diversity, fashion, Female, models, News Feature, petite, Uncategorized

Why are petite models still ignored in the fashion industry?

When it comes to the fashion industry, diversity is in right now.


Modelling agencies are being pushed to tackle under-representation and celebrate people of all shapes and sizes. Plus-size models are storming the field with Tess Holliday and Ashley Graham appearing in Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Elle. ASOS recently received enormous praise for featuring black plus-size model Vivian Eyo- Ephraim in their swimwear section and Leyna Bloom is campaigning to be the first transgender model to walk the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

Being short is not as historically disenfranchised as other groups. The average height for adult women in the UK is 5’4″, yet petite consumers are still inadequately represented in the industry.


There have been attempts to promote pocket-sized fashion with the majority of high street brands including a petite collection which caters for girls 5’3 and under. However Miss Selfridge, Missguided, Next and Zara (to name a few!) are still using 5’9″ models to promote products.


Also, the thirteenth season of America’s Next Top Model which premiered in 2009 ran a competition exclusively for models 5’7 or shorter. Ironically, the winner Nicole Fox was one of the tallest girls in the show and none of the other contestants have gone on to gain work on the runway since.


Some of the world’s most iconic fashion gurus were of petite stature including Elizabeth Taylor 5’2, Marilyn Monroe 5’5 and Twiggy 5’6. Most notably Kate Moss, who could be argued as the most successful model of all time, was largely stigmatised for her standing at 5’6.


Here are some of the petite models struggling to squash the restrictions of modelling worldwide:


Eli Yeung, Model, 5’6, Cambodia.

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“I do think that this could be the start of a transitional period in the industry. As for now however, the demand is deficient if you do not meet the standard model measurements. As a petite male model, I can only be cast with another petite model due to proportion. Usually a ‘standard’ female model without heels is about the same height as me, if not taller.  Therefore jobs I get are usually solo, advertisements or portraits. For petite models there is a 99.9% chance you won’t be on the runway as they are strictly for the ‘standard’ models, unless you are Kate Moss with a strong personal brand.”


Keanna Bryant, Model, 5’2, New York.

“I have never reached the height requirements for modelling and I have been denied numerous times. People especially tried to discourage me from walking the runway. Mainstream modelling still depicts beauty as tall and slim and petite girls are not considered for high fashion modelling, instead they are pushed into lingerie, swimwear and body part modelling. Six years ago I was the only petite model walking the runway in New York, now more and more petite models are coming out. Hopefully this is a transitional time for the industry.”


Mckenna, Petite Fashion Blogger, USA.

“I think there aren’t enough petite models because we still think that taller people get noticed more. If we put a tall model next to a petite model, the tall model would get more attention just because people are in awe of tall things: buildings/sculptures/people. The bigger/taller the more interesting they are visually. I think the attitude will change when models of all sizes are working together on the runway. In the near future? Probably not. I think that right now it has become engraved that models must be tall and skinny. We’ll get more petite models when we also get more plus sized and normal sized models.”


Bernadette Lemon, Model, 5’4, UK.

“The phrase ‘we use models of all shapes and sizes’ I feel still doesn’t have any relevance. Plus sized models are now being more widely used but petite models are still overlooked unless they are from a well known background. There have been NUMEROUS times where I have turned up to a shoot and the photographer says ‘oh, you’re much shorter than I thought you were.’ Too many people in the business are still focused on measurements and ticking boxes that they kill what modelling and the creative industry is all about. Designers and photographers should choose a certain model because of his or her personality and style rather than taking height over all of that.”


However, it doesn’t seem that the barriers of the modelling world are going to be broken down anytime soon. Jane Elliott, founder of Elliott Brown Modelling Agency said: “I have a huge number of applications from girls under 5’6 but we will only take them on if they are suitable for our work/clients. It just so happens that many clients are looking for taller girls, certainly for clothes, as they tend to ‘see’ the clothes looking better on them and there are not many manufacturers that make clothes for smaller women or men.”


