When 19 year old Ann Ward was crowned as America’s next top model cycle 15 winner, anger and criticism followed. Ward, a student from Dallas, TX stands at a towering 6’2. Even at this height, Ward is so lanky that ANTM judge Miss J, actually managed to fit both his hands entirely around her waist. When the promo clip was aired, outraged ensued. Tyra Banks, who had publicly complimented Ward’s tiny waist was so barraged with complaints that she eventually had to issue an apology and remove the clip with the offending ‘hands around waist’ scene, along with an apology of her own praise to the “Tiniest waist in the world.”
Ward’s participation was met with many negative statements from multiple viewers, agencies and even nutritionists, such as a New York based nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders. Marisa Sherry MS, RD stated “I don’t know what this model is doing, but some of my clients are as skinny”, adding, her clients “are restricting or purging in order to get their bodies that way.”
With so many people worried about what Ann Ward’s win will do to the esteem and self image of hundreds and thousands of young women, the question simply has to be asked. “Why can’t a naturally skinny girl but naturally beautiful?”
Most people argue that keeping up with a ‘skinny’ image poses several health risks. The National Institute of Mental Health’s statistics would back these concerns.
It is estimated that 0.6 percent of U.S adults will at some point suffer from Anorexia.
The mortality rate of which is 0.56 percent annually which equals a mortality rare of about 5.6 percent of sufferers over a period of 10 years.
Additionally, an estimated 1.0 percent of adults will suffer from Bulimia while 2.8 percent will suffer from some form of crash dieting, otherwise binge eating.
A healthy body image is definitely important for young women. No girl or boy for that matter should ever have to feel ugly be they overweight or underweight. The key word is not size, it’s health. While catwalk models are quite obviously, in most cases too skinny, that doesn’t necessarily put the all the blame on skinny girls, especially not one such as Ann Ward, who for all practical purposes is a healthy teenager.
The Fashion industry itself has gravely suffered for it’s own rather unrealistic standards. Several models have literally starved themselves to death. Ana Carolina Reston was only 21 years old when she died of heart failure in 2006. In what would be an unimaginable nightmare for parents, 22 year old Luisel Ramos collapsed and died on the catwalk during a 2006 Fashion show in Montevideo. Six months later, her 18 year old sister would be found dead due to a heart attack – also caused by an eating disorder.
Beautiful young women of all ages and Nationalities fall prey to an unattainable image of what it is to be truly perfect. There is no such thing, as flawless and if there were, it would likely be as boring as its own perfection.
At the same time, let’s not forget that currently, heart disease is the number one killer of people in the United States. As it is, every 25 seconds an American will suffer from a coronary related event. Obesity is a huge part of the problem, much more so than Bulimia or Anorexia have or likely ever will be. This doesn’t justify starving oneself but again, it should serve to reiterate that the standards of beauty should be more ‘accepting oneself’ for being different without entirely focusing on size. Girls should not be encouraged to overweight to the point of being unhealthy just as strongly as they should be cautioned against starving themselves.
Back to Ann Ward.
Should she have won? I say yes. She has the kind of face that is palette friendly. Many industry professionals would describe her looks as high end, fitting with haute couture and very much marketable.
Is she skinny? Most definitely.
Would I want to be that skinny? Probably not.
However, the point I’m trying to make is that the very same people who advocate for true, natural beauty are missing their own point. Curvy women are beautiful. Society has chanted and struggled with the idea that what the Fashion industry sees as ‘big’ is beautiful. Therefore, how hypocritical would be for someone to judge this model on her natural shape and size? Naturally skinny women are just as beautiful as naturally curvy women. Give or take the preference of the beholder we all have a right to look the way we were meant to. Ann Ward was teased for being skinny while in high school. Many people forget that during our awkward years, everything is fair game. Our height, size, the shape of our nose and even the style of clothes we choose.
The ideal shouldn’t be large, or small, or medium, it should be healthy. Outrage over Ann ward’s win does nothing to support the idea of real beauty. It would actually appear to go against it. Beauty is unique to individuals. What makes us different is generally the same thing that makes us beautiful.
In my humble opinion, most people have the idea ‘true beauty’ wrong anyway. Helen Keller said it best. “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” You can have the most beautiful eyes a person has ever seen, but if you can’t see the good in others, they won’t likely make you happy. You can have the most beautiful lips but they are only as beautiful as the words they form. A body is as beautiful as the beauty it tries to create. That’s why real beauty never fades, or wrinkles or turns to reality TV because it’s career has gone with yesterday’s newspapers.
Real beauty ceases to wither- because real beauty can’t be touched. After all, It’s on the inside.