There lives a group of people, in my city and in yours, that are praised for their appearance and paid for their physique. They are both the objects of adoration and the subjects of manipulation. I learned recently that some of them have been known to eat cotton balls and cardboard to curb their hunger and prevent weight gain. They are encouraged in the direction of addiction- whether it be drugs, cigarettes, or simply pleasure- so long as the outcome is an impossibly thin body. In their world it is laughable to be concerned about an eating disorder... Bulimia... Anorexia... These are simply tools toward a successful career.
Often idolized and overlooked, appearing to have it all, yet longing deeply for something that truly satisfies. In Europe, a precious few have begun a trend of getting their lowest ribs surgically removed in order to strut a waist-line like Barbie on the catwalk.
Living in a world littered with illusions of success... that only beat them with "not good enoughs", bruise them with "not worth enoughs", and leave them exposed and alone, bleeding in their "I'll never be enoughs".
We make idols of them. Killing ourselves to look like them, not realizing that the standard that has been set for us is impossible and the only method of acquiring it is death. Death to health. Death to joy. Death to depth of relationship. Death to our God-given lives.
So who are they?
Models. Sweet, beautiful, fashion models. Gracing magazines with their photos and, this week, wrecking my heart with a new awareness of how broken many of them really are.
Not all of them. Obviously.
Not all models are sick. Not all models are broken, or lonely or addicted. I have many friends working in the industry that are healthy and whole. So forgive me if I am painting a picture that all modeling is bad, and that all models are messed up. Modeling itself is not the problem.
But there are enough models walking around literally on the verge of dying, for us to be concerned.
So I am going to finish this post by speaking to those issues.
This week I spent several hours, on a few different days, sitting with some professional models and listening to them as they shared openly about the different things they face on a regular basis. I am not sure how I received the honor of being someone they could confide in, but I praise God for it, because its changing my life.
These girls are young and vulnerable. They face the same issues I face, only there seems to be less grace for them to overcome. For instance one friend of mine had been struggling with bulimia for 6 years, while working as model in New York, Europe, and now LA. One week she decided that she would try to break the vicious disorder and abstain from binging and purging. (If you know anything about bulimia, you know that it is normal for your weight to fluctuate often during, and immediately after the disorder...) That week my beautiful friend gained ten pounds. But inside she felt good because she had gone 7 days without binging and purging. She couldn't remember the last time she was clean that long.
But that day she had a casting for a job. She arrived and they told her right away to take off her clothes so they could measure her in just her bra and underwear. (This is normal for modelling.) Immediately she was struck with intense fear... were they going to notice her weight gain?
Oh yes. They noticed alright. As soon as she took off her top they stared at her, with expressions that she perceived as disgust and disbelief...
"What happened to you?"
On the spot she made up a lie about a hormone problem and assured them she would be back to "normal" soon. From then on, they referred to her as "the big model"- not to her directly, but within earshot of her, while discussing who to hire.
That sounds like hell if you ask me. I had to overcome bulimia once too and I remember having thoughts towards myself about being "the big girl" and wondering "what happened?"... but that was me, asking myself. There was no one else around evaluating my body as I stood helplessly in my undies.
Another friend of mine, a model, recently went on vacation with her family. She wasn't careful about what she ate, because of course, she was just enjoying being a normal girl visiting her family. But when she returned back here two weeks later and walked into her agency, they saw her and said, "Wow... you look.. healthy." What they meant was, "Wow... you need to lose five pounds." She knew. And she did.
It's crazy. That to appear "healthy", is not okay, and to be "normal" means someone is 6 years bulimic.
This all would be easier to write about if I didn't find myself caught up in the same madness sometimes too. But I am learning all the more than I need to guard my heart and mind from getting caught up in these lies. As loud as the voices are that tell me to be thinner or try harder to resemble the pictures in the magazines. I need the grace of God to help me reject it. Because many of these images I see, though glossy and glamorous, are actually pictures of girls like me, who are hurting and desperately hoping that someone will love them for who they really are. They need my prayers and my compassion, more than they need me to worship them and write them off for their apparent success.
As women who fear the Lord, we need Jesus to teach us how to care for our bodies, and we need Him to fill us with love and compassion for those working in the fashion industry. When our frail minds are tempted to be overtaken with comparison, or when our wandering hearts begin to idolize the things we see... we need the Holy Spirit to sober us up and remind us of truth. We need His grace to be able to love the way He has crafted us, and also offer the unfailing love of Christ to those treasured models that we are often so quick to hate.
I am thankful that I am not blind. But sometimes I wonder if I would be better at loving people in this city if I couldn't see their outward appearance at all. I guess little children have that quality too. They don't even seem phased by outward appearance. Theirs or anyone else's. Sure they notice if things are "pretty" or "ugly"... but it doesn't seem to have much of an impact on the people they love. I want to be like that.
I want my love for people to be pure, regardless of what I see. I want Jesus to shine through me in a way that when people spend time with me their hearts are full... like somehow if their souls were craving honey.. then the presence of God in me, would fill that sweet spot.
But I know me too well. And I know that it would be impossible for me to impact people like that. I know I am selfish and prideful. I know that on my own, my efforts to love well, will be in vain.
Unless Jesus really is alive. And His Spirit really is at work in me to make me the woman He dreamed I would be. Because if that is true. Then every attempt of mine to love like Christ will make a difference. Because the Bible tells me that His love NEVER FAILS.
"For God is working in you, giving you the desire,
and the power to do what pleases Him."
Phil. 2:13 NLT