I’m finding it quite hard to write this. Isabelle Caro has died at 28 – she died in November but her family have only released the information to the press today. She died of complications relating to anorexia – an illness she had suffered with since she was 13.

You might recognise her

Her images were used in an Italian campaign and then subsequently banned in most of the country, and others, due to them being seen as ‘glamorising’ anorexia. The shots were taken by controversial photographer Oliviero Toscani, also known for his work for Benetton

The shots of Isabelle were harrowing and a lot of people were quick to say how awful they were and how they should be banned – the minds behind the campaign however were un-repenting. They insisted that anorexia needed to be brought into the spotlight and needed to be tackled. Hiding it made it worse. I completely agree. Flash and Partners, the group behind the campaign said that they wanted ‘to use that naked body to show everyone the reality of this illness, caused in most cases by the stereotypes imposed by the world of fashion.”

Isabelle also appeared on Supersize vs Superskinny and The Price of Beauty talking about how anorexia had taken over her life and how awful the illness was. I think she was brave, courageous and it makes my heart ache to think of her. Something that I think is important to remember is how much she wanted other women to never have to go through what she did. I have suffered from an eating disorder before. It took over my life for years, I was in hospital more than I was out of it and my weight dropped so low that I lost the right to make decisions for myself and was fed through a tube. It has taken me years to get to a point where I like myself and where I can have an almost healthy relationship with food. I had people around me trying to save me, loving me enough to ignore me pushing them away and staying close. Some people aren’t that lucky and by hiding the illness away, by making it ‘dirty’ and something to be ashamed off and kept locked in closets means that people that need help aren’t getting it.

When Isabelle posed for the shots she said “I thought this could be a chance to use my suffering to get a message across, and finally put an image on what thinness represents and the danger it leads to – which is death.” I hate to harp on about the dangers of the media but with stories like this, and the Allie Crandell scandel outlined below, I won’t need to for much longer – the people dying and suffering with body image issues will speak louder than I ever could. It tears me apart that as women we are so desperate to be ‘right’ and ‘attractive’ that we are willing to sacrifice our health and well being in order to succeed in that goal. It confuses me that nearly every women I speak to hates the pressures placed on women, hates the way that fashion houses use emaciated bodies to showcase their clothes and spread a message that big is bad and yet nothing ever changes. I would love to see a range of women in magazines, on catwalks, on tv and not just in the ‘jolly’ fat girl roles or roles where their weight is more important than their personality – hello Ugly Betty, Drop Dead Diva, Sex and the City  (the scene in the film where Samantha is accosted by the girls for being fat made me cry because I could feel in my gut what that would do to the girls across the world watching it. It made me so angry I was shaking – when they say ‘how could you not notice? What have you been eating? Are you happy? I wanted to rip the writers apart for being so ridiculously insensitive and stupid and it is one of the only times I have ever wanted to truly hurt a film director – and I’ve sat  through some pretty shit films in my time! ) I think that we forget how powerful we are – as consumers, as women. We keep companies in business through buying make up, clothes, films, magazines. They should fucking well reflect what we want, who we are.

Something fantastic that came about, in a way, from Isabelle’s bravery is a new law in France; “Promoting extreme thinness will become a criminal offence punishable by a jail sentence under a government-backed law in France to combat anorexia nervosa.” Anorexia and Bulimia are real and serious and I think that refusing to allow underweight models in ads or shows is a great start.

* edited to add that this image was photoshopped to make the model in question appear thinner; thanks to the lovely lady who pointed this out. As you can see here, the image has been manipulated on the left hand side. Whilst the woman in question is still undoubtedly thin, it is reassuring that she is not as skeletal as previously thought *

I’m not saying that we should have overweight women modelling for Chanel or that we should throw away all the Keira Knightleys and Kate Bosworths out there. But other body shapes exist and we never recognise, or celebrate that. There are lots of naturally thin women out there – there are also lots of bigger women and I don’t think it is very fair that they, we, should be ignored just because they don’t fit a socially constructed form of beauty. All women are beautiful, all women are individual, unique and fantastic and I think it is time we start saying how fucking amazing we all are instead of trying to starve ourselves into acceptance or change our natural body shapes – we can’t do that easily so it has to be done painfully, hungrily, obsessively. I do not think that very overweight or obese women are better role models – that brings a whole new heap of health related problems but I do think that it is time we start looking at other women and seeing the good bits, the sexy, gorgeous bits. We should start looking at ourselves and saying you know what, I’m pretty damn gorgeous too. It has taken me the longest time to get to a point where I can look at myself naked and smile and say fuck it to all the bits that aren’t ‘perfect’

I’m so sorry that Isabelle died. I hope her family are ok and that we remember her for the right reasons.

