In the Mirror - The industry perspective

By,
Chelsea Bonner
/
3:40 Mins
/
19 Dec 2018

In collaboration with Chelsea Bonner from Bella Management and author of Body Image Warrior and Jason Williamson from Jason Williamson Management, Noisin.com is discussing the lack of visibility on Negative Body Image Issues among men and how the media is perpetuating these ideas. In a three-part article series, we tackle the issue head-on, to learn why the issue is on the rise, what are the facts governing the problem, the personal perspective from industry insiders and how conversations can change the issue. In part two of the series, we open the discussion the perspective from an industry leader and insider Chelsea Bonner. This amazing lady has pioneered a path for all diverse representation in the modeling industry. She knows a thing or two about the judgment of the fashion scene and the lasting impact it can have on people.

Chelsea Bonner

From an agents perspective, we have the same issues with body diversity in the male model market as we do in the women’s market. Clients seem to gravitate towards an extreme point of view when looking for models and talent. They look, they believe, for a contrast to the ‘norm’ but in doing so, have normalized these extremes at opposite ends. By that I mean we see very young very slim male models or hyper fit ripped bodies but we are not seeing the body shapes that make up the 80% of men around the world who are the actual consumer.

We have represented absolutely gorgeous healthy men across all sizes but the designers and brands are still gravitating towards an old sample size, just as they do with women’s clothing. It’s frustrating, to say the least. I know many young male models that have to starve themselves for show seasons or not let a half a cm of fat cover their bones to keep these absolute measurements that are used to define who is a model. On the other side, clients are always complaining that they can’t find male models ‘big’ enough to fit the larger samples.

Man working out in the gym

That right there should be enough for designers and brands to look more closely at models that represent the customer and move the sample sizes accordingly, rather than trying to make men fit a sample size. The whole thing is back to front in my opinion.

It’s more difficult for us to combat because men are very wary of complaining and looking ‘weak’, especially these days when clean eating is an ideal way to hide disordered eating. The fashion industry as a whole needs to totally revamp their ideas around fashion to suit the customer and these days it is easier than ever with the detailed analytics we can get from our computer programs. I’ve been fighting for this change for over 20 years now. Women are way more vocal about their disappointments and less afraid to call out a brand for not being inclusive, that has helped me enormously. Men really need to stand up and use their voices about body image issues. Just image issues in general. There is so much pressure to be a type, or belong to a group but actually, individuality is so much more attractive, not to mention the joy of being your authentic self.

The diet and weight loss industry is worth around $554 Billion dollars a year right now and they have no interest in letting  you feel good about yourself, you need to make a personal choice not to buy into that constant drip feed of fear they peddle every day to sell you protein bars and muscle building crap.

As an agent, I have carved out a niche supplying healthy models to the fashion and media worlds. Health is the key here. We should be idealizing that above all other appearance-based calculations and inspiration. The diet and weight loss industry is worth around $554 Billion dollars a year right now and they have no interest in letting  you feel good about yourself, you need to make a personal choice not to buy into that constant drip feed of fear they peddle every day to sell you protein bars and muscle building crap. The game is rigged guys, please know that and help us change it by using your platforms, large or small it doesn’t matter. It is the conversation you have with one mate that can change so many lives.
I have tried, along with male friends within the industry to get the conversation going but it’s been a much slower process because of the ‘boys code’ and fear of getting kicked out of the club. Without individual men sharing their stories, it is very hard to give the media and clients clear and verifiable data and messaging.  

We know it is a huge problem and the stats support this, but it is one of the most under-reported problems as so many men don’t say anything, in fact, many don’t even know it is or has become a disorder for them.

I watched helplessly when my ex-husband burst into tears of shame not wanting to go to the beach with friends because of his size at the time. I see one of my very best friends run himself into the ground with exercise and obsess over food to maintain his slim body, absolutely terrified of any fat on his frame.

I know how personally distressing it is for men because some of my closest friends and lovers have body image issues that they would never discuss with other men. I watched helplessly when my ex-husband burst into tears of shame not wanting to go to the beach with friends because of his size at the time. I see one of my very best friends run himself into the ground with exercise and obsess over food to maintain his slim body, absolutely terrified of any fat on his frame. It’s hard to watch, it hurts your heart, and we have to change it.

Next week we hear from the MEN in the equation, Jason Williamson, who gives us a relate check on the unrealistic expectations we set for our selfies. Jason is an entertainment agent that has been pushing for body positive representation in the entertainment industry and has experienced challenges in his own life with feeling out of step with the unachievable social standard.

This is a conversation for change not of blame. A conversation on exposure. If you feel you need help or know someone who does, please reach out to the respective self-help lines through Body Image Movement to find your local helpline.

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In the Mirror - The industry perspective