There’s still a lot of work to do when it comes to body-shaming in the modeling industry, and you don’t have to look much further than the articulate, angry open letter that British model Charli Howard penned recently. In the letter, Howard accuses her (unnamed) agency of calling her “too big” and “out of shape" to make it in fashion, despite being 5’8” and fitting into a U.K. size 6 or 8 (the equivalent of a U.S. size 2 or 4). Howard writes: I refuse to feel ashamed and upset on a daily basis for not meeting your ridiculous, unobtainable beauty standards…The more you force [models] to lose weight and be small, the more designers have to make clothes to fit our sizes, and the more young girls are being made ill. It's no longer an image I choose to represent. The 23-year-old has been modeling for six years and has pointed out her passion for the industry, despite her serious qualms about its body image M.O. “Ironically, I do love modelling — the people I've met, the places I've visited — and I am proud of the jobs I've done," she explains. "I will continue to do it, but only on my terms…Until (and if) an agency wishes to represent me for myself, my body & the WOMAN I've become, give me a call,” Howard writes.
Howard's decision to write the open letter was "out of frustration," she told Dazed. She also penned the piece after recognizing the anxiety- and stress-induced symptoms that result from being a model: "Supermodels like Cara began coming forward to speak of the pressures they’d faced while modelling and how they were ill-treated," Howard told Dazed. "That certainly encouraged me to speak up. Like Cara’s psoriasis, my anxiety and stress led to my break-outs." If Howard's story gives you a bit of déjà vu, it’s because some very similar scenarios have cropped up recently. A few weeks ago, model Rosie Nelson started a petition on Change.org about being pressured by her modeling agency to lose excessive amounts of weight and get "down to the bone." Nelson’s petition nabbed the attention of Caroline Nokes, chairwoman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image, and an investigation of model health standards was launched as a result. Additionally, Gigi Hadid recently posted an eloquent open letter on Instagram and Twitter addressing fat-shaming — not by her agency, but by assorted random (and often anonymous) haters online. It’s troubling to see aggressive demands for thinness in an industry where being skinny is already prevalent — a job requirement, even. How many open letters and petitions will it take for these nearly impossible expectations to change?