Category: Feminism, My Thoughts
  • Lyzi

    Brilliant post, Em. It’s so sad about Isabelle. I could rant about this subject forever too, but it’s too early in the morning. It just makes me so sad inside that women are so unhappy with themselves 🙁 xxxxxx

    • em

      We should start some kind of women fan club and chant and say mantras! I teach about body image and media pressures and it makes me cry inside when I hear girls talking about how much they hate themselves and how their bodies are disgusting. xxxx

  • Awh the poor family and generally devastating news. I know someone who is anorexic and it saddens me to think that this could happen to them.


    • em

      It is horrible. I always kind of hoped that she would get better so this is really sad xx

  • Meg

    This soooo isn’t the post to talk about this on but I couldn’t find an email address for you! Basically, I just got paid (woop!) and I remembered that I was supposed to be buying some hair extensions from you! I’m frostthepie on TSUK 😉 If you still have them, I’d be happy to take them off your hands! Just drop me an email or something madeinacup@gmail.com xx

  • what a brilliant post. i am so sad that she died, she was so brave and honest. sorry to hear about your illness too, i’m glad you are in a better place right now.

    i also could talk about this subject forever, about the fact that i’m naturally skinny but still hate the way i look, have been bullied for years about my weight and that in the past many of my photographs were posted on ‘proanorexia’ and ‘thinspiration’ websites.. but i shall leave it there, as i just wanted to say what a brilliant post this is.

    also, i know it may sound a little random of me, but the 8th image in your post has been manipulated (http://bit.ly/eY4hRW), i just thought i should let you know.

    love, jazzabelle. xx

    • em

      Thanks for letting me know about the image love – thats terrible of someone to do it but reassuring in a way! I teach teenage girls and have been in a pretty bad place myself where my weight is concerned so it is an issue I am so passionate about. Thanks so much for your comments, it is so nice to know people agree with or get what I’m saying xxx

      • Jazmine Rocks

        oh, i didn’t realized this comment saved! i just posted again, sorry! i’m very passionate about this issue too, it’s so sad to think of the amount of girls who go through such issues in this day and age. though sometimes people who are also passionate about the size issue do not agree with me (as in i believe that more shops should stock size fours, of course not to glamourize that size, but to cater to people like myself who are of that size).

        thank-you for taking the time to reply 🙂 happy new year! xx

        • em

          That’s the key issue here I think – stores and shows and magazines do not acknowledge or celebrate most body shapes. I think that we need to be embracing all body types; it isn’t fair that so many women are denied the opportunity to be recognised as ‘real’ women or embrace fashion. Size 4s like yourself need to be catered for, as do the larger women who are often ignored. xxx

  • hello, i’m not sure if my last comment saved on here as my internet froze, so i shall write it again. i was so sad to hear that she had died, she was so brave and honest. sorry to hear about what you have been through too, i’m glad you are in a better place.

    i also could talk about this forever, about the fact that i’m skinny but not happy with the way that i look, how i’ve been bullied about my weight for years and about in the past my photographs have bee used on ‘pro anorexia’ and ‘thinspiration’ sites, but i shall leave it as that as i originally just wanted to comment to say how brilliant this post was.

    oh, and i know this may sound a little random, but the 8th picture you have used in your post has been photoshopped to make the model appear thinner than she is (http://bit.ly/eY4hRW), i just thought you should know.

    happy new year! love, jazzabelle. xx

  • I really love your blog…someone very close to me was very ill with anorexia at one point in there life (she is over it now.) and maybe if she’d seen these pictures it wouldn’t have spiralled. I think the campaign was incredible, and showed just how brave she was, her life was so tragic but if she has helped in any way to people suffering, I think her family should take comfort in it. I heard a designer told her when she was just 7 stone to lose weight how awful?
    p.s excuse the rant. I enjoy reading your thoughts on things.

    • em

      Thank you so much for your comment – I really appreciate hearing that people agree with me or find some kind of relevance in my ramblings. Body image and all of the things associated with it are so important to me and I think we need to talk about it to fix it you know?