Model Zuzanna Buchwald is breaking her silence about how her agents told her she needed to stop eating and exercising to lose weight, which developed into anorexia and bulimia that Buchwald battled for four years.
“I was very weak, very down all the time. I lost my period for three years, I had problems with teeth, my complexion was grey, my skin was dry. It was a terrible experience,” the former athlete, 28, says as part of the video series Real Women, Real Stories. “And even though I beat both disorders, even now I have a very emotional relationship with food.”
“I was doing that because I wanted to work and I wanted to fulfill what was asked of me but I didn’t feel beautiful, or powerful, or strong, at all.”
“I knew that starving myself wasn’t the way to live, but I also thought that it was the only way I could stay in my profession,” Buchwald says in an essay for The Daily Dot. “People often told me I had a dream life, but if you look past the surface, you can see that the modeling industry is way less glamorous than it seems.”
Buchwald believes it’s part of a shift in the fashion industry since the golden decades of the 80s and 90s.
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“In the 1980s and 1990s, models were strong, curvy women with personalities and stories to tell,” she says. “They were characters that complemented the clothes they wore. Today models are anonymous, interchangeable clothing hangers. Today, you are the face behind the label, not the face that makes the label.”
And Buchwald was disappointed to find that when she was at her lowest points, she had the most success as a model.
“Ironically, I was most admired by my ??agents and ?designers when I was at my unhealthiest and unhappiest,” she says. “It was then that I worked the most.”
“If you lose weight, you will be praised by all for how good you look and sent out to castings. If you don’t, you will be sent away to continue dieting. No one is guiding you on how to do it, no one mentions your health. No one tells you to stop when you start looking too thin. You develop an unhealthy thought pattern: The skinnier you are, the more desirable and valuable the industry sees you.”
But Buchwald won’t stand for it any more. While she says there’s been some progress in the modeling world, like the BMI limits in France and the rise of curvy models, it’s nowhere near enough given the amount of women still facing immense pressure to lose weight.
“I won’t stay silent anymore. I’m no longer afraid to say that the fashion industry has an exploitative and dangerous side to the often desperate young girls churning through it,” Buchwald writes. “It is cruel and unforgiving and often regards humans as commodities to be maximized then discarded.”
“I am calling to the media and fashion industry to stop imposing this unhealthy, dangerous body-rigid ideal of a size zero and replace it with the image of health, happiness, and personality.”