Profit, Denial & Education: Why Clothing Retailers Are Contributing to our Youth’s Mental Health Issues and What Can Be Done to Prevent Further Damage

Denial and Profit

A part of me can’t believe that I am writing about clothing retailers and that fact that they are still selling “super skinny” and “toothpick” jeans – how long must we go around and around this issue and still see no change? Yet another part of me is not surprised at all; after all, the majority of people are not properly educated about mental health issues, especially eating disorders, and the goal of businesses, especially clothing retailers – is simply, profit.

This was a recent conversation I had with Christopher Willson, the Clinical Director from Dine Monte Nido, a unique outpatient program designed to help those suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder. Chris was furious one day when he went to buy jeans for his eight-year-old daughter and found that many of them read “super skinny!” Oh dear. Now, most businesses grasp that in order to keep their profits high they must act as good corporate citizens. Therefore, clothing retailers should listen to the cries of consumers, such as Chris, and incorporate changes that will in turn, make their customers happy. Let’s look at the bigger picture –  for example, all the parents who buy jeans from clothing brands that advertise them as “super skinny”- you can expect that there are going to be some downright angry moms and dads writing letters, calling and blasting their opinions all over social media. After all, these labels place unrealistic expectations on already impressionable minds. Let’s review some statistics:

“42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.

81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.”

 

You would think that clothing companies would do their research on mental health and listen to the consumers who are unhappy about how these labels are affecting their kids and teens.  Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychological disorder; certainly the higher ups and employees within the clothing companies must know someone who is or has been affected.

Or perhaps, they turn a blind eye, like this country has done for so long. Why? There are many reasons, but I would say that in the case of retailers a lack of education and focus on profit are the biggest culprits. To actually think about the well-being of others means to stop thinking about themselves, and to do that would (gasp!) would mean to potentially lose money, at least for the short-term.

I am relentless in advocating for change because eating disorders are an issue that affect over 30,000,000 people in America alone, and those are just the reported amounts. And, as a former fashion model who was always trying to fit into the fashion industry’s unrealistic sizes and portray an unhealthy image for impressionable minds, I am adamant about helping to restructure the business and stop the selling of products that are damaging to consumers. At the very least, we can start with mental health education – everyone needs it, especially the advertising and fashion industries.

Even if someone has not suffered from an eating disorder, almost everyone has been affected by low self-esteem and poor body image, however children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable; they don’t need added pressure from retailers telling them that they need to look a certain way in order to be accepted and valued. 

Finding the Solution

Lately I have been working with California Assemblymember Marc Levine, the National Eating Disorders Association, Sara Ziff from the Model Alliance and Dr. Bryn Austin, the director of Harvard STRIPED, on AB 2539, which will create healthier standards and promote the labor rights of models in the fashion industry. One thing that has stuck out to me in reading Dr. Austin’s research is how crucial prevention is. As she puts it, there is not a whole lot of literature and research dedicated to preventing eating disorders. Tying into Dr. Austin’s research lies my main interest: mental health education in the workplace, particularly the modeling industry. When we educate, we can help to prevent. I think that back during Karen Carpenter’s unfortunate and highly publicized case, eating disorders became known and glamorized because of the media – it’s what they do, they sensationalize – but they have yet to educate the public properly about eating disorders and mental health in general.

The National Eating Disorders Association has been introducing literature on eating disorders into various workplaces. Education is power because when we educate we have the knowledge to understand the what, why, when, how and who. If clothing retailers are uneducated when it comes to eating disorders and the impact their marketing schemes are having on young people, and if they are only thinking about profit, then they will continue to contribute to the mental decline and fatalities of our youth. Focusing on prevention and education in the workplace are crucial steps towards changing the way retailers and advertisers approach consumers – especially our youth.

 

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them! Drop me a line – nikki@nikkidubose.com

 

 

 

 

Fashioning Change: An Interview with Model-Turned-Activist Nikki DuBose

“Escaping and conquering adversity is hard enough, but working towards eliminating the same adversity for others seems to be the work of heroes.

Somehow, superhero Nikki DuBose found a way to do both. After an early start as a model at the tender age of 15, DuBose faced body shaming, an eating disorder and drug and alcohol abuse, all propagated by the hands of the fashion industry.”

Read more on Proud2bme.

 

LA Weekly Interview – Lawmakers’ Bill Wants to Stop Anorexia In Fashion Models

“Nikki DuBose started modeling, on and off, when she was 15. Before she left the industry in 2012, she achieved a fair amount of success, appearing in Maxim, Elle and Vanity Fair. She also developed a serious eating disorder.

‘It’s a very psychologically damaging industry,’ she says. ‘It’s like the ballet or the military. Agents and clients have this way of being nice to you one minute and putting you down the next. It’s very blunt. They don’t care. All they care about is making money. And there’s another guy or girl walking in the door any second.’

Read more on LA Weekly.

