Model Ali Michael was on the Today show this morning, talking about her experience at the Paris shows this past February, where she was told that her legs were too fat for the runways. This was a girl who, mind you, just last year opened Lanvin and walked Lagerfeld, Lacroix, Chanel, Galliano, Dior … you get the idea. So what happened? You know the story. As Ali explained it, when she was discovered in Texas, she was five-foot-nine and 130 pounds. Her agent told her to tone up a bit, and she eventually got down to 102 pounds. Sometime during this 28-pound drop, she found major runway success, but she described a wake-up call:
I was on a plane from Paris to Texas, and I ran my fingers through my hair, and when I took my hand away there was a dry brittle clump of hair in my hand. And that’s kind of when I realized that this wasn’t worth it anymore, and it had completely taken over.
But it’s not like Ali was the only one with issues. She explained that plenty of models similarly suffer. When Ann Curry asked if other models were sick, Ali’s answer didn’t leave a lot of room for interpretation:
Absolutely. I remember one instance when I was backstage at a show in Paris, and I was sitting in a group of four girls. I had mentioned to them that I hadn’t had a period in over a year, and one by one all of them said, “Oh, me too.”
After working with a doctor and nutritionist, Ali got a bit healthier and returned to Paris in February, still fit to model, but only Yohji Yamamoto cast her. But looking at Ali on television this morning, she didn’t seem to mind the damage to her runway career: “It has to change. The fashion industry affects everyone.”
Sitting with Ali was Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Amy Astley (Ali’s story runs in the June/July issue), and she was pretty clear about placing blame for the problem: “It’s the designers.” Sigh. Like resort season is the best time to tackle this issue. —Jessica Coen