BMI Is Not an Accurate Way to Determine If Models Are Too Skinny, Says Plus-Size Model Iskra Lawrence
For the first time this week, the models walking the runway in Paris’ Haute Couture Fashion Week must comply with the new French law that requires them to show medical documents proving that they have a body mass index (BMI) of over 18.
“I had to get a BMI test for a client once, and I got 25, and I was actually smaller than I am now,” Lawrence tells PEOPLE. “But according to BMI standards, if you got over 25 you’re actually qualified as overweight.”
“I was like, ‘I know I am very healthy, I workout,’ and then I kind of did my research and I found out that if you have muscle, muscle weighs more than fat. So actually if you were to do the BMI of a body builder, they would be morbidly obese. So it was really fascinating for me to learn firsthand that BMI wasn’t the best indicator of health.”
Lawrence, 25, thinks that while this could be a temporary solution, the bigger problem is the sample sizes that models are force to wear.
“Sample sizes are too small,” she says. “If we could just get a variety of sample sizes, then models will feel comfortable being their own healthy weight rather than that one size for everyone to squeeze into.”
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Plus, she says, this law actually hurts those that have a low BMI without dieting.
“Some models are naturally slim, and it’s a shame for them to miss out because of this law.”
However, she’s glad that France is taking steps to improve conditions for models.
“We really need to do something, and maybe this is the first step, maybe it will work,” Lawrence says. “It’s just difficult to decide who is healthy and who is not and what they’re putting into their bodies.”
“But at least France is showing that they realize there’s a problem, they’re doing something. It does seem like the most clear and simple way to legislate it right now.”
At the same time, while young girls may have looked up to runway models for inspiration in the past, Lawrence believes they have less of an impact, and these girls are more interested mirroring their lives based on social media these days.
“I think that runway models have less of an effect on women now. What is now more of an issue is social media. You get more varied bodyshapes, but they’re seeing it every day and it’s not really real, people are still using Photoshop.”