Joanne Lewis, former stylist for ASOS and All Saints said: “I don’t think you will ever see petite women on the catwalks or in high fashion. I also think that with petite brands and sizing being increasingly available, there isn’t so much of a need for it anymore.”


Bernadette Lemon concluded: “The answer is ambiguous as to whether the generic 5’10 chiselled faced model era is coming to an end. Obviously they are still beautiful, but it is becoming even more crucial to show versatility and variation to encourage people to feel confident in themselves. Representing different heights is just as important as different waist sizes.”

Danger, Female, Journalist, Kim Wall, Murder, News Feature, safety, Uncategorized

We need to do more to protect female journalists

 Kim Wall, a Swedish freelance who wrote for The New York Times and The Guardian, was brutally murdered in mid-August. Her mutilated body was found on the coast of Denmark after she interviewed Peter Madsen aboard his homemade submarine. Madsen has recently admitted to dismembering her body but claims Wall died of carbon monoxide poisoning.


Daphne Caruana Galizia, the journalist who led the Panama Papers investigation into corruption in Malta, was assassinated in October when a car bomb blew her vehicle to pieces. Often described as a “one-woman Wikileaks”, her reporting had made her many enemies, including the Maltese Prime Minister. In an interview with Radio 101, opposition leader Adrian Delia described her death as a “political murder”.


Hala Barakat, an American-born journalist and her Syrian activist mother were stabbed to death in their home in Istanbul in September. It is reported that they were the latest victims of attacks by Islamic State militants.


According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 56 journalists have been killed so far in 2017, and roughly a quarter are women.


A 2016 report from UNESCO revealed that between 2006 and 2013, an average of four female journalists were killed per year; in 2014/15 it was nine and in 2016 the number rose to 13.


Frank Smyth, Founder and Executive Director of the Global Journalist Security programme asserts: “All journalists face risk. But female journalists face both different and at times more intense challenges especially in terms of sexual assault.”


There is a call to do more to keep women journalists safe. London mayor Sadiq Khan expressed his concerns regarding sexual abuse in journalism whilst discussing The Second Source, a recent campaign with the aim of tackling harassment in the media led by a group of journalists including Evening Standard columnist Rosamund Urwin and freelance reporter Emily Reynolds.

In November, Khan said: “The harassment some women journalists have faced in the workplace is appalling- and it is the responsibility of us all to call it out. This needs to be a turning point.”


A 2013 survey by the International Women’s Media Foundation found that 64 per cent of 875 respondents had experienced intimidation, threats or abuse at work, with 46 per cent experiencing sexual harassment and 21 per cent experiencing physical violence. The survey revealed that 76 per cent of journalists did not report assaults to the police or their employers.


Frank Smyth continues: “GJS were among the first to incorporate awareness about sexual assault and the protocols to avoid it. Most assaults are committed not by strangers but by people known to the victims. Peer intervention to stop situations from escalating into sexual assault, and creating a culture of respect across genders is essential to curb assaults whether they are committed in person or online.”


Anna Lundbladh, the Freedom of Media representative for OSCE, the world’s largest regional security organisation states: “Online threats and intimidation are a growing problem across the OSCE regions, with female journalists being specific targets. Therefore, combatting online threats remains top of the agenda.”


“The scale of threats against women in terms of quantity and graphic nature have reached appalling levels, forcing journalists to go offline or to refrain from engaging in journalism altogether. If only one woman resorts to self-censorship, plurality and media freedom suffer,” she continues.


A 2014 Pew Research Centre survey found that 25 per cent of women aged 18-24 had experienced sexual harassment online and 23 per cent had been physically threatened.


Daily Post Wales editor Sarah Hodgson points out that she has also received threatening messages via social media and phone calls to the newsroom: “With the digital age anybody can find out your Facebook, Twitter, phone number and email address.”


Ms. Hodgson also revealed several occasions in which she found herself in unsafe situations: “Myself and a female photographer attended an armed siege. We were cornered by people screaming in our faces and trying to take our camera. The police watched on and did nothing.”


