California Bill Looks To Ban Anorexic Models

By McCarton Ackerman 02/29/16

The controversial bill is modeled after similar policies that have already been approved in Italy, Spain and France.

California Bill Looks To Ban Anorexic Models
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As they say on Project Runway, “One day you’re in, the next day you’re out.” The underweight appearance of many fashion models could soon be getting the boot in California if a new bill is passed in the California Assembly.

AB 2539, sponsored by Assemblyman Marc Levine, would ban underweight models in the state. The bill proposes that all models would be required to have a physician certify that they don’t suffer from an eating disorder, as well as receive nutritional counseling and medical checkups. Modeling agencies would then be required to keep these certificates on file or face a fine.

"When you look at the look that models are supposed to attain, it's actually completely unattainable, to look like a model and be healthy," said Levine.

The gaunt appearance of many runway models promotes a negative message to youth and ultimately encourages eating disorders, said the assemblyman. However, the bill would not create a specific body mass for models to adhere to. Instead, he would defer to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board and Department of Public Health as they team up with local medical experts to create health guidelines for models in the state.

“This is a societal problem as unhealthy models have become role models for young people. As California often leads the nation and the world, this bill will help assure that our children will see healthy images on magazines and fashion websites,” Levine said in a statement.

Several people in the industry have voiced their support of the bill, including former fashion model Nikki DuBose, who has appeared in MaximELLE and Vanity Fair. DuBose developed anorexia in 2011 after finding it difficult to get work because of her naturally curvy body. She is now in recovery and is a regular writer for the National Eating Disorders Association. “Eating disorders run rampant in the fashion industry in great part because models do not have support, protection, and proper access to health care,” she said in a statement.

Levine's bill is modeled after similar legislation approved in Italy, Spain and France. Last April, France outright banned ultra-thin models. Olivier Veran, a French lawmaker and a doctor, proposed the amendments to the country’s health bill. French modeling agencies must now provide medical proof that any models they use “have maintained a healthy mass-to-height ratio.” Any agency discovered using a model with a body mass index (BMI) under 18—roughly 121 pounds for a 5’7” model—could face up to six months of jail time and a fine of 75,000 euros ($82,000).

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.