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Body Image - The Media's Influence

Wednesday, 3 May 2006


This week we are concentrating on Body Image and the subject of what people think about their body shapes, the pressure to be slim and beautiful, fashion industry pressures.  Are the media and the fashion industry to blame for poor body image?

96% of those who took our on line body image survey said that yes images of girls and women in the media have a direct result on how women/girls feel about and take care of themselves. Today we are joined by a panel of people from the industry to discuss this issue of body images from the media industry.
Charlotte Coyle is a plus size model she is twenty three years old. She is 5'10, dress size 18 and from Derry city. She has two sisters Jenny and Maria, and three brothers John-Paul, David and Vincent. She went to America when she was twenty years old.She has been modeling for two years and always wanted to model but always thought she was two big until a lady came into the salon she was working in in Washington DC and told her to go to NYC. She went to NYC were she was signed with the top agency Wilhelmina. 
She did a documentary with channel 4, with the same makers of Jamie's school dinners, it's to change people perceptions on what is beautiful, and to show curves in a positive, more fashionable way. She meets with a lot of inside fashion people designers, magazine editors, and British fashion council. She also put on a beauty and fashion event in the cafe de Paris were she got all sponsorship herself for hair, make-up, and clothes. She made headlines throughout the U.K. by staging a "beauty contest for full-figured women" titled Beauty Reborn. This event was videotaped, and will be part of a reality series starring Charlotte that will be broadcast in the summer on Channel 4. Charlotte is represented by Wilhelmina in New York, Hughes Models in Britain, Agence Plus in Paris, and Heffner Management in Seattle.

The Panel
Emer O'Reilly Hyland
Editor of VIP Magazine. She has been with VIP for seven years and has been editor for two years. She is a mum with an eight month old daughter.
Synan O'Mahony
Fashion designer from Limerick.  He has designed for many of Irelands top celebrities. He has designed for Mary Harney, Twink, Ronan Keating's wife, Yvonne, who chose an O'Mahony creation for Elton John's party, Supermodel Jasmine Guinness.
Gail Kaneswaren
Gail is one of Ireland's top models. She is with Assets models and has been for six years. She has one daughter age seven years.
Graham Cruz
Our fashion stylist.

Their Thoughts
Emer O'Reilly Hyland - Editor of VIP Magazine.

"The image of the body, in terms of celebrities like Nicole Richie, Victoria Beckam and Nadine Coyle from Girls Aloud, is that of course they are too skinny and they are conveying the wrong image to all women, especially to young people. It undoubtedly encourages eating disorders and puts an impossible ideal up to women.
"To add insult to injury, just when you think you are old enough, for example in your 30s or 40s, to reject the image portrayed by young celebrities, along comes forty something Teri Hatcher, who is nothing short of emaciated.
"I see celebrity and fashion role models as different. There are many curvy celebrities, such as Kelly Brook, who are as influential as the skinny role models. But there are no curvy fashion models. Even Sophie Dahl lost her curves and dropped so much weight that she became like all the rest.
Fashion designers are irresponsible in promoting skeletons as their idea of perfection. The ultimate insult to womanhood came in the noughties, when the 'goth' image became the norm - skeletal models with deathly pale skin, smokey eyes, really unhealthy looking. In my view the best models were the supermodels of the 80s like Cindy Crawford, who though slim, looked healthy, womanly and sexy; they worked out, and so looked strong and fit.
In Ireland I think we have a healthier attitude. We like our models to be a good size 10.
"As Editor of VIP magazine, we feature women of all ages and sizes, for reasons other than their body image they are famous for what they do rather than how they look, for example TV presenters, actresses etc.
Undoubtedly glamour sells and everyone likes to read about beautiful women and see what they are wearing. But I think that women increasingly turn to celebrity magazines rather than fashion magazines for inspiration on what to wear, how to look. They want to see what real women are wearing. Fashion magazines are relating less and less to what real women can and want to wear. They are turning now to using celebrities as models. I think also that it is celebrities, most of whom have 'another string to their bow', and not models, who inspire women. It's not enough simply to look good; you've got to do something else.
"The most important thing, in my view, when it comes to self image, in terms of our bodies, is to know your body and that means taking an honest look at it, in daylight in a full-length mirror! Be really honest with yourself about your good points and the not so good. The trick is to draw attention to your good points and you can do this with clothes and accessories. For example, if your hips are big but you've got a good cleavage, draw the eye up with a top or jacket that emhpasises your top half; (wraps and v-necks are great for this); add an interesting neckpiece and make sure that jackets don't hit you at your widest point. Women with good legs should show them off with skirts and great shoes. That's the key to being really stylish. Remember, no-one is perfect, even supermodels!"

Charlotte Coyle Plus Size Model
"I think designers are starting to realize that there is a huge market for plus size clothes and I do believe things are getting better, but I do believe that there still is negative feeling towards plus size people, and plus size in this country is over a size 12."
She organised a beauty contest in the Uk in 2005. "I did the event and had a great time it was so interesting to meet lots of different normal ladies who just really wanted a voice to show that are happy and sexy confident. I believe the public was ready for the event but the fashion industry still has a long way to go, with showing curvy lady's in a nicer light you know showing curves as sexy.
"I am board of seeing the same images of really thin lady's on every magazine its time for a change , now I know they will never properly use larger lady's all the time but if there was more of a balance you know once a month use a gorgeous curvy woman.
"I have not always been comfortable with my body and how I look, as when I was younger I always felt really bad about being bigger to be honest I hated it and always wanted to be real thin, then when I went to America I got a big confidence boost and started to love my body, and now I am 100% confident in my body or big bum and all, loving yourself really comes from the inside. No one else will do it for you."

Synan O'Mahony Designer
Synan has used plus size models in his shows but says that if he books a model he expects a slim model unless he requests a plus size. He says Irish models are bigger than models in other countries. Models who model haute couture are renowned for their skeletal frame as that's what designer's request.
He has used Sophie Dahl in fashion shows.

Model Gail Kaneswaren
She has been a model for six years with Assets. She thinks that models in Ireland are a healthy size 10. European models would be too tall for Ireland. She doesn't feel that the Irish modeling industry puts pressure on its models; the industry in Ireland promotes a healthy lifestyle. The stick thin model wouldn't survive in Ireland.

Graham Cruz
Graham insists that he is pro-curves, and that as long as you're happy with you're body you shouldn't worry about fashion. "You should embrace your curves and don't feel the need to conform to what you're being told you should look like."
Graham also says that the fashion industry is embracing curves at the moment; the stick thin look is on its way out. "You need to be curvy for waist belts and the Roland Mouret Galaxy Dress! Also Alexander McQueen did a whole collection this year in which he padded his clothes bum, tum and bust to give a fuller figure like that of Marilyn Monroe."
Graham also defends the fashion industry saying "it is not the industry that put pressure on women but other women that put pressure on their own sex, it is a fact that women dress for other women. And that men often prefer curvier women. If women dressed for themselves and not for other women they'd be more secure about their bodies".
Finally he thinks that the focus on weight loss has shifted in the industry of late from women and onto men.