To evidence that being thin, as thin as the portrayals of women in fashion and beauty advertisements I felt obliged to introduce the tragic and haunting Isabella Caro. Firstly, I want to urge my readers that I don’t think anorexia or bulimia is a conscious choice or decision. I propose that these diseases are like an activity, a commitment, which becomes naturalized over time and gives sufferers the impression that these acts and habits are ‘normal’. Being dangerously thin is a construction for the majority and can lead to dangerous places.
In 2007, a single picture on a billboard shook Milan’s Fashion Week and the world alike. In the billboard, French model and actress Isabelle Caro posed naked. However, this particular advertisement was lacking all the ‘normal’ enticing traits we associate with such sexually driven and beautiful images. Instead, what lay before us, staring desperately back at us, was a gaunt face and emaciated body: a frail, ill woman who had been ravaged by anorexia for the majority of her life. The billboard was meant to bring attention to the problems of eating disorders in an attempt to end it. Caro had appeared in numerous documentaries and interviews worldwide publicising her plight. Her hope was to make more people aware of eating disorders and their life changing effects.
Caro was photographed by famous Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani and was published by Italian clothing company Nolita. The advertisement fuelled a deep and fierce debate globally; the image itself went viral and stirred much controversy both negative and positive. Some thought that the image, however shocking, could encourage young girls who had eating disorders as opposed to discourage. Caro had set an even higher and more inconceivable standard, which could trigger a, “If she can do it, I can” motif. As Susan Ringwood, chief executive of eating disorders charity Beat suggests, “Most seriously, these images we find so shocking, don’t shock someone with an eating disorder. They excite, encourage and motivate them to get as thin, if not thinner than the person depicted.” Meanwhile, others wondered if the image was created merely for sensation, a shocking public stunt.
Regardless, Caro seemed completely pure in her intentions, wanting only to highlight the seriousness of eating disorders in the hope to make a change, “My anorexia causes death,” she said in an interview in 2007. “It is everything but beauty, the complete opposite. It is an unvarnished photo, without make-up. The message is clear – I have psoriasis, a pigeon chest, the body of an elderly person.”
Wolf wonders what our society-America in particular-would be like if this illness affected men as much as it does women. What would happen if men could no longer fulfil their dreams and ambitions career wise and were dying slow, quiet deaths? The government and society alike (we assume) would be shocked into action. Yet, this is happening right now but with a gender difference: 95% of anorexia sufferers are women and yet this issue if often left to be sorted behind closed doors, with parents, partners and teachers alike at a loss of what to do.
Felice Fawn is a British blogger, photographer and model; famed for her gothic style, sublime beauty and slender figure. Her entire persona revels in beauty, mystique and tragedy. Fawn, similarly to Caro, has suffered with anorexia for the majority of her life and her story has been a source of fixation to Internet browsers. She too, despite her terrible condition was forced to deal with her eating disorders alone as she stated in her own words,
“I was told that my BMI was now 15.4, I was malnourished, and that I was developing a serious case of atrophy, but that I was to go away and eat a minimum of 1,500 calories a day. Heartbroken, humiliated and feeling unworthy of help, I returned home, closed the curtains, crawled into bed and refused to eat for a period of 13 days. Eventually my partner, not knowing what else to do, called my father and told him everything. I was encouraged to return to my doctor, where they decided to put me on a waiting list for professional treatment, but I was told this could take anywhere between 5 and 9 months”.
The prospect of having to wait 5-9 months to seek the much needed help for me is utterly ridiculous and shows how despite anorexia being a commonplace thing, we must not forget its sense of urgency and fatality. With Wolf’s suggestion in mind, I wonder would this illness be treated differently if it affected more men?
Caro died aged just 28 in December 2010. At the time if her death, Caro was still modelling and her image plastered on the Italian billboard in 2007 will remain.
The Independent ( 31 December 2010) Isabelle Caro, the face of anorexia, dies at 28 [online] available from<http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/isabelle-caro-the-face-of-anorexia-dies-at-28-2172590.html>[28 February 2014]
Daily Mail (30 December 2010) Anorexic model who appeared in shock fashion campaign dies at 28 [online] available from<http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1342580/Anorexic-model-Isabelle-Caro-appeared-shock-fashion-campaign-dies-28.html>[28 February 2014]
BBC News (29 December 2010) ‘No Anorexia’ model Isabelle Caro dies aged 28 [online] available from<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12091475>[28 February 2014]
Felice Fawn (n.d) Felice Fawn [online] available from<http://www.felicefawn.com/>[28 February 2014]