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Kim Noorda On Her Weight Struggles: "People in the Fashion Industry See Every Gram of Fat"

Kim Noorda On Her Weight Struggles: "People in the Fashion Industry See Every Gram of Fat"

>> The April 2010 issue of Vogue features a journal kept by Kim Noorda from January 2009 to January 2010 on her struggles with food. Kim was originally sent to the Vogue offices in January of last year after her agent identified her — at five foot ten, 110 pounds — as on the precipice of an eating disorder and a candidate for an intervention underwritten by the CFDA Health Initiative.

Noorda, who at the time said as a model, she had learned to eat "a little less," spent four subsequent weeks as part of an outpatient program at Renfrew Center in New York, which treats patients with eating disorders, because even her agents, who are typically painted as perpetually telling models to lose weight, wanted her to gain five pounds.  At the start of the program, Noorda spoke to a nutritionist, who told her, as she recalls: "Five pounds is not that much, and probably no one would even see it. I told her that people in the fashion industry see every gram of fat." Eventually, she gained 15 pounds to weigh in at 125.

"Every season I gained a little weight, and every time it felt like I was doing fewer shows." »

A few more lessons learned from Noorda's journal on the industry's attitude toward weight:

1. "You look healthy" is not a compliment.

During a show season, when a model is not slim enough, people tell her, “Oh, you look so good, so healthy!” whereas the agencies recommend she lose weight. . . .

2. Even if your agent tells you "You're beautiful as is," she'll still encourage you to lose weight.

By the time I was eighteen I did my first catwalk shows. I struggled to prevent gaining weight, whereas already I was considered to be a “heavy” model compared with the others. My agent told me I was beautiful as I was, but I had to make sure that I would not gain more. She encouraged me to lose at least some of my weight. I was ashamed that I had to diet. At home I was thinner than everybody else, but compared with other models, I was heavier.

Every season I gained a little weight, and every time it felt like I was doing fewer shows. During the shows the pressure caused me to lose weight, and people complimented me on that. After the shows I gained a bit. When a month or so later I appeared for a job in front of the people who had booked me, the difference between me and my pictures was too great. Nobody said so, but I knew. So I would start eating less.

3. Stylists prefer very thin models.

I went to fit a pair of trousers with a stylist who is known to prefer very skinny models. The board showed that she had only booked skinny girls. I didn’t know if this pair of trousers was really too small or if I have become so much heavier than the rest. What I do know is that I could not get them zipped up with all my strength. The designer apologized for the small size. The stylist said, “Oops.” Then she made a phone call. I thought, OK, she will probably cancel me, and I looked her in the eye. She really did not seem to blame me. That surprised me, but I could not care less because I felt rather all right. I had had my period the day before, and it had made me so happy. It felt as though I had achieved one successful result in the center this month. So I could take it. I did not panic.

Then, before the summer holiday starts, I fly to Milan for one more job. This worries me a little, since it is with a stylist who has always complimented me when I have been really skinny. Indeed, I feel she is not too happy with how I look now.

4. Agents know the usual 34-24-34 measurements cited on models' cards aren't accurate.

Chanel cruise show. It was my first show since pret-a-porter. I asked my agent several times if she was sure I could do the show given the way I now looked. I didn’t want them to think I was still as skinny as in March. On my card it always says 90 [cm, or 35-inch] hips or less. I was not 90 hips anymore. My agent called me back and said the 90 hips are a bit stupid. They were going to change it on all the girls’ cards to what it really was. At the show everyone was really nice, though. They specifically said I looked good like this. From then on I got more confident.

5. And even Vogue editor Sally Singer is convinced that a grown woman shouldn't fit in Balenciaga pants.

Singer: We spoke at length about this new phase of [Kim's] life and her mixed feelings of pride and discomfort with her healthier (yet still superslim) shape. I told her not to unpack the boxes of clothes that no longer fit — all those skinny Balenciaga trousers — in her new, pristine home. I told her to give them to her teenage sister. (Later she wrote to me, “It helped when you said I should not feel bad about not fitting into those jeans anymore; that, in fact, the opposite was true: I should feel it was wrong to have fit such small clothes for so long.”)

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