I finally got around to watching this week’s episode of America’s Next Top Model, where contestant London Levi was eliminated. Her “shocking weight gain” of 10-15 pounds was first introduced last week, when Paulina Poritzkova told her she was wearing “unflattering” shorts, and the camera zoomed in on her thighs. This week, she cried about her weight, talked about feeling insecure about her weight and trying to get past it, and then got lectured about her weight by Jay and Miss Jay. And was eliminated.
On the one hand, this is a modeling show. The unrealistic ideal of the female body, and being judged on that ideal, is the entire point of the show. Even though Tyra Banks is supposedly so enlightened. But London, the contestant who got eliminated, used to suffer from an eating disorder. And so the lecturing and the cruelty (“there is something unique about her… all that extra weight”) seemed extraordinarily ill-advised.
In an interview, London talked about the elimination:
“When I went to the competition, I was recovering from an eating disorder, so my self-confidence was already kind of shaky because of my experience with my problem beforehand,” London tells us exclusively. “And, I’m pretty sure it did show in my photo shoots.”
On why she was eliminated instead of Aminat, who was in the bottom two with her, London says, “If you looked at the two of us, here you have someone whoâ€™s 5 feet 9 inches and who had gained, like, 15 pounds, and then you have someone [Aminat] whoâ€™s six feet and about 110 pounds,” continues London. “So in my personal opinion, it was just kind of obvious to the judges who would move on just by photographs.”
London says she has suffered from eating disorders from junior high through shortly before America’s Next Top Model started. “I never realized how long Iâ€™d had it until I talked to someone professionally,” she says. “But it never got supersevere until my senior year in high school, which was actually just this past year. This past year up until right before I went on to the show is when it got most severe.”
So you put a girl who has BARELY RECOVERED FROM AN EATING DISORDER on a modeling show? Obviously, it was London’s decision to try out and get on the show in the first place. But the eating disorder wasn’t mentioned at all, as opposed to the “challenges” of the other contestants, such as Tahlia with her burn scars and what’s-her-name with her epilepsy, which were treated in patented Tyra Banks “inspirational” fashion. So the fact that she is recovering from ED was never even mentioned, and then over the course of the show, London gained some weight. And then this happened:
Clearly, judge Jay Manuel wasn’t aware of London’s issues. On last night’s episode, during a photo shoot, Jay pulled London aside to talk about her obvious weight gain. “Where I’m really shocked, it’s not just the fact that she’s gained weight, it’s the fact that as a model you’re expected to treat your body like a temple,” he said.
“It’s a sensitive thing,” he continued, “but it’s something I have to talk about. It just really shocked me today seeing such a huge change physically. When you’re in a competition I understand there’s stress and people react to stress differently; it’s just clear that you’re not taking care of your body in a short period of time, and if this is tough, how are you going to deal with it in the modeling world?”
London’s response: “My body just keeps gaining weight, and it really is freaking me out because I don’t feel comfortable at this weight. Coming into this, I felt a lot more confident, a lot more beautiful, and I just need to lose weight in a healthy way.”
So a girl recovering from anorexia and bulimia is “freaking out” about gaining 10 or 15 pounds, which might be a natural weight for her body. And the answer is… tell her to lose weight! Kick her off the show! Shame her! What a great message.
On a related note, I made the mistake of reading one of the “editorial” articles on TWoP, which suck these days, because they are written by bad writers like Angel Cohn, who says one of her “reality pet peeves” is:
7. Models Gaining Weight
Nearly every season of Top Model or Make Me a Supermodel there’s a wannabe model who over indulges, puts on pounds, has trouble with their self esteem and cries a lot that they aren’t as skinny as all the other contestants. This is a modeling show, where entire careers are based on how well you can fit into sample-size clothing, so put down the donuts and hit the treadmill.
Yeah, fuck you, London. Put down the donut. Start binging and purging again. Clearly, that’s the only way.
Posted by mo pie