How Much Do Models Really Influence Body Image?

Vanessa Friedman of The New York Times made an argument Tuesday against France’s bill to ban ultra-thin models with a BMI lower than 18 from the industry. Reading between the lines, the law suggests that women take body image cues from these models, ultimately leading to unhealthy habits and mindsets. Friedman took to Instagram to test this theory, observing the fan following of a supermodel such as Karlie Kloss compared to that of a celebrity like Kim Kardashian.

The results did not come as a surprise — Kim K’s 29.3 million followers blew Kloss’s 2.2 million out of the water. Though there is significance to these numbers, social media may not be an accurate representation of the celebrity vs. model impact on women, but rather who women are exposed to in their daily lives.

These categories of model and celebrity are becoming irrelevant as models are tapping into film (Cara Delevingne) and celebrities are walking the runway (Kendall Jenner). A woman’s body image is not a question of model vs. celebrity influence. Do celebrities and supermodels play a role in a woman‘s ideal of the ultimate bod? Absolutely. You can bet your bottom dollar that if I wake up in a lazy mood, I’ll scroll through my Instagram feed to check out the latest Gigi Hadid spread and get myself to the gym. However, these women arguably have just as much influence over our perfect-physique daydream as the clothing mannequins in the mall.


When it comes down to the real source of our negative body image, it's the Victoria's Secret catalogs mailed to your house every other day. It’s the constant commercials whispering from the living room into your ear as you browse through shelves in a carb-stocked refrigerator about how easy it is to join Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers to finally lose those pounds and wiggle into that dress.

We want a body like Candice Swanepoel and a butt like Jennifer Lopez. We binge-watch Game of Thrones and envy Emilia Clarke’s beauty. Am I more inclined to follow the Kardashians on Instagram than Karlie Kloss? Yes. Why? Because they are everywhere you turn — in every magazine and on every channel. After the release of her five up-coming films, those who have never heard of Topshop frontrunner Cara Delevingne will envy her tiny waist and legs for days.

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Friedman brought to our attention Tuesday that social media plays a strong role in a woman’s body image ideal. But who we follow and why is not a matter of celebrity vs. model — the lines between those worlds are blurring, as Friedman points out:

...many high-fashion brands use celebrities in their ads instead of models: Celebrities sell stuff because consumers relate to them, and not to models. See Dior with Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman and Marion Cotillard; Miu Miu with Mia Goth and Imogen Poots; Balmain with Ms. Kardashian and Kanye West; and so on.

We base our body ideals on the women that surround us, on the waist sizes and curves of glossy cover girls and A-list starlets. Models and celebrities are not to be responsible for a woman’s poor body image, however, the high pedestal our society places them on, that unreachable height, is what makes the difference.

Image: Getty Images(2)