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Thread: Dying for fashion: How one young girl's dream turned into a nightmare

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    Elite Member Honey's Avatar
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    Default Dying for fashion: How one young girl's dream turned into a nightmare

    Jundiai town, Sao Paulo, Brazil. A brown-haired teenage girl walks on stage at the local beauty contest.


    Below, her parents, at the front of a cheering audience, clap enthusiastically as a judge slips a green and white sash over their daughter's head and pronounces her Queen of Jundiai, 1999.
    Her mother wasn't surprised: "The other girls were podgy and had bottoms," she said later. "She won because she was slim and elegant." Scroll down for more ...
    Catwalk queen: Ana Carolina


    It doesn't seem an earth-shattering achievement. But for 13-year-old Ana Carolina Reston Marcan it was one step nearer to her dream of becoming a supermodel.

    It would take Reston (who dropped Marcan from her professional name) seven years to "arrive", by which time she'd be working as far afield as Hong Kong and Japan, for designers such as Giorgio Armani and Dior.

    But it was on 14 November last year that she finally crossed over from being a successful catwalk model to appearing on the cover of every magazine and newspaper in Brazil, and making headlines around the globe.
    Not for her modelling, but for her agonising death, attributed to "complications arising from anorexia".

    In a year in which both "skinny chic" (wearing oversized clothes on tiny frames) and the American size 00 (an emaciated UK size two, or a waist the same as a typical seven-year-old's) was the height of fashion in celebrity-land, Reston's demise seemed all the more poignant.

    She was the second model to die from an eating disorder during 2006: in August, at a fashion show in Uruguay, 22-year-old Luisel Ramos suffered a heart attack thought to be the result of anorexia (and Luisel's 18-year-old sister Eliana, also a model, became yet another victim of this lethal trend in February this year).
    Although anorexia isn't the preserve of the fashion industry, Reston's death shone a spotlight on the way the business treats its models, and on how destructive our current perception of female beauty can be.

    Reston's short life began in a private hospital in Jundiai on 29 May 1985.
    She was born into a comfortable, middle-class family: her father, Narciso Marcan, worked for a German multinational, while her mother, Miriam Reston, sold jewellery.
    From an early age Reston wanted to be a model, partly in order to provide her family with a better life.
    Then one day in 1999, on the school bus, she spotted a sign announcing a beauty contest for the Queen of Jundiai. She leapt off and signed herself up.

    When she won, a fashion agent offered to introduce her to Ford, one of Brazil's top modelling agencies, for a fee of £100.
    The family accepted. Reston's career took off almost immediately and it soon became clear that she had her eye on the big prize - becoming a supermodel, like fellow Brazilian Gisele B¸ndchen.
    Her friends thought that for the more glamorous catwalk and editorial modelling she was (at just over 5ft 6in) too short.
    But she wouldn't be put off: she altered her height on her publicity shots and claimed she was just over 5ft 7in. And she seemed to get away with it.
    In July 2003, after four successful years at Ford, she signed with Elite, another big agency, a move which catapulted her from teenage wannabe to serious model.

    Elegant: In classic model pose


    In January 2004 she made her first trip overseas. She was sent to Guangzhou, a Chinese city not far from Hong Kong, for three months.
    Although no one can pin an exact date on when she began to suffer from anorexia, one former booker, who refuses to be named, believes it was here that things started to unravel for the 18-year-old.
    Reston, like so many other teenage models, travelled unaccompanied by anyone who could help her negotiate a way through the lonely castings, where personal criticism came as standard.
    "She arrived in China," explains a booker, "and the guys looked at her and said, 'You're fat.'
    "She took this very personally."
    In one letter to her mother, she says: "I [felt] so small, the city so big. I didn't understand anything..." Her confidence was being destroyed.

    Back in Brazil, Reston's descent into anorexia became obvious. When Laura Ancona, a journalist at the Brazilian fashion magazine Quem, befriended her towards the end of 2004, she sensed that something was wrong.
    Reston, she says, only ever drank juice. (After her death she was found to have survived on a diet of apples and tomatoes.)

    Ancona recalls: "She told me she tried to eat but felt like vomiting. She knew she had a problem, but I think I was the first to explain it to her - I knew she was anorexic, because someone in my family had suffered the same way."

