The Health Initiative and Vogue’s CYA Policy
I’m sure you’ve seen this all over the internet, but it bears repeating: All 17 of Vogue’s international editors have made a pact to use only “healthy” models and models who are over sixteen years of age. Here’s their six-point crowd-pleaser of a release, let’s talk about their built-in escape hatch:
- We will not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder. We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image.
- We will ask agents not to knowingly send us underage girls and casting directors to check IDs when casting shoots, shows and campaigns.
- We will help to structure mentoring programs where more mature models are able to give advice and guidance to younger girls, and we will help to raise industry-wide awareness through education, as has been integral to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Health Initiative.
- We will encourage producers to create healthy backstage working conditions, including healthy food options and a respect for privacy. We will encourage casting agents not to keep models unreasonably late.
- We encourage designers to consider the consequences of unrealistically small sample sizes of their clothing, which limits the range of women who can be photographed in their clothes, and encourages the use of extremely thin models.
- We will be ambassadors for the message of healthy body image.
I first read about this on Forbes, followed up with several more sources (links provided at the end of this post), and found that though every article is as vague as Vogue’s pact, the message is the same: PROVE IT.
While we wait to see what these lofty words mean for the definitive forerunner of fashion and its content, let’s break down what they’ve given us, starting with their almost (but not successfully) subtle use of the CYA (cover your a**) policy: “We will work with models who, in our view, are healthy and help to promote a healthy body image.”
Vogue will not KNOWINGLY work with underage/underweight models, and will employ models who are healthy IN THEIR VIEW. (crickets) We are talking about the same magazine that has been warping the views of the general public for decades: what tangible measures are being taken to ensure healthy models and backstage conditions? The policy does not mention an acceptable BMI, dietary requirements, or photo editing guidelines. More importantly, the policy does not list or even imply sanctions.
It is my firm opinion that this release was under-developed and though it’s being publicized as the “first step” in a positive direction, it could still degenerate into nothing more than a mild distraction to keep Vogue out of the spotlight and shift the focus to their suppliers.
Now tell me, what do you think – honest effort or publicity stunt?
- Vogue Adopts a 16-and-Over Modeling Rule – NY Times
- Vogue Makes an International Pact to Use Healthy Models – New York Magazine
- Vogue vows to use healthier models: But what’s its definition of ‘healthy’? – The Washington Post
- Is the Vogue vow more hype than health? – The New Zealand Herald