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Still from Agnes Hedengård’s video
Still from Agnes Hedengård’s video TOO BIG FOR THE INDUSTRYvia

MPs urged to protect ‘dangerously skinny’ models

Yesterday of members of parliament met with industry members and health experts to discuss the issue of underweight models

Two months ago Rosie Nelson, a 23-year-old former model who was told by her agency to lose weight, started a petition calling for regulation and legislation to be put in place to protect the health of models working in the fashion industry. Today this petition has now received over 114,400 signatures. Yesterday Nelson gave evidence, along with models and agencies for both traditional and plus-size models (including Hayley Hasselhoff), health experts and the models’ union at a parliamentary inquiry chaired by the Conservative MP Caroline Nokes.

Speaking to the committee, she recalled the pressure she personally experienced at the hand of her agency. “I went back after I lost weight, and I was told I had to lose more,” she said, according to The Guardian. “I couldn’t physically have lost more weight at that time. And it’s upsetting that 16-year-olds could, at this very minute, be being told the same thing. “Every time I went into an agency, I was prodded and poked and measured with a tape measure...I used to dread it.”

The inquiry, which took place at the House of Commons committee room, was held to decide whether to press for legislation which prevents models under a certain body mass index (BMI) from taking part in fashion shows, following the example of France, Spain and Israel. Spain for example prevents models who have a BMI of under 18 to work – a radical move when you consider the fact that the average model has a BMI of 16.

However the committee also discussed the topic of underage, as well as underweight models. Another former model and the founder of the modelling union at Equity Dunja Knezevic called for legislation preventing the employment of models under the age of 16 who she described as “cheap labour, 14-year-olds from Siberia who come over, are paid badly and end up even owing money to the agencies because when they grow, develop into women, they can’t fit the sizes”.

Nokes, who is MP for Romsey and Southampton North, will now compile a report on whether to press for legislation which will be published in the new year. Reflecting on the meeting, she said “it’s clear designers and agencies are a million miles away from the general public on this.” She also revealed frustration at the representatives of agencies present at the meeting who, after giving their evidence, apparently left before listening to models’ give theirs. “They were not willing to hear personal stories,” she remarked, “And it shows they don’t expect change to happen.”

There have been several instances over the past few months where models have gone public with stories of how their agencies have put pressure on them to loose weight. Charli Howard was told she was ‘too big’ and ‘out of shape’ like Agnes Hedengård who was similarly told she was “too big to work”, despite her lean figure. Watch Hedengård’s video below.