In France You Can Be Too Thin

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Skinny is a crime.

In France, lawmakers approved a law that makes it illegal to hire a model with an unhealthy body weight. The legislation is an attempt to fight anorexia — an eating disorder that affects millions of women around the world. French lawmakers hope that by banning excessively thin models on runways, women might stop starving themselves to death to look like them. Agencies risk the threat of steep fines, even imprisonment if they don’t comply.

Models walk the runway during the Lanvin show during Paris Fashion Week. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Models walk the runway during the Lanvin show during Paris Fashion Week. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)


Agencies that use models with a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 18 risk a fine of $82,000 and up to 6 months in jail. That’s about 121 pounds stretched over a 5’7″ frame.

When Twiggy first hit the runways in the 1960s, most women were shocked by the English model, not inspired by her thinness. She was 5’6 and weighed 112 pounds which is a BMI of 18.1. Today, fashion runway models are 5’8 to 6 feet tall, and according to models.com, can weigh as little as 90 – 120 pounds. That’s a BMI range of 14-16. Twiggy wouldn’t make the cut.

English fashion model Twiggy modelling in 1967. ( M. McKeown/Express/Getty Images)

English fashion model Twiggy modelling in 1967. ( M. McKeown/Express/Getty Images)


Spain, Italy and Israel have passed similar laws. But what about America? A million women suffer from anorexia here. Will U.S. lawmakers follow suit?

San Francisco fashion runway model and author Charleston Pierce has never liked the idea that there is a signature size, shape or age to be a fashion model. As for the new French law? He says he’s happy about it, especially if it allows models to be themselves.

“I think it’s great, beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, you don’t have to be skinny,” says Pierce. “I’m so happy now that the plus-size movement has inspired women of all sizes to be on the runway.”

Charleston’s face has been on billboards, print ads, and commercials. He has shared the catwalk with Tyra Banks, Christie Turlington, Claudia Schiffer, and Veronica Webb.

Charleston Pierce (photo courtesy of Charleston Pierce Presents)

Charleston Pierce (photo courtesy of Charleston Pierce Presents)

“When I started modeling, I was told I was too big,” said Pierce. “I was in high school, I went to an agency and they said I was too muscular… now that’s changed, they want muscular — muscles are in.”

Charleston has turned his runway experience into an inspirational art form that he shares with everyone. He has trained models for Macy’s Passport Show, non-profits, schools, and charities, and worked with San Francisco Junior League’s annual fashion show for many years. He loved the fact the the JLSF’s show had women of all ages. The show uses members for models.

“There were women who were up to 70-years-old in the show,” said Pierce. “And you know what? They had the time of their life, they shined, they were beautiful, because beauty has no age limit, beauty is beauty.”

“If this law does some good, I’m all for it, and if it helps save lives, I’m really for it.”

The new French legislation really goes after modeling agencies, but Pierce says agents are just doing the bidding of the designers. He hopes this new awareness will put pressure on them to change.

“Agents only do what designers tell them to do. They call up and say we want a model this size and this height,” said Pierce. “Designers have the power to choose and impose their vision.”

For his part, Pierce is trying to broaden that vision and replace it with his own. In his book, “Star Walk: Embrace Your Inner Power and Find Success on the Runway of Life,” the San Francisco native tells women of all ages, shapes and sizes how to walk with confidence.

“Done effectively, walking with power and confidence, will create opportunities in life that will get you noticed.”

So, if the French have their way, the old, tired quote “you can never be too rich, or too thin” will have to be tweaked for future generations… to just, ‘you can never be too rich,’ or better, ‘you can never be too smart’ or simply, ‘you don’t have to be anything, just be who you are.’

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