Full credit to designer and Australia’s Next Top Model judge, Alex Perry, for declaring he would never call a model “fat”, and that his fashion embraces curvy women.

One of Perry's 'curvy' models. Phwoar, practically plus size! Pic: Noel Kessel

Perry took a media beating this week, and with what seemed good cause: Appearing to suggest that a size eight teen was too fat to model.

Not only was comparing her to “overstuffed luggage” offensive (even if he was referring more to her pose, in a coffin of all things, than to her body), it was dangerous. Mountains of research attests that “socio-cultural” pressure - ideas picked up from TV, fashion magazines and other media -  is a leading cause of the eating disorder epidemic among young Australians.

Perry’s comments prompted hate mail, and even death threats. And when I read a view that if you go into “the spotlight” you should be ready to cop flak about your weight, I threw down the paper in disgust.

The idea that if you seek a profile you should take body-slights - and audiences should meekly suck it up - insults us all.

To suggest any show or commentator is exempt from the reality that there is a body image crisis confronting young Australians and they are hyper-sensitive to negative messages flies in the face of peak research and advice from our most respected doctors and fashion chiefs.

Many came together as part of the Federal Government’s National Body Image Advisory Group, which drafted guidelines on how to present and discuss body image in the interests of public health.

It took years, but medicine and fashion editors finally agree that sending unhealthy thinness messages to young people can make children of both sexes ill. Scratch that, it already is.

Mission Australia’s most recent youth survey found body dissatisfaction is the greatest cause of anxiety among those aged 12 to 24, particularly 14 to 19-year-olds.

The largest annual youth survey of its kind found one in four females and one in three males aged 12 to 24 said their body was their top worry.

The link between such worries and illness can be seen in rising hospital admissions due to eating disorders. Sydney’s pre-eminent Children’s Hospital at Westmead Eating Disorders Service saw a 270 per cent increase in such admissions between 2000 and 2009, and a 1000 per cent increase in out-patient eating disorder treatments between `03 and `09.

Between mid 2007 and 2010, the number of 12 year-olds admitted for eating disorders jumped from six per cent to 20 per cent and as of mid last year, the greatest number of admissions was among 14 year-olds, at 35 per cent.

Mortality rates for eating disorders are 12 times higher than the annual death rate from all causes in females aged 15 to 24.

“These are statistics we take very seriously,” says Danni Rowlands, education manager, prevention and awareness, at the eating disorder support group Butterfly Foundation. She said it was well acknowledged that media messages impact on children’s body attitudes.

Only three weeks ago Eating Disorders Victoria found body inferiority is now affecting pre-schoolers. Kinder kids are aware you diet to lose weight, are “scared” of eating junk food because it makes you fat and know “being fat is one of the worst things you can call someone”.

They pick this up “from the media…parents, other children and people around them” - often people who are well-meaning, but they can be too young to understand the message.

There is no justification - not even ratings - for the view that people should “harden up or don’t seek the spotlight”. With all that we know in 2011,  this view is dangerously ignorant.

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37 comments

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    • nihonin says:

      06:40am | 09/09/11

      Wendy, have you forgotten, it’s ok for minorities to bag everyone else, if the rest of society doesn’t come up to their standard.  Shame they don’t allow the rest of society a voice to counter their opinions without screaming sexist, redneck, xenophobe or bigot.

    • Sahara says:

      07:03am | 09/09/11

      Who cares? Who can take a guy who thinks wearing sunglasses on his head 100% of the time is some sort of major fashion statement.

      Seriously, every single time I see the judges on this show all I can do is laugh. It’s like some sort of circus sideshow attraction.

      Certainly a lesson to everybody why you should,avoid cosmetic surgeons.

    • KH says:

      07:54am | 09/09/11

      yeah - that sunglasses thing is really old, and really really tired….....I saw him in south yarra once - yes, with the glasses on his head.  Mate, you are bald. The glasses don’t make it look like you have hair.

