At the age of 21 years old, Australian model Rosie Nelson made headlines last year, after being told she needed to lose more weight (despite weighing 8 stone at the time) by a UK leading modelling agency. She soon decided to take action against the treatment of models by starting a campaign for the UK to pass a law in order to protect models from being dangerously skinny. We were able to talk with Rosie and hear her views on the UK possibly adopting such legislation.
TFLC: Having been approached by one of the UK's leading modelling agencies, being told you ticked every box for them but that you needed to lose weight must have been a shock to you. What was your initial reaction? In your modelling career up until that point, was this something you had experienced before?
Rosie: My initial reaction to being asked to lose weight was acceptance. I knew at the time that I was above the ‘usual' model measurements of 35” hips, so I was expecting to be asked to lose some weight. But after I had lost weight and they continued to ask me to lose more, the only way I could feel about it was shocked and upset.
TFLC: As a result of your experience, you started a petition for the UK to pass legislation to protect the health of models. It is shocking that the UK - one of the world's fashion capitals, do not have any legislation when it comes to the health of models. Why do you think this is? And have there been any changes in the UK fashion industry since starting the petition?
Rosie: The fashion industry has been the same way for years and years, therefore the designers and agencies think they can continue to get away with encouraging girls to be thinner and not being concerned with the repercussions.
TFLC: Considering the criticism of France using BMI (Body Mass Index) as a measure of regulation, how do you feel model health could be more effectively regulated if a UK Model Health Law was to be passed?
Rosie: I think the best way to judge someone's health is by seeing a doctor. Just like in other physical jobs - employees need to pass a health test and be deemed physically fit for the job, modelling should be no different. In modelling you are often standing and changing outfits without a break or a chance to sit down for up to 5-6 hours at a time (sometimes more), the work can be physically draining.
TFLC: Do you think the problem with model health is more of an internal industry problem, or rather, an external problem with those trying to get into the modelling industry? If it's the latter, how do you feel a Model Health Law would have an impact?
Rosie: I think the problem is both internal and external. A lot of models I meet wish they didn’t have to diet so heavily to keep within the industry's standard measurements to model. If a Model Health Law was introduced, and had a big enough impact, models would be healthier and happier at work, and young women wouldn’t strive to be incredibly thin when considering a career in modelling.
TFLC: What further legislation would you like to see incorporated into UK law to protect models within the UK?
Rosie: I would love for it to be mandatory for modelling agencies to provide their models with healthy diet plans, gym memberships (or at least a discount), more nutritional information and for the model agents to be trained in teaching young girls and boys about body image. It isn’t difficult to know that telling someone to lose weight “down to the bone” is not only damaging but is unnecessary too. Model agents should be more proactive when it comes to health and well being.
TFLC: As a model, do you think that there are enough resources (i.e. information, lawyers) readily available to assist models during their modelling careers? If not, how do you think this can change?
Rosie: I think there is quite a lot available for models, but no one tells you where to find these resources. Your modelling agency doesn’t always provide you with all the information necessary to start your career, and you're often left to fend for yourself.
When you begin modelling, your agency might inform you on a few things such as how to be respectable at a photo-shoot or how to walk better for a show, but during my 5 year career as a model I was never taught about nutrition or personal well-being or where to turn for help if I was mistreated by a client or an agent.
To find out more about Rosie and how you can support her campaign, visit Change.org