Brand new laws banning super-skinny models in France came into effect this week.
The laws state ultra-thin models will now need a doctor’s certificate confirming they are healthy, and any picture that slims down a person using photo-editing software needs to be labeled “touched-up.”
The laws are aimed at stopping anorexia, which affects an estimated 40,000 people in France.
“Any [law] that takes into the wellbeing of its workers is a good thing,” Dr. Alan Kaplan, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, said.
But he’s not sure how much impact the law will have on how modelling agencies in the country operate.
“Let’s be straight,” he said in a phone interview. “Anybody can get a doctor to write anything, especially something like that. So I’m not sure that’s going to have much of an impact.”
But Kaplan said it’s a step in the right direction, because laws like this help raise awareness about the problems models face in the industry.
“Whether it will lead modelling agencies to change their hiring practices, is another story. And that’s what we want. We want modelling agencies to stop hiring people that are at risk or have an eating disorder.”
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Modelling laws around the world
The new laws in France follow similar laws in Israel, Italy and Spain. Canada doesn’t have any such regulations but Kaplan believes there is a role for our government to play regarding this issue.
“All of Western societies have a role to play in raising awareness on how deadly [eating disorders] are, especially anorexia,” Kaplan said.
“We have a responsibility … to provide an environment [for models] that’s protective instead of punitive.”
Next Canada, a modelling agency which scouts for models in Canada and manages them internationally, requires minors to have a doctor’s note before it allows a child to model, but that’s not required if you’re over 18. Child models have similar requirements in New York.
In Canada, there are no statistics for how many people are affected by anorexia or other eating disorders, but using relevant statistics from the United States, Kaplan, who is also a Senior Scientist at the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, estimates eating disorders affect around 600,000 women aged 18-45 in Canada today.
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‘Not an issue’ in Canada
Officials at Next Canada said Canada’s modelling industry is different.
Since Canadian models are “home grown” in Canada instead of brought in from foreign countries, Next Agency Director Lorraine Hartnett said you “don’t see [Canadian models] in the news with these issues. It’s a different environment, more nurturing.”
But she believes the laws in France are necessary.
“Those markets, I totally believe they should have laws for modelling,” Hartnett said. “A lot of them might have a lot of models from Eastern Europe or South America that have, obviously, different backgrounds, different values, etc.
“I think they do need to have checks in place to make sure the girls are being healthy and are being taken care of.”