Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Professionally Thin: A Fashion Tell-All

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised by stories like these, yet reading former Mademoiselle editor Valerie Frankel's account of professional life at a Condé Nast fashion magazine disgusted me in any case:
"There was tremendous pressure to look the part, or, as hires were told by the human resources staff, to represent the magazine in our personal appearance. Our work ethic: Get thin or die trying."

To live up to those standards, "Self-starvation was a competitive sport. At staff lunches, the girl who ate the least won," Frankel writes. "During downtime, we'd sit in our offices smoking cigarette after cigarette (to quell hunger) and talking about who ate what, the calorie counts of our lunches, the latest dieting trends, who on the staff looked heavy."

Sure, I know that I'm doubly naive here - naive not to expect editors of a fashion magazine to have unhealthy body attitudes and naive to repeat Frankel's account when we all know she's in the process of selling her tell-all book and might be inclined to some dramatization. Yet, it does seem telling that the spokeswoman for Condé Nast (the publishing giant which published Mademoiselle and which still produces Vogue and Glamour) responded, "I'm sure her memories are her memories, but as to whether any of that was policy, I have no comment."

No comment on a policy promoting eating disorders, huh? Now that's a pretty chilling statement.


ShamelessFeminist said...

I agree, it is disturbing that they refused to comment about eating disorders. It's also disturbing that Frankel's account indirectly perpetuates the idea that smoking is the easy way to weight loss, especially since smoking-related diseases kill so many women each year.

The fashion industry never fails to periodically disgust me!

frau sally benz said...

Wow... I was disturbed enough by what she was describing, but the "no comment" on whether it's a policy is even worse! They must be scared that others will start coming out with their own stories if they deny it too harshly.

Habladora said...

Yeah, Frankel's story does include some really scary ideas on what promotes weight loss - she goes on to explain that she did coke to help her stay thin. Again, not a healthy decision.

I have to agree with Sally, though, that the part of the story that most directly points to a wide-spread culture of eating disorders within the industry is the publisher's 'no comment' on the assertion that extreme dieting were corporate policy and that a lack of compliance could have gotten employees fired.