Models participate in a fashion shoot in Ramat Hasharon, Israel, on Jan. 10.(Photo: AP Photo/Adi Barkan modeling agency)
JERUSALEM -- When Margaux Stelman began modeling a few months ago, she always had her sister Aline in mind.
was an ex-model who died three years ago after a long battle with
anorexia, a common affliction of models trying to look thinner and
thinner - and girls trying to look like them.
Now, thanks to a new
Israeli law that prohibits the employment of underweight fashion
models, Stelman says she feels protected from the traditional pressures
of an industry notorious for encouraging extremes in thinness. The law
sets weight minimums with the aim of discouraging anorexia and bulimia,
eating disorders that affect mostly young women, who go on extreme diets
and are unable to eat normally.
"This disease is something that's
very close to me," the 21-year-old university student from Belgium said
at a recent photo shoot, the country's first since the law took effect
last week. "Doing the exact opposite, showing girls that (they) can be
healthy and be a model anyway, it's really something I want to show."
Israeli law, passed by parliament last year, is the first of its kind.
The United States and England have guidelines, but their fashion
industry is self-regulated. Other governments have taken steps to
prevent "size zero" medical problems but have shied away from
Israel, like other countries, is obsessed by models.
International supermodel Bar Refaeli is considered a national hero.
Refaeli, an Israeli who has graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated
swimsuit edition, among others, is not unnaturally thin.
law requires models to produce a medical report no older than three
months at every shoot for the Israeli market, stating that they are not
malnourished by World Health Organization standards. The U.N. agency
relies on the body mass index, calculated by factors of weight and
height. WHO says a body mass index below 18.5 indicates malnutrition.
According to that standard, a 5' 8" woman should weigh no less than 119
Critics say the body mass index is flawed and cannot be
applied equally to everyone. For example, many professional athletes
fall outside the health boundaries set by the scale, because of their
height or muscle mass.
Stelman is 5' 7" and says she weighs around 132 pounds - but she isn't quite sure.
never weigh myself. I don't care. I don't even have a scale," she said.
"Weight is just a number. As long as I feel good and healthy - that's
all that matters."
One of the main supporters of the new legislation is Adi Barkan, one of Israel's top model agents.
30 years of work, he says he has seen young women become skinnier and
sicker while struggling to fit the shrinking mold of what the industry
He said Europe's fashion has started
shifting back. "They understand that something has to change," said
Barkan, noting the rampant use of Photoshop, the popular picture editing
computer program, to make models look even skinnier.
law requires that any advertisement published for the Israeli market
must clearly disclose whether the models' appearance was altered by
Israeli designer Keren Saban said she prefers models who display her clothes to be "someone who looks like a woman."
woman's look is not something you need to be ashamed of, just the
contrary," said Saban. "That is what an item should look like when we
sell clothes to women."