Israel bans underweight models from fashion ads

By Jennifer Lipman, March 20, 2012
Bar Refaeli

Bar Refaeli

Until now, Israel's best-known contribution to the catwalk has been supermodel Bar Refaeli, but that may be about to change.

The Knesset passed a law this week that will prevent Israeli advertisers from using underweight models, including those who appear underweight, and force publications to acknowledge when photographs are airbrushed to make models appear slimmer.

Models, male and female, working in Israel, will also be required to show employers an up-to-date medical report proving that their body mass index is above 18.5. According to Dr Rachel Adato, who sponsored the bill, only five per cent of women have BMIs that naturally fall below that number.

The legislation is understood to be the first effort by a national government to take on the culture of the modelling industry, which critics have long blamed for encouraging eating disorders from the consistent use of dangerously thin models. Although some catwalks – Madrid and Milan – ban models with low body mass indexes, this has not led to change across the board and the industry is self-regulating.

The law has the support of Israeli modelling agent Adi Barkan, who criticised his industry for using emaciated young women who "look like dead girls".

Mr Barkan welcomed the law, noting that the difference between "thin and too thin" was "the difference between death and life".

Dr Adato said she hoped other countries would follow in Israel's footsteps and show that "you don't need to be underweight to be beautiful, or successful.

"Beautiful is not underweight, beautiful should not be anorexic."

Last updated: 1:24pm, March 20 2012