“On another occasion I was visiting a Gypsy site where they had set up caravans on a business park. I was cornered by a number of teenagers who surrounded my car and began to kick it and smash the windows,” she recalls.


Hodgson commented: “I would like to see reporters not sent out on their own- however with dwindling press budgets and staffing levels this is getting increasingly hard”.


“Reporters need to report incidents to the police- something which I am guilty of not doing as I felt they would not be able to do anything and they wouldn’t take it seriously,” she concludes.


Jennifer Hyman, Communications Director for the IWMF suggested a “check in protocol with newsrooms, family and friends in which people are informed where a reporter is going and expect a check-in to ensure they are okay. Employers and relatives should have an emergency response plan ready for them to act if a check-in is absent.”


The Global Journalist Security programme provides journalists with Hostile Environment and First Aid Training (HEFAT), which aims to improve situational awareness, giving journalists valuable self-defence skills and putting them through challenging scenarios to practice how to respond if something dangerous happens.


HEFAT training ranges from 2-day refresher sessions to comprehensive 5-day courses. GJS employ former rape crisis counsellors, mental health experts and personal safety trainers. The programme also works with digital safety and Internet freedom experts to conduct online safety workshops.


Frank Smyth concludes: “We cannot guarantee absolute safety, the best we can do is help trainees mitigate risk. Our ethos is to encourage trainees to take responsibility for their own security. To learn awareness and avoidance skills to decrease danger and to work with others to help cultivate a culture of security.”

Female, Health, News Feature, Religion

The Question of Catholics and Contraception

‘The Lord commands us to be fruitful and multiply’, the sacred words taken from the Book of Genesis which provide the foundation of the Catholic religion. However there is a stigma surrounding the Catholic Church’s beliefs on contraception with the illusion that all Catholics believe that artificial birth control is intrinsically evil and those who use it are sinners. Women today are ploughed with the societal norm that contraception is a staple of feminism and the key to feminine health, despite the unpleasant side effects on the body and mind.  


Pippa Bonner from the Catholic Women’s Ordination which campaign for female rights within the Church said: ‘Non-Catholics can’t understand why we hold these views and we are often criticised for supposedly taking away a key feature of Women’s Rights. However ultimately we teach that women should take charge of their own bodies in order to protect themselves and do whatever makes them happy.’ 


Modern research into the Church and its stance on contraception provides a more unorthodox interpretation which contrasts the traditional portrayal of Catholicism. A 2008 study by The Tablet magazine of 1,500 Mass-goers in England and Wales found that 54.5% used the contraceptive pill and nearly 69% had or would consider using condoms. 


Nina Azadeh from The Catholic Church for England and Wales states: ‘The Church recommends methods of self-observation and Natural Family Planning. Natural methods maintain the dignity of men and women whilst respecting the innate laws of the female body.’  


Natural Family Planning involves a woman observing the various natural indicators of fertility on each day of her menstrual cycle such as body temperature and the length between periods. This will enable her to identify when she is fertile and likely to get pregnant. 


The promotion of Natural Family Planning has recently gained increased recognition with more readily available online advice and the creation of the iOS and Android app ‘Natural Cycles’ which has been medically tested and is said to be just as effective as the contraceptive pill.  


Nina Azadeh continues: ‘It is no accident that Natural Family Planning is called natural; it is ecological, holistic, healthy and an exercise in partnership.’ This sparks the question whether the ideology of the Catholic Church could be more useful to the female population and their relationships than society has led us to believe.  


Whitney Belprez grew up as a casual Protestant and a regular user of the contraceptive pill since the age of fifteen: ‘I didn’t think of contraception any differently than what the predominant culture had taught. Being on some form of artificial contraception was the norm and my friends and family considered people who weren’t to be irresponsible.’ 


Whitney went on to meet the man who was to become her husband, a practicing Roman Catholic. She then made the decision in 2008 to convert to Catholicism and further explore the Church’s tenets, particularly in regards to contraception. She said: ‘I wanted to understand why the Church had these beliefs about contraception and I wanted to know more about Natural Family Planning but the lack of resources and the taboo nature of the topic meant I was simply directed to a brochure or the Diocese website.’ 


