Dutch model Kim Noorda kept a diary for Vogue’s “shape” issue about her struggles with food and body image from January 2009 to January 2010. When she began, she was, at five-feet-ten-inches tall, 110 pounds. Under the charge of Vogue’s Sally Singer, Noorda goes to a clinic to receive treatment for disordered eating. She wrote last January:
The intake meeting with the nutritionist [at Renfrew] took place today. She weighed me, calculated my BMI, and made a weight-gaining plan for the four weeks: one pound per week. This is standard procedure for the center for everyone who weighs less than 90 percent of ideal body weight. I did not like that at all. I told her I would try to agree to that because my agents have also told me that they would like me to gain an extra five pounds. She told me that five pounds is not that much, and probably no one would even see it. I told her that people in the fashion industry see every gram of fat. …
Now 22, Kim had struggled with her weight for years:
I was fifteen when I started, and by the time I was eighteen I did my first catwalk shows. I struggled to prevent gaining weight, whereas already I was considered to be a “heavy” model compared with the others. My agent told me I was beautiful as I was, but I had to make sure that I would not gain more. She encouraged me to lose at least some of my weight. I was ashamed that I had to diet. At home I was thinner than everybody else, but compared with other models, I was heavier.
Every bit of Kim’s journal shows how hard it is to be in an industry, especially as an adolescent, where people criticize your appearance all day every day because all that matters is what you look like. After spending some time at the clinic, Kim hit the show circuit again:
Not a single person has told me that I have gained weight since the start of the shows. Not during the castings, and not even my European agent has said anything. Everything fit. This confused me, because I thought people could see every gram. Then again, no one has said that I look good, either, or commented on my appearance otherwise. When I started looking at pictures from the first show, there were still some things I disliked. My legs and cheeks have become fatter. I really need to do something about that. Exercises. On the Internet there are no positive reactions to how I looked…
Kim’s journal suggests she had a very poor sense of self and seemed to define herself almost entirely by how much she weighed. Yet she longed for a sense of normalcy and things that come with it, like her period. After she gains more weight, she writes:
I avoid scales and mirrors. Only my jeans make me aware of my weight gain. My skin is getting worse; I don’t have my period (except that one time during the shows); I don’t fit into nice clothes, don’t sleep well. So what is good about it? I speak about weight with my older sister and the therapist as well. They both ask me what I think is a healthy weight for me, and why. I say I think 57 kilos (125 pounds) is good and that I had been that for a while, eating normally, and was not gaining any more. I am hoping to get my period again at this weight, and I do eventually and have ever since. .
Even though she continued with therapy after she left the clinic, she still worried constantly about her weight. In the fall she wrote:
In New York I want to be enthusiastic about the shows, but I can’t seem to: I keep being unsure about my weight. By the end of it I want to go home. Skip London. But my agents advise me to go there. Then I let go again and just do my best. Milan, surprisingly, is a lot of fun. The shows do not go great, and people definitely made me feel I was too big, but outside of that I have a really good time. Go to La Scala, joke with the driver. At work I am very sensitive, and when at Bottega I am offered the choice at seven in the morning to bleach my eyebrows or leave, I just want to go. I am crying: What am I doing?
In her final entry, she writes that she feels more balanced and that, though she’s less fixated on her weight, she still thinks about it. Should we be surprised that her story, in all its harrowing detail, is appearing in Vogue? A magazine that employs so many super-thin models who probably struggle with the same food and weight issues as Noorda? No. Because it provides Vogue with an opportunity to plug the CFDA Health Initiative. Sally Singer writes in her intro that Noorda was chosen to receive help from Vogue and the clinic as part of this program, which “was founded in 2007 to combat anorexia and bulimia in the industry, to provide information and resources to models in the throes of these diseases, and, more generally, to change the aesthetic on the New York runways from extreme skinniness to a more realistic, fit ideal.” Though we saw a bit more flesh on the runways in a handful of fall 2010 shows, not much has changed since 2007. And even Singer tells Kim that after gaining weight, she shouldn’t feel bad about not fitting into the Balenciaga pants she wore at 110 pounds.
More and Less [Vogue]