The Media, its Message and the Effect on Women

Recently I came across a statistic saying that almost 50% of girls around the age of nine have body image issues. I found that astounding and thought back to when I was nine and what I was worried about at that time, which was nothing more than begging my parents to play with my friends and that was it!

The Internet did not exist at that time, but television, magazines, newspapers, and the radio did, yet I never really remembered whether or not I focused on or was worried about celebrities and/or models, and whether or not I lived up to their image of beauty. Even when I started modeling at 15 and was heavily entrenched in that environment, I never obsessed over my diet, nor was preoccupied about my weight. I just made sure I ate healthily and did some fun exercises like dancing.

Today, if we are not reading about how much weight a female celebrity has lost, then it’s about how much weight they have gained, or how they look without makeup, or advertisements for a slew of low-fat, no-fat, fat-free products, and the list goes on. How can you not be obsessed with how you look!

One of my favorite TED Talks is by Cameron Russell, a 25 year-old ex-model. Her talk, “Looks Aren’t Everything, Believe Me, I’m a Model,” was about the modeling industry and society’s idea of what beauty should look like: white, tall, slender, young women that all wear a size zero.

Again, during my time modeling, there was never a ton of pressure to lose weight or exercise, it was more like just take care of yourself. Although, this was before Kate Moss and the whole “heroin-chic” look and before our obsession with fat in products, which ironically just made us consume more sugar and sweeteners that have ultimately made us more fat, but that’s for another post.

In the Telegraph, a piece titled, “The ugly, unfair truth about looking beautiful,” talks about why we demand that women in the public eye be extraordinarily beautiful, but their male counterparts can get away with being ordinary.

This quote sums it up nicely, “And right now, in the second decade of the 21st century, the situation is more extreme than ever. If you’re a woman, a huge proportion of your role models are beautiful. So if you’re normal looking, you feel ugly. And if you’re merely pretty, men feel free to comment on how un-beautiful you are.” I feel as though we are almost at an epidemic with this beauty obsession, and all it’s doing is making girls and women feel sad, depressed, become bulimic or anorexic, because they are not living up to this “standard” of beauty.

Now I will say this, anyone that knows me knows I care deeply about what I eat and drink, and how much I exercise. However, it’s because of my focus of living a healthy lifestyle.

I lost my mom 15 years ago to cancer and it was quite devastating for me. Why? Because this was a woman who who also cared deeply about living a healthy lifestyle, but she went to absolute extremes and it made her sick. It wasn’t an issue with how much she exercised or what she ate or drank, it was her addiction to vitamins and minerals. My mom took more or less 60 supplements a day, A DAY! Granted, she was also under a tremendous amount of stress, because my sister is mentally challenged and epileptic, so I know that was a big factor too.

My point is, I care deeply about health. When you read about the effects of sugar, gluten, sweeteners, all the chemically-laden products we use on a daily basis, how cancers and obesity are at the highest percentage they’ve ever been, you want to take care of yourself, so that the time you have on this wonderful planet is healthy, that’s all.

At the end of the day, the standard of beauty that exists is clearly very male-driven, because men obviously don’t have to live up to any standard of beauty they have created for themselves. Although, I don’t know about you, but I’m alright with men trying to live up to the Ryan Gosling standard of beauty.

I think what girls and women need to understand is, what you see on a daily basis in magazines, movies, TV, and the runways, is only ONE idea of what is beautiful. What is more important and what should be more important is how healthy you are.

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