‘Despite knowledge on the Church’s teachings, the possibility of pregnancy was scary to both me and my husband as we were young and without steady jobs. Therefore we felt staying on the Pill was the only suitable option.’ 


After years of swallowing a pill which had accumulated an unnatural amount of oestrogen and progesterone inside her body, Whitney began to experience ovarian cysts, abnormal uterine bleeding and excessive pain which her doctor concluded could be an effect of contraception. 


Research obtained by Family Planning Specialist Dr. David Delvin in 2016 found that 100 million women take the Pill worldwide making it the most popular form of contraception along with other methods such as the implant, IUD and the hormonal injection. The Pill is said to be 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. However Dr. Delvin found that the risk of blood clots (VTE) increased from 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 1,000 for women taking the Pill along with the endless list of more common side effects such as depression, migraines, weight gain, sore breasts, hair loss, low libido, irregular bleeding, and the rest. 


The hormonal surge which is absorbed into the body when using artificial contraception is bound to have concerning effects on the female anatomy. Despite this girls are continually encouraged to put up with these problems and stresses without really knowing what harm contraception could be doing to their bodies. 


Whitney decided to stop using artificial contraception in a bid to save her body. She said: ‘It was incredibly empowering, I had never felt healthier in my life. It was amazing to see how much the artificial hormones had interfered with my body and to finally be able to see that my body could do what it had been created to do.’  


‘This was completely counter to the cultural message we hear which is that to take this drug to turn off a perfectly natural function of our body. For me coming off contraception was nothing but a positive experience.’ 


Whitney and her husband soon began to explore Natural Family Planning and in 2011 fell pregnant with their first child. 


‘I am completely anti-contraception now, it is detrimental to women’s health and relationships. I would say our marriage has greatly improved since embracing NFP. There are so many women who are miserable taking contraception with its myriad of side effects, and having never heard of NFP or think it’s the ‘rhythm method’ and ineffective. I plan to teach all of my children NFP as teenagers and think that offering NFP classes for couples would be extremely beneficial.’ 


Many studies show NFP to be just as effective as artificial methods of contraception, both in preventing pregnancy and as an aid when couples are trying to conceive. A spokesperson for the Family Planning Association said: ‘There really is no preference on which method is better than another, it’s completely up to the individual to decide what works for them. The Natural Family Planning method does require the individual to be committed to ensure methods are used according to instructions to avoid unwanted pregnancy, but if done correctly it can be just as effective as artificial methods.’ 


In a bid to help women follow these instructions, the Natural Cycles app was launched in 2013 by Dr. Elina Berglund and her husband Dr. Raoul Scherwitzl. The app now has approximately 150,000 users worldwide and costs around £60 a year. The app works by the woman taking her temperature each morning and logging it into the app which then labels fertile days as red, when she should abstain from sex or use a condom, and infertile or ‘safe’ days are labelled green. 


Harry Cymbler from the app’s PR team said: ‘The app was created to increase choice and freedom in regards to contraception. It will empower all women with knowledge about their body, menstrual cycle and fertility and therefore able to make their own conscious decisions.’ 


Harry continued: ‘We have had a large amount of attention from the religious press and the Catholic news agencies in particular. The app wasn’t created with a religious agenda but it has been interesting to see the different responses.’ 


Natural Cycles joins other fertility tracking apps such as Kindara, Ovia and Glow in what appears to be a revolutionary movement changing attitudes and increasing choice in regards to birth control once and for all. After decades of women being bombarded with the assumption that artificial contraception is an essential part of any sexually active adult’s life, the doors are opening for people who want to get away from the synthetic hormones and experiment with the steadily growing number of alternatives proven to be just as effective. 


The increasing knowledge and resources associated with natural methods of birth control is an optimistic development for the Catholic Church in the hope that people will become more understanding of their views on sex and also to remind women that they should make their own decisions on what happens to their body and not feel pressured by the norms of society.