    According to Ancona, Reston's condition was common knowledge. "Everyone knew she was ill," she says. "The other girls, the agencies, everyone. Don't believe it when they say they didn't."
    Reston's aunt, Mirtes Reston, who plans to present a petition to the government demanding steps to monitor the modelling industry, is more direct.
    "These girls are white slaves," she says. "We want models to have rights. At the moment they are given no pension, no support... They just take the person away from their family and abandon them far away."


    From his private clinic in a leafy, upmarket neighbourhood of Sao Paulo, psychologist Dr Marco Antonio De Tommaso has spent 11 years working with models and given consultations to nearly 2,000 of them.
    He runs a fortnightly drop-in clinic at two of the city's largest modelling agencies, Elite and L'Equipe. He also treated Reston.
    Tommaso's take on what he calls the "dictatorship of beauty" is bleak.
    He regards Reston's experience as typical, citing the way in which "new faces" are parachuted into the most demanding and adult of worlds where they are unable to cope.
    "They move city, they move state, they start living alone, and the work is very demanding," he says. "Everything happens very quickly, and it is all so unpredictable."

    There are no official studies to prove the link between the fashion industry and eating disorders, but many experts point to a clear correlation between the two.

    In a letter from 40 doctors at the Eating Disorders Service and Research Unit at King's College London to the British Fashion Council last October, Professor Janet Treasure wrote: "The fashion industry showcases models with extreme body shapes, and this is undoubtedly one of the factors leading to young girls developing disorders."

    This is borne out by Tommaso's experience. "If someone is just a tiny bit bigger than the industry demands, they are treated as if they were morbidly obese," he says.
    "This encourages a pattern of beauty that is absolutely unreal." These pressures, he continues, lead many such women to build up what he calls "an arsenal of anorexia": special diets, prescription and illegal drugs, starving themselves.

    Journalist Laura Ancona concurs: "I've lost count of how many times I've seen models vomiting in the toilets [at fashion events], or sniffing cocaine, or 13-year-old girls fainting because they're not eating properly."


    Anorexia is obviously not exclusive to the fashion industry, nor to Brazil. According to the Norwich-based Eating Disorders Association, between one and two per cent of young women worldwide suffer from the eating disorder.
    Most, like Reston, are 15-to 25-years-old, and it kills somewhere between 13 and 20 per cent of its victims. But Tommaso asserts that professional demands can be a "very strong factor".
    As he points out: "Often, low-income families begin to see their offspring as the chicken that lays gold eggs and expect them to support the entire household.
    "The models, in turn, begin to push themselves harder, placing greater demands on their bodies in the hope they will earn more money."

    Reston's family's life savings had been stolen in 2002 and, because they only had her sick father's pension of around £250 a month to live on (he had been diagnosed with both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease in the early 90s, and was later made redundant), Miriam Reston looked increasingly to her daughter's income.
    "She was my crutch," she explains, sitting in the breakfast room of her sister's guesthouse.
    By 2004, 18-year-old Reston was supporting her whole family. And despite her experiences in China, she continued to dream of travelling the world in order to earn more money for them.


    In August 2005, Reston told her employers at the Elite fashion agency that she was leaving - she'd received an offer from an agent to work in Mexico.
    They urged her to stay, arguing that the Mexican modelling market required voluptuous girls, whereas Reston was now increasingly skinny.
    "She wasn't listening to anyone any more," says her former booker.
    In Mexico things went from bad to worse. On her second day there Reston sent an e-mail home to say that she was sharing an apartment with 17 other models and was very unhappy.
    Eventually, Lica Kohlrausch, the owner of L'Equipe modelling agency, was persuaded by some of Reston's friends and colleagues to pay for her to fly back to Brazil.
    "We brought Ana back after she did some work for Giorgio Armani and a representative rang me to say she was too thin,"
    Kohlrausch told the press after Reston's death. "It worried me and I acted immediately, but I didn't see any physical signs of anorexia when she came back."

