• Emilee Leis


Alright, so over the last week some controversy surrounding Vancouver Fashion Week has come up. To sum it up, VFW posted a photo for a model casting on their Instagram. The measurements that they were asking for were this: 5'5" to 5'8", with a chest between 29"-31", waist between 20"-22" and hips between 30"-32".

I'm just going to start with this. I've been struggling with an eating disorder for about 3 years now. I am now in recovery. MY (way too small, unhealthy) measurements are 34-25-34. According to this casting information, I am 3" too big in my chest, 3" too big in my waist, and 2" too big in my hips. WHAT. I have a tiny waist. I actually don't think it could get smaller without taking organs out. Or a rib. Side story - a fellow model that I was at a casting with was actually told she was to take out a rib medically in order to get down to a certain waist size. Thankfully we could laugh it off, but I can't help think about the impact that comment had on that model.

Do they want 10-year-old boys walking down the runway portraying adult women? How do they expect someone with those measurements to even have the strength to walk with passion, attitude, or even a clear mind? I know at my lowest weight, I could never put on heels and walk with my head up in a straight line without falling over.

The internet and the fashion community obviously blew up over this. Initially, VFW responded back saying they posted this because a specific designer had requested those sizes. VFW also claims to have measurement standards and they claim that they are bigger than these sizes. Now VFW has complete authority to choose WHO they want to be featured in their show. So my question is... WHY did they agree to let this designer be featured in VFW? If it goes against their values (like they say), why was it posted in the first place? Why didn't they tell that designer to go fuck themselves? That's what I would have done. (If anyone has these answers, please let me know. I'd love to hear them)

VFW claims to be body positive. I don't think any Fashion Week, agency or really anyone in the modelling industry can claim to be truly body positive. Body positivity is about accepting your body at ANY size, shape, weight, etc. Modelling says, you can love your body, but only if you look a certain way (their way). If you don't look their way, you are nothing. You are unworthy. The modelling industry indirectly tells young girls that they will never be worth anything, they will never be successful if they do not look like a coat hanger. It's sad because 99% of girls naturally will not have those measurements, but they think its feasible because "it's just how the industry is" or because usually they have an adult telling them that it is okay and it is safe to get down to these measurements. These same people exploiting and profiting off of these sick young girls.

VFW reposted a casting call for New York Fashion Week. The measurements posted on this casting were the usual 34-24-24. BIGGER THAN WHAT VFW REQUESTED. Oh, and not to mention, models in NYFW actually get paid for their hard work and perseverance. VFW doesn't paid their talent. The founder profits off of it, and the bills get paid, but thats all they need to keep going.

As a Canadian company in the modelling industry, and with the following that VFW has grown over the last few years, they have the opportunity to DO SOMETHING about the industry. Why are the conforming? Why are they sacrificing models health and happiness for a dress that can definitely be re-sewn to a bigger size? My message to designers - are you kidding me? It starts with you. Do better. Be better. Be the change if you actually care. Whenever I see a designer defending these measurements, I could scream at them for hours. YOU are the problem. FIX IT.

The thing that makes me the most upset about this, is all the young girls who saw this casting info and flipped out because they are likely nowhere near that size. VFW is in 5 weeks, and I don't even want to think about what some girls are doing to get down to that size in time. The damage has been done and unfortunately a (shitty) apology can't reverse this. We all know about the scary diets that some supermodels and VS models do before a show. These scary diets are turning into a desirable lifestyle, and thats the biggest problem I can imagine. How long are we going to let this continue? How many girls have to die? Morbid, but factual. Over 10% of people that are diagnosed with an eating disorder WILL die within 10 years of being diagnosed. Considering most eating disorders now start by the age of 10, those victims will be dead by age 20. Their lives haven't even STARTED yet.

Things like this make me want to grab every single model that I know and just hug them all really tight and tell them that I love them. It makes my heart actually HURT because I know the feelings that they are likely feeling, and honestly I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy. Models, I'm here for you.

This whole controversy has brought up some feelings for me as well. I remember being terrified of getting measured. Feet together, arms out, SUCK IT IN!!! And pray that you get the OK. I rarely got the OK. I was always too big. ALWAYS. I remember when I went on my second trip to Milan, got to the agency for measurements and it was the first time I didn't get any comments. I was so happy, and I felt so accomplished. I was starving. I remember calling my mom SO excited saying "They didn't say I was fat!!!!!! Maybe this is actually going to be good!!!". They didn't say it to me, but they said it to my agent. She told me. I was devastated. I wasn't quite fully into disordered eating at this time, and I definitely enjoyed the Italian food, which was a big no-no. I got home and I was bigger than when I left, and so much shame and regret set in. I blew it. I wasn't small enough and I travelled for 2 days across the world to make my dreams come true and I wasn't even ready. Self shame. Perfectionism. All things that came from the modelling industry for me. Cue eating disorder (obviously there are a lot other contributing factors, too).

I have so much to say about this, I can't keep quiet. This whole thing is so sick to me, the original posting, the defending, the awful, empty apology by VFW, and just the industry in general. Being in the place I am with my health, I'm lucky, that post definitely would have sent me into an ED spiral a year ago. But like I said above - how many lives did VFW just claim? How many girls will starve because of them? How many will develop an illness that will essentially take away all of their happiness, love, and belonging. THAT IS THE ISSUE, VFW. Please for the love of God. DO BETTER.

**Just want to point out that obviously this is a very angry post. I'm not trying to belittle any model that may have these measurements, or any agencies that DO promote healthy lifestyles and a positive body image. The measurements in the casting call are not the only thing wrong with VFW in my opinion, either. There is a few big reasons I haven't been back in years. I am worth more than no food (sorry, lettuce), no pay, no compensation for travel, no accommodations, no guarantee to walk, no respect, no compassion, no kindness. And guess what? Every model is worth more than that too. #BoycottVFW

Please go see the apology at @vancouverfashionweek on Instagram, and read the great article by Vancouver Magazine @ http://vanmag.com/style/was-vancouver-fashion-week-serious-with-that-model-casting/

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