    • malohi says:

      09:11am | 09/09/11

      It irks me too. Every single time, glasses on head.
      Bald is fine mate, give it a rest.

    • Anna C says:

      10:10am | 09/09/11

      I also love the way he sucks in his cheeks and tummy every time he has to pose for a photo. Very vain.

    • Craig of North Brisbane says:

      02:10pm | 09/09/11

      Thing is, Perry is certainly not easy on the eyes himself.  The kindest thing I can say is that he dresses like a complete wanker.  Oh, and his “designs” look like they were put together by a three year old playing with some scrap cloth on mummy’s sewing machine.  Not surprising he could only make it in an industry where the average IQ begins with a decimal point.

    • wearestardust says:

      07:11am | 09/09/11

      I was very surprised to see the Sunrise panel of (female) talking heads agreeing with the proposition that it is fair enough for a designer to make whatever demands they want of models, and if women want to be models they just have to live with it.  As you note there is a broader issue than just attitudes od designers.

    • AdamC says:

      10:43am | 09/09/11

      Well, can’t they? I mean, do we need some kind of Classification Board-esque government agency to get out the tape measure to ensure models are ‘curvy’ enough to meet ‘community standards’?

      To me, the fact is that tall, skinny women look best in clothes. (This is true of men as well.) They don’t look so good in lingerie or bikinis, of course, so those models tend to be fuller-figured.

      Of course, Australian women as a group are actually bigger than they should be, and certainly bigger than they were a few decades ago. I suspect that most women actually have a fairly accurate idea of their own body size and physical attractiveness. These constant attacks on skinny, aesthetic women and ‘unattainable’ Miranda Kerr et al is pure denial and distraction.

    • Angry Fat Bitch says:

      09:22pm | 09/09/11

      Oh for Pete’s sake… he was talking about her POSE.

      A models job, the thing she is paid to do, is to look good in photos. So she needs to know how to work her body so that she does indeed look good in photos. The wrong pose can make the most beautiful woman look dreadful. Case in point, I recently saw a picture of Marilyn Monroe, and the angle made her thighs look enormous.

      It’s incredibly naive to actively persue a career in an industry where people make money on their appearance, then get upset when someone comments on your appearance.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think the fashion and beauty industries have a lot to answer for. People have built empires by making women feel bad about themselves, and it’s literally killing people. Something does need to be done. But even if we do solve all these problems, the fashion industry of the future will still have models, and those models will need to be able to pose properly.

    • Tim says:

      07:59am | 09/09/11

      Yeah Perrys comments were disgraceful.
      I can see the effects of these attitudes by all the dangerously underweight people I see on my way to work every day. Oh wait….

    • Anna says:

      08:49am | 09/09/11

      Agreed. A lot of people *should* be dissatisfied with their weight. Don’t we have a problem with Australian adults thinking they are of a normal weight when they are actually overweight? Fat, so?  Everyone probably aspires to be a healthy weight, but most people fall well short. Very few people have an undereating disorder, and promoting acceptance of all weights as “beautiful” as a countermeasure just leads to overeating disorders.

    • Condor says:

      08:51am | 09/09/11

      Yeah but they feel really anxious about it.

      And they’re not fat, they’re “curvy”

    • jaki says:

      08:56am | 09/09/11

      Lay off the friggin’ botox Perry. You look gross.

    • Occam's Blunt Razor says:

      09:57am | 09/09/11

      Any excuse to get a picture of Megan up is fine by me.

    • Clare says:

      10:05am | 09/09/11

      Article about eating disorders…anorexia, bulimia. Comment 6, fat bashing. I am so not surprised. One day some men may realise that there is more to great sex than a woman having the body of a 16 year old and having to starve themselves for the rest of their lives just to keep it. This is no sexual revolution, it is imprisonment in an adolescent, immature sexuality.

    • Lauren says:

      03:17pm | 09/09/11

      Don’t know about you ladies, but when I was 16 I was a chubby slob that felt very sorry for herself. Not sexy at all!

