Tuesday 20 March 2018

'I was even told my hands were too big for a model' -Alison

25' waist and 35' hips were constantly measured and criticised

MUCH CRITICISED: Model Alison Canavan.
MUCH CRITICISED: Model Alison Canavan.
Alison in her teens
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

'Your hands are too big; your upper body is too short and take another half inch off those hips."

Just some of the devastating critiques levelled against one of Ireland's top models.

Alison Canavan has shed light on her years working at casting calls for jobs with some of the world's leading designers and fashion magazines, describing how she would often leave the auditions in tears.

Her comments come days after a video of Swedish model and Sweden's Next Top Model contestant, Agnes Hedengard went viral after she alleged she has been denied work on the grounds she is "too big."

Hitting out at the fashion industry, the tiny 19-year-old said she has been in contact with major agencies and clients, but when they noted her measurements they back out.

"I have worked as a model for about five years now, but up to this day I don't get any more jobs since the industry thinks I'm too big," she said in the video, which has attracted more than 2 million views since last Monday.

Hedengard claims that she has been told she should "get in better shape" despite having a body mass index (BMI) of 17.5. According to the National Institutes of Health, a BMI of below 18.5 is considered underweight.

"They think my butt is too big, and they think my hips are too wide," she said twirling in front of the camera..

"According to the modelling industry, you cannot look like this, you need to be thinner."

But Ms Canavan (37) claims that the model's complaints are the tip of the iceberg.

"I'm laughing to myself [after hearing about the video] because I have had this for my entire career. When I started out in Paris, it was so much tougher. There was no social media. You wouldn't get away with some of the things they came out with back then. You were always being told you weren't perfect enough. My hands were even too big at one stage. I was measured all the time. I was told my body wasn't in proportion. I was always terrified of my hips going to castings, even though I was very, very thin on top," explains the 5ft 10in model. She was told to lose weight if she wanted to work, despite at one stage having 35-inch hips and a 25-inch waist. "Sometimes they wouldn't even look at your book; they would just throw it back at you without even opening it."

Speaking about the criticisms, she said: "This was something that went on every single day. It was par for the course."

"It absolutely affected my confidence. I am 37 and I have only really become comfortable with myself in the past two years. But it also built me up. I am grateful in a lot of ways for it. What I have seen is mind-blowing. The heroin-chic years had begun when I entered modelling. It was a crazy world. Crazy things happened. I got to travel the world.

"Eventually, you have to remember that they are not attacking you, you are just not fitting in to what that particular person wants and that's what models need to understand. You are being judged every single day purely on what you look like. But it was my choice to go down that career path."

Now a mother of one, Ms Canavan's career spanned two decades in the fashion industry, taking her to London, Paris, Milan and New York.

"When I went back to modelling after giving birth I was breast feeding - and I was back in the gym and my body obviously wasn't ready for it. I cursed my career. I thought 'this is lunacy! What I have to put my body through to get back into clothes for work.'"

But she says that girls on the international scene need to understand that they need to fit into a certain size if they want to walk down runways during Fashion Weeks at London, Paris and Milan.

"I get why people are going nuts [over the video] but sample sizes are made in sample sizes for the show. And if a designer has spent a lot of money making her clothes in this size, then when it comes to the crunch you are going to have to fit into it, or they will find another 20 girls who will. That's the harsh reality of it. The size might look [tiny]on some of the girls but it's actually not that extreme. If you don't like it, then you can always get into another kind of modelling. There's always another choice."

She added: "The fashion world gets a lot of bad rap but it is what it is. There are also a lot of great agencies who never told me to lose weight or change in any way. You can't tar everyone in the industry with the same brush."

Meanwhile, Agnes has revealed how she works "very little" as a model, and instead makes a living as a sales assistant in a shop.

On her blog last year she described how she exercises every day to maintain her body, going for 50-60 minute runs and hitting the gym two to three times a week, and follows a strict diet.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News