A fashion power player in Israel lobbies to change attitudes – and laws – about healthy bodies

Also see The Jerusalem Post‘s recent video on this story: ‘Skinny is ugly’ : Israeli fashion photographer Adi Barkan tackles the “anorexic” industry.

(from Wikipedia)

Adi Barkan is an Israeli fashion photographer and model agent who has campaigned for legislation banning the use of anorexic models.

Barkan worked as a fashion photographer for fifteen years in Paris, London and New York, before returning to Israel in 1998 to open his own modeling agency in Tel Aviv. After speaking on television about his experience with model Hila Elmalich, an anorexic whom he rushed to hospital after she collapsed and who later died, Barkan was deluged by telephone calls from girls and young women suffering from anorexia. This experience persuaded him to require all of his models to submit to BMI exams to demonstrate their physical health and lack of an eating disorder.

Working with Member of Knesset Inbal Gavriely, he successfully submitted legislation to the Israeli Knesset in December, 2004, requiring all modeling agencies in Israel to use the BMI (Body Mass Index) exam,  making Israel one of the first countries to pass such a bill. Subsequently, an agency will not be allowed to continue representing a model unless she submits to a health test every three months and receives higher than 19 BMI. Any agency that does not comply will be fined accordingly and all forms will be monitored by the Israeli Health Ministry. [1] The campaign has received backing by both the Ministry of Health and the Israeli Center of Changing Eating Habit, while additionally, more than 30 Israeli CEOs have agreed to only hire models who have passed the health exam for their advertisements. 

In 2009 Barkan, together with Rabbi Raphael Mammo of Kiryat Ata and Alon Gal, a personal coach, launched Simply U- a countrywide talent-scouting project to find the most promising healthy, well-balanced and normal-sized would-be models in Israel. Simply U will hold seven auditions around Israel and select 20 girls who, for six weeks, will be trained in modeling as well as attend workshops in nutrition, sports and self-esteem. This process will be covered by Israel’s Channel 2 which will follow the audition process via a 24/7 Internet video channel. The project is to be sponsored by four major corporations: food company Strauss-Elite, cosmetics company L’Oreal; sports gear company New Balance and another contract is set to be signed by a leading fashion firm. In the future, Simply U intends to run a plus-sized model campaign as well.

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One response to “A fashion power player in Israel lobbies to change attitudes – and laws – about healthy bodies

  1. Lin Dorfner Charles

    I am so thrilled to see this – I was a young girl in the 60’s when everyone wanted to be Twiggy. I almost starved myself and had a very altered body image, still seeing myself as “fat” when I was very thin. My neice has an eating disorder and she is in her 30’s, still dealing with this issue.

    Women need to be comfortable with who they are and what their bodies look like – they are genetically programmed to be a certain body type and can never look like an Elle model. I am an RN and have worked in psychiatric facilities that deal with women’s issues. Body Dysmorphic Disorder is rampant among young women and girls – they see fat where there is none. Much of this is due to the barrage of TV, movies and magazines, featuring anorexic girls as “models” Thank you for this work, which will help so many and save lives.

    Linda Dorfner Charles, BSN, RN

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