      Thank god I got the kick in the arse when I did and got into shape.

    • Casey says:

      10:10am | 09/09/11

      “The idea that if you seek a profile you should take body-slights - and audiences should meekly suck it up - insults us all.”

      This is a misleading article.

      The girl is entering into a world of modelling where people are judged on aesthetics.  If clients aren’t happy with her aesthetic, then she won’t book any work.  It’s not just about weight - it’s about skin, hair, nails, face.  It’s the harsh reality of a model that they will be judged on their physical appearance.  Models are hired for their appearance.

      Alex Perry was quoted as saying that the mentioned girl couldn’t fit a sample size 10 (8 is a standard sample size for modelling).  As they say “If you don’t fit the clothes, you don’t book the shows.”

    • Andrew says:

      10:15am | 09/09/11

      Can someone please tell Alex Perry that wearing glasses on a bald head is not fashionable.

    • neil says:

      10:32am | 09/09/11

      What a beat up.

      Perry didn’t say the girl was too big to model he said that the coffin that the photographer stuffed her in was too small for her to fit.

      What does that have to do with her being a size 8?

    • Cat says:

      03:59pm | 09/09/11

      Yep, a complete beat up. The media coverage has annoyed me because clearly most people making comments do not watch the show.

      In the coffin episode he described her as looking like overstuffed luggage because of the pose and how awkward she looked in the coffin. He also mentioned how great she had looked in swimwear the previous week’s photo.

      In this week’s episode Allisandra did not fit into the size 10 outfit provided for her photoshoot. At judging, Alex asked why there was no full length photo of her and the stylist explained Allisandra did not fit the sample size. Alex said something along the lines of “your body looks great but you have to be able to fit a the sample size or you won’t get work.”

      I think Alex Perry is a bit of a wanker but, to be fair, he never called the girl fat. Not once, ever. In fact he said her body was great.

      Allisandra was clearly upset about being eliminated and wanted to extend her 15 minutes of fame. For her to come out this week and bleat about being a size 8 when clearly the latest episode showed she was larger than a 10 is a bit rich.

    • Daph says:

      10:58am | 09/09/11

      I think there’s something really creepy about a bald, overly botoxed middle aged man in a girdle with a bad fake tan who has made a career out of bitching about and putting down teenaged girls. It would be less cringeworthy and awkward if he was gay but apparently he is straight which just makes it that much more…. wrong.

    • Anna C says:

      11:43am | 09/09/11

      Is anyone still buying that bullshit about him not being gay? Yeah right. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But generally if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it is a duck. You can’t be that bitchy and not be gay ... unless you’re a woman of course.

    • AdamC says:

      12:20pm | 09/09/11

      Maybe he’s one of those gay-acting straights. (Yes, there is such a thing.) He’s certainly very convincing if he is gay-acting.

    • Daph says:

      12:48pm | 09/09/11

      I can just see Alex and his best straight mates Napoleon Perdis and Ian Thorpe head down the pub of a Friday arvo after a long, hard week on the catwalk for a night of beers, footie and a slap on the pokies! LOL!

    • AdamC says:

      02:09pm | 09/09/11

      Daph, hilarious!

    • Nic says:

      11:07am | 09/09/11

      ANOTHER media beat up on this issue!? Wow

      -Judge makes a comment that an amateur model looks stupid when she fails to pose
      -Amatuer model runs to the press in tears, twists words to be about weight (typical girl)
      -Media explodes
      -Time passes, everyone gets embarrassed about having to read so many stories about a non issue.
      -Life moves on
      -Everyone’s forgotten about it
      -An article now comes out, way later… Completely misinterpreting the facts,again, to go off on a pointless tangent, again.

      Obviously fact checking isn’t used but does Punch really just accept anything these days?

    • Jackie says:

      11:18am | 09/09/11

      In the 1st episode of the program one of the judges did critize a girl for being a little to skinny, why has that not been a media issue? There has been so much falava punched into keyboards across the country about the “luggage” comment, its ridiculous.
      & I agree, ditch the sunnies Alex, just weird..

