Cara Delevingne's Reason for Leaving Modeling Shows How Toxic Beauty Standards Have Become
Finally, something from a fashion model that "regular" women can relate to.
Cara Delevingne, the British model who conquered the industry by 23, made headlines this week by quitting modeling, declaring in an interview with London's Sunday Times magazine that the modeling industry made not only made her feel "hollow," but also hurt her self-esteem:
"If you hate yourself and your body and the way you look, it just gets worse and worse."
Delevingne explained that modeling made her feel bad about her body, added that she was judged for her psoriasis. The new comments would appear to be simply the culmination for Delevingne after years of modeling experiences (she signed with her first agency at 17) that hurt her body image.
"It's horrible living in a world," she told the Wall Street Journal back in May, in which you're straight-up told "you need to lose weight."And in 2013, when i-D magazine asked her what she was insecure about, she replied, "My body."
The fashion industry making a woman feel bad about her body? Setting unrealistic standards for body size and weight? What Delevingne has experienced up close eerily mirrors the experience so many women, reading the very fashion magazines she poses in, have had from afar.
"If you hate yourself and your body and the way you look, it just gets worse and worse" might as well describe the experience of reading a fashion magazine as any woman who isn't a model.
While we don't exactly need studies to prove it, they exist. One study from the University of Wisconsin found that magazine models can "negatively affect the body image of college-age women ... making some women feel as if they are not thin enough or not as beautiful as models because their bodies are not similar."
Another study, published in 2014 by researchers from Ohio State University, found that that seeing models in magazines prompts women to examine how their bodies are different from those of models — often, that is, how much larger they appear.
Many of us solve that cognitive dissonance, the study showed, by aspiring to look like those models ourselves. That "thinspiration," the authors point out, will almost always end badly when we realize it's nearly impossible to have model bodies (particularly because those bodies are often airbrushed anyway).
Delevingne experienced this unrealistic body standard in the flesh as a model, where the standards for thinness aren't just an implicit ideal but a punishing job requirement.
"I'll get a call from someone saying, 'So-and-so says you were partying a lot and you were looking this way and you need to lose weight,'" she told the Wall Street Journal. "It makes me so angry. If you don't want to hire me, don't hire me."
Now fashion won't have to, as the outspoken model finally bows out of her industry's punishing beauty expectations. But the rest of us are still being served those images, in magazines and on Instagram and billboards, all the time.
If ever there was a moment for the fashion industry to reflect on the messages they send not only to readers, but to the models themselves, this should be it. We hope Delevingne's public exit can be the wakeup call fashion needs — for all of our sakes.