    Next, Reston worked in Japan for three months.
    When she came home again, in late 2005, she was barely recognisable - gaunt and colourless. Miriam Reston recalls, "I looked at her and said, 'What have they done to you?'"
    #Now seriously worried about her health, Reston's family sent her to stay with an uncle on the Sao Paulo coast, but she continued eating less and less, and her work began to ebb away.
    By the middle of 2006, her career as a model had virtually ground to a halt. To try to make ends meet, she was handing out fliers advertising nightclubs in Sao Paulo, earning just over £10 a night.

    On Friday 29 September, Dr Tommaso sat waiting in a room at L'Equipe, with a list of six models he was due to see that afternoon. Reston was booked in for her second appointment, but as the minutes ticked by, Tommaso realised she would be another no-show.
    "The agency contacted her and she said she'd forgotten," he says. "Maybe it was true, maybe it was the anorexia. We can't be sure."
    In Jundiai, meanwhile, Reston complained to her mother that agency members were pestering her to see a doctor.
    "Everyone told her she was ill," says her mother, "but like all these girls, she denied that it was a problem."


    Then, suddenly, it was too late. At home on Sunday 22 October, Reston began to complain of a pain in her kidneys.
    Miriam Reston didn't know it, but for the past couple of months her daughter had been taking a cocktail of prescription drugs, for pain relief and slimming.
    Reston was admitted to the Samaritano Hospital in Sao Paulo.
    Two days later she was moved to the Hospital Municipal dos Servidores Publicos, and admitted almost immediately to the intensive care unit, where she spent her last 21 days.
    Her demise was agonising: a plastic tube was inserted down her throat, so she was unable to tell anyone how she felt, although the tears in her eyes must have made that clear. She weighed six stone.
    Patches of her hair had fallen out. Her death certificate cites her time of death as 7.10am and lists the cause as "multiple organ failure, septicaemia, urinary infection".
    Coldly it adds: "Leaves no children. Leaves no property. Leaves no will."

    Within hours of her death Ana Carolina Reston Marcan was famous across the world. Her death made her a martyr in Brazil - her image was splashed across the front pages of virtually every newspaper and magazine, and across the international media.
    Jundiai's teenage beauty queen had become the model who starved herself to death. Debate raged.
    There was an outpouring of emotion from other anorexic girls who saw in Reston a piece of themselves and, simultaneously, a bitter rebuke from pro-anorexia communities, whose members see anorexia as a lifestyle choice.
    Reston's boyfriend (for the last few months of her life she had been seeing 19-year-old Sao Paolo model Bruno Setti) requested that her page on the popular Brazilian blog site Orkut be deleted after her death because it was targeted by anorexia supporters.
    Critics of the fashion industry, on the other hand, held her up as an example of how it was destroying the lives of would-be models, and, in the weeks that followed, the deaths of two more Brazilian girls in similar circumstances - one a fashion student - brought further calls for the regulation of this notoriously mysterious business.

    Already some changes seem to be taking place. Following the death of Uruguay's Luisel Ramos, models with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18 - classified as underweight by the World Health Organisation (between 18.5 and 25 is considered healthy) - were banned last September from Madrid Fashion Week.

    In the wake of Reston's death, Brazilian models now require medical certificates in order to take part in catwalk events.
    The Italian fashion organisation Camera Della Moda Italiana also introduced measures to prevent any catwalk models thought to be at risk appearing at Milan Fashion Week.
    The British Fashion Council refused to ban size zero models from London Fashion Week last spring (and fashion bosses in Paris have also dismissed a ban), but following recommendations by a panel of experts, models under 16 are banned from the catwalks at this month's London Fashion Week.

    It is late afternoon and in the cobbled centre of Pirapora do Bom Jesus, Miriam Reston Marcan pulls up the shutters of her new jewellery shop, Ana Carolina Metals.
    "I didn't know that what my daughter had could kill," she says, "but I knew it had to be treated. But my daughter rejected me, she said she was OK."

    She stares up at a portrait of Ana that hangs at the back of the shop - part of an advertising campaign that has now become a shrine to her deceased daughter. "Do you know what I think at night time?" she asks. "I think that she's in the ground and the ants are eating her. I don't know how I'm supposed to survive now, without my right arm."

    Dying for fashion: How one young girl's dream turned into a nightmare | the Daily Mail

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    Elite Member litupgirl's Avatar
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    I'm so shocked!

