While watching the new season of The Kardashians, if you play a drinking game based on how many times the sisters say, “you’re so skinny” to each other, you’ll probably be super drunk within the first 20 minutes. Just when we thought we have moved passed the ghost of supermodel Kate Moss’ infamous statement (and its repercussions) from 2009, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” it has slowly crept its way from Tumblr to TikTok. As a result, all the work women did in dismantling beauty standards and ‘trends’ subjecting their bodies are slowly boomeranging back and it’s borderline dangerous.
One such trend is ‘Heroin chic’—a toxic term invented in the ’90s by the fashion industry. Stick figures, pale skin, dark circles and sucked-in features were all linked to heroin abuse. American supermodel Gia Carangi was first associated with this trend—a contrastingly problematic reaction to the ’80s when star models like Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer strutted down the ramp in healthier bodies. Joining the gang of waif-ish models in the 1990s were Kate Moss and Jaime King who further made anorexia aspirational.
When a reputed tabloid like the New York Post released an article titled “Bye-bye booty: heroin chic is back”, it makes you wonder about the direction in which we’re headed . Of course, it received instant backlash and body-positive activists like Jameela Jamil called them out for it—but isn’t the damage already done? When popular people and platforms endorse or even speak about how hyper-slim frames are back and promote unrealistic numbers on a scale, it triggers eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
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In the last decade, the fashion industry was finally healing from the skinny-obsessed era that was established in the ’90. Industry insiders—designers, photographers, editors, casting agents and companies were moving towards creating a space that is accepting of all body types. Glossy covers and campaigns were seeing shapes beyond bones and different models/celebrities with physiques more relatable to the everyday audience were getting their minute under the sun. Diversity had barely found its footing and we are back to skinny-worshipping.
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Even when the Kardashians rose to fame in the late 2000s, they became known for owning their voluptuous figures amidst a sea of similar-looking celebrities. This was until they discovered fad diet products can be endorsed and size-zero aspirations can be milked monetarily. Sadly, within their family, Khloe’s journey to being her fittest self is steeped in body image issues. In the earlier seasons of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Khloe was known as the ‘fat’ one for the longest time. So today, when she’s questioned about her extreme weight loss with a worrying tone, she almost takes skinny as a badge of honour and validation because her older body was forever scrutinised.
Similarly, when Kim Kardashian tried losing 10 pounds in a short span of time to wear the Marilyn Monroe dress at 2022 Met for all of 10 minutes, she received severe backlash for promoting unsustainable diets and lifestyles. Riverdale famed Lili Reinhart, who has been open about her body struggles shared her disappointment on Instagram, “So wrong. So fucked on 100s of levels. To openly admit to starving yourself for the sake of the Met Gala. When you know very well that millions of young men and women are looking up to you and listening to your every word.”
Victoria’s Secret, before its recent reformation, was a major perpetrator responsible for peddling skinniness as the ideal body standard for decades. Whether it was their annual show or the glamorous campaigns, models were projected as ‘Angels’ who are supposed to look perfect in every sense of the word.
Model Bella Hadid, who is known to be vocal about multiple issues once told a magazine in an interview that after her separation from Victoria’s Secret, it almost took her a year and a half to take a meeting with them again. “It kind of got to the point where my body wasn’t owned by me. My life for so many years revolved around only working and how I was going to lose that weight for one of those shows. Even having that conversation was very complicated for me because of the way that I had felt in the past.”
Another former angel, Erin Heatherton, came forward and spoke about her time with VS and how it affected her physical and mental health. In order to meet the brand’s strict beauty standards she took advice from a celebrity nutritionist ” I was put on this diet pill, which my therapist later called bathwater meth.”
Celebrities are constantly in the public eye and come with constant media attention. Their influence and larger-than-life persona lead to image comparison, which then trickles down to body image issues. It may seem like simple hero-worshipping on the surface, but when young adults or teens adore a star, they try and imbibe all of their qualities to be like them, which is where it gets problematic. While celebrities are humans and can have their flaws, their stardom comes with a certain responsibility they cannot duck, especially if it results in building or breaking one’s self-esteem.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders affect at least 9% of the population worldwide and almost 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as underweight. 10,200 deaths each year are the direct result of an eating disorder (which is one death every 52 minutes) and about 26% of people with eating disorders attempt suicide. Even with this data readily available with just one click, there isn’t much awareness of the harm these toxic trends can cause.
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