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How Skinny Do Models Need to Be: Slim vs Sick

The Ideal Model Weight

First of all, there is no ideal weight. It depends on your height, your bone structure, the market you are working in, the type of modeling you are doing, and trends. Regardless of all that, your measurements are more crucial than pounds on a scale and being realistic about what size you are or can be is also crucial.

five thin models in bikinis

Photo – Luxuo on France Banning Ultra-Thin Models

Do Models Have to Starve to Be Successful?

No, unless your body’s natural size is not conducive to fashion industry standards. Most bodies have a set point, below which keeping weight off is difficult. For me, at 5’10”, that’s 127. Even at that weight, people outside the modeling business would chide, “Oh, you’re so thin!” They said it even when I was five or more pounds above that and easily within a healthy weight range for my height and body type. I think it’s an automatic reaction to anyone who is a model, and to the majority of models who are naturally slim or approach weight maintenance in a healthy, moderate manner, it’s really annoying. Whether accusing someone of being overweight or underweight, body shaming is not nice, so be careful. There is sickly thin and then there is genetically thin (even extremely thin), so sensitivity in your comments—including on social media—shows human decency.

Then again, there are models who subsist on lemon wedges, coffee, and cigarettes, and they give us all a bad name. I only encountered one admitted bulimic, but I always felt like non-fashion people were timing my trips to the bathroom and wondering whether I was upchucking the sizable meal I had just eaten. I wasn’t. Most models in my era weren’t either. If you think someone is, then that is the time when a caring heart to heart or intervention is in order. We can only hope that agents and clients act as part of the solution on this front, not part of the problem. (Former Vogue Editor: The Truth About Size Zero.)

Kate Moss-inhaling cigarette

Kate Moss admitted she followed a coffee and cigarette diet and conceded it ruins your skin. Photo: Anthony Devlin

Thin Is In… Usually

In this century, the industry has periodically leaned toward an even thinner norm, ushered in by the Heroin Chic phase in the late 90s. Lately there has been more movement toward including—even revering—more shapely models. But you have to face the fact that most models will need to maintain the measurements that are required to fit into the clothes clients use for shoots and shows.

Ideal Model Measurements

For women, the “perfect” measurements are somewhere around: 34-24-34. If your waist is a couple inches bigger (mine always was) and you can suck it in, OK. If your waist is smaller, lucky you. If your hips are 36, it’s not a deal killer. If your chest is 32, that’s fine. (Read my post: How Modeling Agents Take Models Measurements.) But if you are way outside of this ideal and can’t approach it without being unhealthy, the modeling industry may not be for you. At least not in front of the camera. There are plenty of fascinating roles behind the scenes, with way more longevity than a fleeting modeling career.


Patrick Demarchelier cover collage. Read about Patrick Demarchelier’s Photography Career here.

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