Teenager takes a break to fatten herself up

Role models: Do ultra-thin catwalk girls set a bad example?
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The Independent Online
To teenage girls she may be the epitome of beauty and chic. But this week Jodie Kidd, the painfully thin 17-year-old model, announced she was taking a break from the catwalk amid growing fears for her health.

Ms Kidd's sudden departure from the spotlight, following speculation she is suffering from the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, has fuelled concern that the world's top models are acting as dangerous role models for girls.

Although Johnnie Kidd, Ms Kidd's millionaire father, denied his daughter was anorexic, he said she now realised how much influence she wielded. She is travelling to Barbados to stay with her mother, where she hopes to "fatten herself up".

"It never really occurred to her before, but in the last three weeks where everyone has been talking about eating disorders she has really had to think again," Mr Kidd said. "She realises now that she has to set a better example."

The most recent images of Ms Kidd, who is 6ft 1in and reportedly under nine stone in weight, showed her looking gaunt and emaciated. Onlookers were so shocked by her appearance she withdrew from the New York shows last week.

Experts are worried that young girls' anxieties about weight are made worse by the bombardment of glossy images of unnaturally thin women.

Dr John Morgan, who works with the most severe cases of anorexia at St George's hospital, in south London, said they presented an impossible ideal. "I see patients who are being urged by their boyfriends to slim for perfect androgynous figures based on these images, but they are unnatural and unobtainable," he said.

"As I flick through pages of Vogue there are vast numbers of models who are at a weight where they can't possibly be having periods, and are most likely anorexic."

Their concern has prompted teenage magazines to introduce policies of avoiding thin models for fashion shoots. Among publications that use more natural looking women are Sugar and More, the most popular, which has a circulation of 450,000.

"We always want models to look like real girls and we just wouldn't use thin girls because we know it affects readers a lot," said Melanie Gluyas, deputy fashion editor of More. "When we saw the pictures of Jodie we were horrified."

The influence models have over teenage girls has fallen under increased scrutiny in the past year. A recent Calvin Klein advertisement that showed Kate Moss, the British supermodel known as the Super Waif, looking childishly thin, came under fierce attack.

Among those who have taken action is the Advertising Standards Authority, which introduced new regulations in January to prevent imagery that might promote being thin as desirable. "The supermodels are everywhere and they are certainly role models for young girls, who seem to be increasingly vulnerable to slimming diseases," said Bill Lennon, ASA spokesman. "These rules are an attempt to protect them."

However, the fashion industry is reluctant to take responsibility. Jonathan Phang, Ms Kidd's agent, said models should not be criticised for their figures.

"Models have always been thin, and Jodie is naturally a very thin girl," he said. "She does eat a lot. She loves bacon sandwiches, McDonald's, Mars Bars, spaghetti. She eats like any normal teenager."