Nikki’s Exclusive Interview with CBS LA about the importance of AB 2539

Nikki DuBose CBS Los Angeles

“’I did become very successful but I paid a very high price,’ said Nikki DuBose, who has graced the covers of magazines. ‘I didn’t want to be involved in an industry that was making me sick.’

Sick from eating disorders, her mental and physical health suffering, DuBose left the business four years ago.

She’s now a Los Angeles-based author, advocate, and a support of AB2539, a bill proposed by a Northern California assemblyman.”

Read more and watch Nikki’s exclusive interview on CBS LA.

Vogue Spain – AB 2539

“Nikki Dubose, una ex modelo que ha manifestado su apoyo a este proyecto de ley, ha comentado en un comunicado oficial lo siguiente: ‘como ex modelo y superviviente de un grave desorden alimenticio, sé que este tipo de legislación se necesita de forma crítica.'”

Read more on Vogue Spain.

Vogue UK – Will California Follow French Model Health Law?

“The evidence of eating disorders in the modelling industry is alarming,” Levine said, while former model-turned-advocate Nikki DuBose supported the legislation with a statement, asserting: ‘As a former fashion model and an eating-disorder survivor, I know that this legislation is critically needed.'”

Read more on Vogue UK.

Bay Area Lawmaker Says Models Can Be Too Skinny For The Runway

The Duchess of Windsor once said, ‘you can never be too rich or too thin.’ But a Bay Area lawmaker believes she is wrong–at least on one account–and has proposed a ban on models who look ‘too thin’ on the runway.

In fact, San Rafael Assemblyman Marc Levine wants to ban anorexic models on the catwalk altogether. He has introduced AB2539, which takes its cue from a similar laws already on the books in France, Italy and Spain. The hope is that models will stop starving themselves to get work, and women and girls will stop starving themselves to look like models.

 

Read more on CBS San Fransisco.

The Fashion Law – Proposed California Law Aims to Reduce Eating Disorders Among Models

“Fashion models who want to work in California would need a doctor to attest that they are of healthy weight and not suffering from an eating disorder under a proposal announced by a state lawmaker on Monday. Legislation proposed by California state Assembly member, Marc Levine, follows efforts in several countries to fight anorexia and other eating disorders among models, who are relentlessly pressured to lose weight or lose work. ‘The evidence of eating disorders in the modeling industry is alarming,’ Levine, a Democrat, who represents the Marin County suburbs of San Francisco, said in a statement on Monday.”

Read more on The Fashion Law.

Inquisitr – Creating Change In the Modeling Industry

“If former fashion model Nikki DuBose gets her wish, models in California would be legally prohibited from being too skinny.

A new bill, AB2539, introduced Monday by Assemblyman Marc Levine, would require any model working in California to be approved by a doctor certifying they don’t suffer from an eating disorder.”

Read more on Inquisitr.

 

News Release: Honored to Announce AB 2539 with California Assemblyman Marc Levine!

Read the press release here.

I am thrilled to announce my involvement alongside Assemblymember Marc Levine, his Chief of Staff Michael Miiller, Legislative Assistant Naomi Padron, CEO of NEDA Claire Mysko, NEDA STAR Program Manager Kerry Dolan, Founder of the Model Alliance Sara Ziff and Harvard STRIPED director Dr. Bryn Austin, in this new legislation that will create healthy standards for California models and in return, set a healthier example for the nation. I am fully confident that this is just the beginning and from here we will create change for the industry in ways we can’t even imagine.

God Bless,

Nikki DuBose

Business Insider

“Fashion models who want to work in California would need a doctor to attest that they are of healthy weight and not suffering from an eating disorder under a proposal announced by a state lawmaker on Monday.

The bill proposed by California state Assembly member Marc Levine follows efforts in several countries to fight anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders among models, who are relentlessly pressured to lose weight or lose work.”

Read more on Business Insider.

Los Angeles NEDA Walk, Captured In Time

March 7, 2015 was an inspiring day in sunny Santa Monica! I am so proud of my team, the LA Artist Initiative, and each and every person that came out and supported the National Eating Disorders Association’s cause! Every step taken is a move in the right direction!

To find out how you can get in involved in one of NEDA’s many walks around the nation, please visit their walk website.

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God Bless,
Nikki DuBose
Captain of the LA Artist Initiative Team

 

T-shirts and Artwork for sale benefiting the Los Angeles NEDA Walk!

Hey guys!

T-shirts and artwork are now for sale benefting the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)! All proceeds go to our team, the Artist Initiative, on behalf of the Los Angeles NEDA walk happening March 7, 2015. Please help us reach our goal and scoop up some one-of-a-kind products in the process. 😀
To keep up to date with our progress, please visit our team site.
*Note, sizes for T-shirts go up to 3X

God Bless,
Nikki, @suxieart and the Artist Initiative Team

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NEDAwareness Week is February 22 – 28, 2015!

