The mother of a Brazilian fashion model who died from complications of anorexia has made an emotional appeal for parents to take better care of aspiring young models.
The death of Ana Carolina Reston, 21, follows growing criticism of the use of underweight models in the fashion world, an issue given new significance after the death in August of Uruguayan model Luisel Ramos of heart failure during a fashion show in Montevideo.
Reston died on Tuesday in a Sao Paulo hospital from a generalized infection caused by anorexia, an eating disorder in which sufferers obsessively deprive themselves of food in pursuit of an ultra-slim look.
Reston weighed only 88 pounds (40 kg) and was about 5 feet 8 inches tall (1.72 meters) tall. Doctors consider this weight normal for a 12-year-old girl no more than about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall.
“Take care of your children ... no money is worth the life of your child, not even the most famous (fashion) brand is worth this,” her mother, Miriam Reston, told O Globo newspaper.
She said her daughter had been trying to help her family with the money she made as a model.
Miriam spoke on national television and to local newspapers to highlight the tragedy. She said she had pleaded with her daughter to eat more and to see a doctor.
“She would reply, ‘Mummy, don’t mess me around,’” Miriam told O Estado de S.Paulo.
“Dictatorship of skinny look kills a model,” said the front-page headline of O Dia tabloid, which carried a picture of the dark-haired, big-eyed girl in lingerie.
Many top models come from Brazil and thousands of young girls from all walks of life dream of modeling careers, inspired by the international success of Gisele Bundchen or Adriana Lima.
Reston was not famous but she had worked abroad, including in Japan, and did some jobs for Giorgio Armani and the Brazilian model agency L’Equipe, which declined immediate comment.
In September, Spain caused a storm in the fashion world when Madrid barred models below a certain weight from its top fashion show. Models with a body-mass-index (BMI), which takes into account height and weight, of less than 18 were banned.
Reston’s BMI was just 13.5 while the World Health Organization considers anyone with a BMI below 18.5 underweight. A BMI below 17.5 being one of the criteria for the diagnosis of anorexia nervosa and a BMI nearing 15 is usually used as an indicator for starvation.
Other famous fashion venues like London were considering following suit.