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    La vie en rose DitaPage*'s Avatar
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    Her mother wasn't surprised: "The other girls were podgy and had bottoms," she said later. "She won because she was slim and elegant

    People who talk like that have no place in the world, they just aren't helpful.

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    Elite Member Gen X EJC's Avatar
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    At least it does sound like the modeling agency realized she had a problem. I didn't realize those people actually KNEW there was such a thing as too skinny.

    Hopefully more people will show their support for larger curvier women and this will stop being an issue! I grew up in the 80's when women like Christie Brinkley and Kathy Ireland were super athletic and toned and that's what I wanted my body to look like!
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    Elite Member Karistiona's Avatar
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    God this is so sad. I googled her and some of the pictures of her are just absolutely shocking...poor girl, she was younger than me and now she's gone.
    I smile because I have no idea what's going on

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    Elite Member Ravenna's Avatar
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    She was so beautiful.

    (After her death she was found to have survived on a diet of apples and tomatoes.)
    Stupid way of putting it. Hello, she didn't survive on her diet of apples and tomatoes. She died.

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    Elite Member carrie2008's Avatar
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    This is a sad story. Such a tragedy. She was a very beautiful girl. I've heard so many stories of young models dying lately and it is such a shame.

    I also find it horrifying there is such a thing as "Pro-Anorexia" websites.

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    how ironic her name was ana.

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    Elite Member yanna's Avatar
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    I'm so disturbed with the existence of pro-ana communities! I saw one in livejournal, you had girls posting "OMG, I just ate a slice of orange!" They also have "wanarexics", girls who are desperate to lose weight and join a pro ana community hoping to come down with anorexia themselves. The true anas hate those.

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    Elite Member waikiki's Avatar
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    This story is so old! Her yonger sister unfortunately died too a few weeks later.
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    Elite Member MoodyJenny86's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yanna View Post
    I'm so disturbed with the existence of pro-ana communities! I saw one in livejournal, you had girls posting "OMG, I just ate a slice of orange!" They also have "wanarexics", girls who are desperate to lose weight and join a pro ana community hoping to come down with anorexia themselves. The true anas hate those.
    This absolutely makes me sick. As someone who has suffered from EDs and struggled with weight her whole life I find it absolutely disgusting that anyone would want to deliberately make themselves anorexic or bulimic...I never asked to become anorexic or bulimic nor did I want it or flaunt it when I was suffering.

    It was a very dark and painful time where I pretty much isolated myself and just allowed myself and my life to just waste away...

    This is why I get so upset at those girls (and guys) out there who see eating disorders as nothing more than a 'lifestyle choice' or a 'quick diet fix' and not a serious psychological illness that kills!

    Not only that but for those of us who are/have truly suffered with this disease are all looked at pretty much the same now by the general public thanks to the so-called 'wanarexics'...and that would be that they think we brought this on ourselves or that we aren't that seriously ill or that we are just doing it for attention, etc...

    Grrr...our stupid society glamorizing thinness and equating it to beauty...it almost makes it seem as if having an eating disorder is cool or something...because it's no longer surprising when another celebrity comes out as having an ED or even in real life...it's no longer too surprising (at least not to me) when I hear of someone else who has/is suffering...

    Also, sometimes it seems that there are more people who have EDs (or some type of unhealthy diet hang up) than people who don't...and that's scary...

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    Elite Member blissfullyunaware's Avatar
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    Sad story, people are willing to risk their lives to be "beautiful".
    My goal is to be happy with my life.

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    Elite Member Chilly Willy's Avatar
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    This is her, by the way. The people who hired her should be shot.



    Are there really people out there who think this is a good look?

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    Elite Member AuGusT's Avatar
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    sad !!

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    The scary thing is that Ford had been after me non-stop when I was at the the peak of my gastric problems in Brazil. I'm a shorty (5'4"), but they insisted I looked "great" at my sickly weight (90 lbs.), because I was so slim and it made me look taller on film. As much as I never had an ED, I was in bad shape (and aware of it), wanted to treat my stomach and regain a healthy weight.

    As poor as I may be, I'm not stupid nor greedy. I value life too much to risk it for illusions sold by the media. I declined Ford's offers and sought a job where I could use my brains and scholarity. So here I am, at 103 lbs., healthy and working with IT security.

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