2015 NEDAwareness February 22-28, 2015
2015 NEDAwareness February 22-28, 2015

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) awareness week is Feb 22-28th! Please visit NEDA’s Awareness site to learn more and to find how how you can get involved. ♡

The seemingly “perfect” images we see in magazines, billboards, on television, movies, and on social media, are an illusion, meant to make us feel bad for the sake of making advertisers and powerhouses wealthy. Please do not believe what you are seeing. The models behind the images have to resort to unhealthy measures to maintain their appearances and adhere to strict rules in order to keep their jobs. The environment that the modeling industry imposes at large is a breeding ground for eating disorders, and while they have made an effort to diversify and celebrate all body types and sizes, there is still much work to be done.

God Bless,
Nikki DuBose

Spreadshirt Petition to Remove Pro ED Products

Please sign the petition to remove Pro ED products!

My response to Phillip Rooke at spreadshirt.com

Dear Mr. Rooke,

While Ioana Urma’s art installations are backed by a positive mission statement, “The idea was born out of a serious concern with the publicized woman’s body – our social obsession with thin ideals – that falls nowhere close to average or, for the majority of the population, healthy,” when her slogans appear on T-shirts, they are without context and are open to misinterpretation. While the artist is aware of the pressures that exist on society, she is unaware of the effect that her T-shirts have on those that are suffering from eating disorders. Eating disorders are mental illnesses that may affect as many as 30,000,000 people in the United States, and claim on average twenty three deaths a day. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses; up to 20% die.

Why are you not willing to take responsibility as a company for products that potentially cause psychological harm to a large group of people? As a survivor of a more than seventeen year battle with bulimia and anorexia, I can attest to the major harm that provocative messages can cause. Not only are such messages insensitive, they are a mischaracterization of eating disorders, fueling the stigmatization of a mental illness that is irresponsibly glamorized and downplayed in its severity. I worked as a fashion model for many years and developed anorexia nervosa as a direct result of the social pressures placed upon me from my environment, but eating disorders affect people from all backgrounds, economic standings, sizes, shapes, and races. To understand how these messages are received by someone with an eating disorder, I encourage you watch this TEDx Columbus talk by Laura Hill: “Eating Disorders from the Inside Out.”

Sincerely,

Nikki DuBose
Writer, Speaker, Mental Health Advocate

2014 LA Artist Initiative NEDA Walk

What an amazing turnout we had at this year’s Los Angeles NEDA Walk in sunny Santa Monica, California! As I take a while to pause and reflect on all of the time and energy that was put into preparing, sharing and executing this inspiring and emotional event, I am sad that it is now over, but I am also ready and preparing to have an even bigger and better time for next year’s event.

When I was approached by NEDA to captain the LA Artists Initiative Team, which first started in New York City, I felt grateful and blessed to be a part of such a momentous occasion and felt unsure if it was something that I could be responsible for. Was I meant to be a leader? I am so flawed!

Read more on NEDA.

NEDAwareness Week 2014 is Officially here!! Show Your Support!

I am thrilled that NEDAwareness week 2014 is upon us and kicking once again! This is a great chance for people all over the world to get involved on social media, the workplace, school, home – everywhere!

To find out how you can get involved in this year’s NEDAwareness week, please visit their site.

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Please support and walk with me in the 2014 Los Angeles NEDA Walk!

Please support my team, the Los Angeles Artist Initiative, Saturday, March 8, 2014 by donating and/or walking in the NEDA Walk in beautiful Santa Monica! We formed this team for people from the entertainment and artistic industries to stand up against eating disorders and stand for individuality in the media! Visit our team page to find out more information, and check out my personal page to find out why this walk is so important to me.

Thank you so much for your support and I can’t wait to see you there!
♥ Nikki DuBose

Leading the Way: NEDA Artist Initiative Team

“Hello, gorgeous people, my name is Nikki. I am a model, host, commercial actress, writer, believer and dreamer. I am an advocate for NEDA, and sponsor those in eating disorder recovery because I am a survivor of a seventeen year battle with bulimia and anorexia. At the height of my modeling career, I was known for my beautiful curves; however in Europe as my battle with anorexia overcame me, I became known for my bones. Recovery for me has been filled with years of ups and downs but I decided from day one to never give up. I was fighting for my life and striving to be a role model for everyone suffering silently in the modeling industry and beyond. I am forever grateful to be free of addiction and pain, however I know that it is only because of my God, and by helping others every day with my story. Now, if I get back into the modeling business, I am calling the shots! I don’t care how much I weigh, and I refuse to surround myself with a team who would ever try to make me lose weight. I believe that our value comes from who we are on the inside and this is the message I want to leave behind for generations to come!”

Read more on NEDA.

 

NEDAwareness National Eating Disorders Awareness Week Less than 2 Weeks Away!

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#NEDAwarenessWeek is now less than 2 Weeks away!! The theme is “Everybody Knows Somebody.”
Want to Share your story? You can be the voice that will help to save another’s life! Your share gives another hope and confidence to do what they could never do alone.
I’ll be sharing my story, will you?
Visit NEDA’s Awareness site to find out more! Don’t forget – NEDA Awareness Week is February 24 to March 2, 2013.