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Models Are Still Pressured To Be Ultra-Thin, Survey Says


You may have noticed curvier bodies are slowly making their way onto billboards and fashion magazines.


And yet a new survey finds most models are still pressured to be ultrathin, and this pressure can trickle down to young girls. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports.

PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: At just 16, Brittany Mason moved to New York City to model. She was a quick success, but she wasn't prepared for the constant pressure to lose weight, often along with shame.

BRITTANY MASON: I've literally had an agent cuss me out and scream at me and say that my - he used a different word - but said that my fat butt was too fat - I was too fat to ever make it in the industry.

NEIGHMOND: Mason says every slender model she knows has also been told to lose even more weight. Psychologist Rachel Rodgers with Northeastern University recently surveyed models. Many said they were not only told to lose weight but were threatened if they didn't.

RACHEL RODGERS: Over half of them, 54 percent, had been told to lose weight. And otherwise, they would not be able to find any more jobs.

NEIGHMOND: And Rodgers says this results in unhealthy, dangerous behavior.

RODGERS: So they were more likely to be reporting skipping meals or engaging in self-induced vomiting, using diet pills.

NEIGHMOND: These extreme weight-loss behaviors can influence young girls who often view images of ultrathin models with envy. The National Eating Disorders Association says nonstop access to social media has made unattainable body images ubiquitous, which is why model Brittany Mason says the industry needs to change.

MASON: Young girls look at these magazines, and that's how I dreamt of being a model. I would look - flip through the magazines when I was a very young girl. And I wanted to be that girl.

NEIGHMOND: Mason still models now but also advocates for more realistic body types in fashion. Some European countries set standards for models' health and weight. The U.S. does not.

Patti Neighmond, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF AUGUSTA FALLS' "MELODIUM") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Award-winning journalist Patti Neighmond is NPR's health policy correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.