    • Megan says:

      11:20am | 09/09/11

      The girl in question did not fit in a standard size 10 dress, which is the industry standard. Hardly a size 8.

      What is the obsession with “everyone wins a prize” .... there are winners and losers, why cant people just accept that and move on.

    • Shane says:

      12:35pm | 09/09/11

      Are we absolutely certain that he didn’t think the person was a size 20?  I mean after getting that much plastic surgery and botox in order to resemble someone who’s having an allergic reaction to a bee sting, I’d be surprised if he can actually see properly.

      If he can, then I think the concept of trusting a man who wears sunnies on his head everywhere he goes (cue amusing mental visual of bald naked man in shower with sunnies resting on head) is something that should be seriously reconsidered.

    • Rachel says:

      02:23pm | 09/09/11

      Let me sum this up

      1. I’m going to openly admit that Alex Perry’s comment was not directed at the girls weight, but rather her modelling skills, then I’m going to write an article about how Alex Perry is a danger to society.

      2. I’m going to express my anger about Alex Perry making negative comments about someone’s appearance by making negative comments about Alex Perry’s appearance. 

      3. I’m fat and I’m healthy, therefore the obesity crisis doesn’t exist.

      4. People of every size telling everybody else how to live their lives and insisting ‘it’s not that hard’, or that everyone that is different to themselves is unattractive and unhealthy.

      NEXT!

    • malohi says:

      05:00pm | 09/09/11

      I rather like Alex Perry. He seems to be an entertaining, reasonable chap. I can’t stand the glasses though, just like it would offend my eyes seeing a person dress like blossom (remember blossom?).

      Sorry to doublepost, but I see pics of him on buses etc every day, always with the glasses; It carves me inside like a Christmas goose.

    • GB says:

      02:31pm | 09/09/11

      Regardless of whether it happened or not, this show has to be the most mean-spirited piece of tripe masquerading as entertainment I’ve ever seen. If It’s not Perry bitching at or about the girls, it’s the girl’s themselves tearing each other to shreds. But the worst of the lot is that vacuous Kiwi nobody. That woman is insufferable and bitter beyond words.The stuff she and most of the others, Perry in particular, say about these girls when critiquing their week’s work is inexcusable. Most of these girls aren’t even out of their teens for crying out loud. The only one with a shred of humanity and compassion is Sarah Murdoch. And she of all people should know better. It’s a disgusting show. And my wife wonders why I stick the headphones on or leave the room when it comes on.

    • Lauren says:

      03:11pm | 09/09/11

      Stopped reading the article when this came up:

      “Mountains of research attests that “socio-cultural” pressure - ideas picked up from TV, fashion magazines and other media -  is a leading cause of the eating disorder epidemic among young Australians.”

      Bullshit.

      Name one of the “mountain of research” that depicts the media and fashion as the “leading cause” of EDs. Because I am fairly confident that any doctor will tell you these mental disorders are not caused by something as pesky as fashion, but rather they act as more of a trigger to the ED.

    • Max, of Rocky says:

      03:11pm | 09/09/11

      Oh Wendy, surely you can find something better than this to write about ?

    • jim morris says:

      10:26am | 10/09/11

      Where did the expression ‘suck it up’ come from? And why are people using it? It sounds so disgusting.

    • jim morris says:

      10:29am | 10/09/11

      One thing for sure, feminism is made hysteria mainstream and crying almost mandatory.

    • Pavlo says:

      07:24am | 15/01/13

      “Perry took a media beating this week, and with what seemed good cause: Appearing to suggest that a size eight teen was too fat to model.”

      ‘Appearing to suggest’? Well, either he did or he didn’t. Which is it? What kind of journalism is this? Did you check out those pesky little things called ‘facts’?

      As for his sunglasses on his head. So what. It’s his head he can do what he likes with it. It’s his signature even if it looks wanky.

      Bitchiness in the fashion industry and TV shows? It goes with the territory.

 

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