Katie Halchishick’s Message to the Fashion Industry: “Healthy Is the New Skinny”
Through her modeling agency and confidence-boosting campaigns, Katie Halchishick hopes to make healthy female models the future of the industry.
Most people in the fashion industry would be hard pressed to forget French model Isabelle Caro, who died roughly a year ago at the age of 28. One of her last campaigns was a 2007 anti-anorexia ad in which she allowed photographers to capture her sagging, emaciated flesh on film.
Standing at 5’4″, Caro weighed only 60 pounds when she posed for photographers. To put that into perspective: 60 pounds is the average weight for a typical 9-year-old girl.
Though Caro’s tragic tale reverberated through the industry, the fashion world nevertheless continues to employ young women whose waiflike figures are a result of malnourishment. Katie Halchishick, now 26, started modeling when she was an innocent 17-year-old. A plus-size model signed by major agencies like Wilhelmina and Ford, she was constantly told to modify her weight and appearance to fit the next big gig—that is, until she decided that enough was enough.
“At first I thought I would give it a try,” Halchishick told us in an exclusive interview. “But it is a really dangerous mindset to put girls in because you have an opportunity sitting in front of you. You know you have what it takes and the only thing stopping you is your hip measurement. So what do you do? That is when you get sucked into that downward spiral because you are fighting your bones and genetics and it makes you hate your body, it makes you envious of other girls who are that thin, and it makes you feel like you are not worth as much because that is what this industry tells you. All of this comes from a drive to be successful.”
But Halchishick isn’t one to sit back and watch the industry she has been a part of for nearly a decade promote unhealthy and unattainable images of women. After dropping her last agency, she began her own. For about a year, she has been spearheading Natural Model Management, an organization committed to ending the invisibility of models between the sizes of 6 and 10.
Neither straight-size—considered a 2 or 4—nor a plus-size—14/16—these women often fall through the cracks in this polarizing industry. But more than that, Halchishick seeks to serve as a mentor for girls at risk of facing the same hurdles she did at such a young age.
“I look back now and think that I would have done whatever I was told because I didn’t know what I was doing,” she explained. “I think girls that age are really trusting and feel like their model agents have their best interest at heart. What they don’t understand is that they don’t: agencies’ number one interest is money and you need to meet the standards in whatever way necessary so they can make money. They are not your friends, they are not role models in any way, and they have a huge position of power in a young kid’s life. Constantly being compared to others and having every flaw pointed out is a lot of pressure on a young model.”
As the head of the movement known as Healthy Is the New Skinny, this model-turned-do-gooder is on a mission to ensure that the models girls see on the pages of their favorite glossies aren’t the starving, gaunt women we’re so used to watching on the runway.
“Young girls who are not models can assume that these girls’ lives are perfect when they are living in a really negative world where it is nearly impossible to feel good about their looks,” Halchishick said. “Oftentimes, the models they wish they could look like aren’t happy with how they look themselves. It is not fair to any of them and I think girls are only seeing one thing titled ‘Beautiful’ and it is not something that any of them see in themselves. That is horrible. The media’s perception of beauty is actually making girls blind to their own unique beauty.”
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