As much as Hollywood, the media and advertisers like to think we are attracted to stick-thin models who are airbrushed and photoshopped to a “perfection” that doesn’t even resemble reality, we don’t. That’s why natural models are so awesome. They represent more of the true woman today, and we love their true bodies. It seems they would too. But, that’s not always the case.
We were actually pretty surprised to find out that these models struggle with body acceptance too–even though they are the ones who are encouraging us to accept our own “real” bodies.
To find out more about why this happens, we talked with Katie Halchishick, founder of Natural Model Management, who among other things, says we need to get real and quit “bullshitting about always loving our bodies.”
What exactly is the “natural body movement” and how is this important for women today?
This movement is important because as a culture we are teaching women that in order to be valued you have to look a specific way that is not natural for a woman’s body, that is why the modeling industry uses 11-18 year old girls as fashion models. By showing more models who are equally as beautiful, but with a more natural shape, will helps girls to realize that there is not something wrong with their bodies and having a womanly feminine shape is a good thing.
Why not just have modeling agencies that include ALL body types versus one specifically dedicated to “natural” sizes?
Well our agency takes models who are a size 6-16 because that is a more realistic size range for women, especially women who are over 5’9″. We have nothing against models who are sizes 0-4 if that is a natural size for them, but at the same time there are a 1,000 agencies out there for those girls who specialize in that look, so it isn’t something we are interested in. Even if a model is 5’11” and a size 0-2 naturally, I still don’t think that is a positive image to market to girls and women because it is so extremely rare for that to be healthy.
Do natural models still struggle with body image, like other models do? How so?
Every model, every girl, and every woman struggles no matter who you are. So yes, and I think our girls have to work really hard to change their way of thinking. We get a lot of models who were straight size models and struggled with eating disorders and now they are a healthy weight but they have to fight the mentality that they were taught in the industry at a young age: “Smaller is Better” and that is how you will be the most successful. We also have girls who are a normal healthy size and were never small or every knew they could model, so telling them they are beautiful and perfect for plus size modeling when they are not plus size can do a little number on the psyche. It is not easy to be judged on your looks and that is what this industry is about.
Without naming names, can you provide some examples?
We can name names, we want to be honest about our struggles because we are humans too. Pro surfer Bo Stanley who you did a feature on recently really didn’t like the photo that was picked because she didn’t feel it made her look as athletic as she is in real life. A sponsor told Bo that she was too big to model and too big to get full sponsorship for surfing at a size 10. Any person who has been told negative things about how they look tends to be hyper-sensitive about specific things that have been criticized. After being told one thing for so long, it’s hard to break that thought process, and in this instance, Bo was fearful of having her body be judged harshly like it has been in the past.
We are not here to tell girls “life is great and you will never feel bad, just have confidence!” That is not realistic. I am not perfect and our models are not perfect. We all believe in this message and we work really hard to better ourselves and challenge the way we think and feel about our bodies, BUT yeah, there are days we feel like fat asses! What we are learning to do is decipher how we are feeling from how we look.
We live in an environment that is toxic for women and body image and we need a support system that calls us on our moments of negativity and helps to bring some perspective. After speaking with Bo about the photo she hated she realized that she let a picture take away her hard work in the gym, her surfing ability, her beauty, her healthy message, and all the positivity of having a feature written about her was shadowed by a larger amount of negativity because of a photo? How sad is that? … I am guilty too, I will get mad that I don’t lose a single pound after working out hard for a few weeks and eating really good healthy foods and my Fiance will say “Healthy is the new Skinny!” and I just have to laugh and think “damn you…you are right!”
You would think that natural models are more comfortable with their bodies and their size, but it seems that that’s not always the case?