Oscar nominations, including the latest one for “Little Children”, Kate has never felt shy of being somewhat plum. We in India would call her a buxom beauty. We have had several such beauties on the ramp – and on the screen -- who did not quite have an hourglass figure. But we loved them, nonetheless.

In fact, men in India have always preferred their women to be fleshed out rather than skinny, and I suppose this went a long way in setting body standards. Obviously, Indian stars and models did not have to face problems of pounds. At least not in the same way their Western counterparts had to. They still do.

With teenage girls aspiring to look like a movie star or fashion model, cinema and style have a huge responsibility in shaping not just attitudes, but the health of a society. Unfortunately, the world of glamour has such overriding influence on the young mind that celebrities can make or mar lives.

Yet, the world’s hot spots of fashion – Paris, London and New York – are still a little reluctant to stop skinny shows. The British Fashion Council said: "We believe that regulation is neither desirable nor enforceable. What will make a difference is the commitment of the style industry to change people’s outlook through behaviour and education." This has disappointed the medical fraternity and all those models and actresses who may not fit into size zero.

Although, Britain and even France and America do not want to impose strict conditions at this stage, they would like to educate and inform models and stylists on the harm that ultra-thinness can cause. This may go a long way in tackling this dilemma of splendour versus shape.

(Webposted January 30 2007)