Health,  Life

How Supermodels Achieve the ‘Perfect Body’ Myth

Supermodels have always been exalted as paragons of feminine pulchritude. Their coquettish physiques cannot simply be summed up as “slender”, but “slender” is indubitably a prerequisite for ascending to supermodel stardom.

In the eyes of many, “slender” first connotes a delicate waistline. However, supermodels are obligated to have elongated legs, often necessitating the sacrifice of waist-to-hip ratios. Thus, supermodels frequently assume a seemingly “waistless” rectangular figure.

Though “waistless”, sculpting the waist and abdomen is paramount for supermodels. To maintain posture and balance in vertiginous heels, models must diligently strengthen their waist and core abdominal muscles.

This ostensibly “perfect physique” attained through assiduous exercise appears healthier than conventional weight loss doctrine advocating dieting, and has inspired manifold women to become supermodels. However, this vaunted “perfect physique” merely redefines “slender” differently, not fundamentally alleviating the corporeal anxiety inflicted on women by a singular bodily ideal.

The Supermodel Waist is Not Slim

In late June, someone uploaded several photographs of supermodels from the Victoria’s Secret fashion show, claiming the Victoria’s Secret models had “no waist” and describing their figures as “a straight rectangle with a gap between the thighs” – “looking like SpongeBob SquarePants.” The poster expressed bewilderment because although they did not meet the “hourglass figure” standard, their straight figure made their clothes “look better.”

Regarding this netizen’s doubts, the most popular response came from a netizen named “Coi.” As a model herself, she said models should not have very slender waists: “Our bodies should look ‘proportional’ so the clothes fit more aesthetically.” She added: “Most famous supermodels don’t have a waist because designers and brands want us to look like this.” This reply has garnered over 159,000 views and 4,000 likes, evidencing many concur with her perspective.

Some media explicated further reasons corroborating Coi’s statement. They highlighted many models are actually H-shaped – shoulder and hip circumferences nearly identical with waist circumference over 75% of shoulders. Models with elongated legs especially appear “waistless” since greater leg proportions truncate torsos, shrinking waists.

Although the H-shaped figure or “long-legged waistless” figure has debunked stereotypical supermodel physiques to some extent, such figures are not effortlessly obtained. Supermodels’ thick waists result from assiduous exercise. They must train the oblique abdominal muscles to achieve proper posture. Sturdy obliques enable an S-shaped back and waistline, but collaterally expand waist width. Long legs naturally coupled with strengthening abdominal muscles collaboratively create the supermodel H-shape.

Superficially, this physique concept emphasizing health and fitness aspires to liberate women from bodily anxiety. However, the core tenet of “exercise” has always underpinned the Victoria’s Secret brand. Training methods guaranteed by Victoria’s Secret Angels proliferate online, kindling the illusion attainable supermodel figures. Behind this mirage persists a singular “perfect figure” standard.

“Building the Supermodel Figure”

The Victoria’s Secret fashion show has been on hiatus for four years. The largest American women’s lingerie retailer once captivated the world with its lavish annual extravaganza. The alluring supermodels known as Victoria’s Secret Angels were the bona fide stars of the spectacle. Though diverse in skin tone and style, they share instantly recognizable traits – striking beauty, towering height, astoundingly long legs, voluptuous curves, and powerful physiques even considered the apotheosis of “strength” and “beauty” combined.

Many models are H-shaped – shoulder and hip circumferences nearly equal with waist exceeding 75% of shoulders.

One commonality among Victoria’s Secret Angels is flaunting their exercise regimens on social media – from weight training, competitive sports to yoga, Pilates, dance, etc. Prior to the 2017 Victoria’s Secret fashion show in Shanghai, comeback American model Karlie Kloss posted photos completing the New York Marathon and winning a medal.

Around 1985, Victoria’s Secret and affiliates began reinforcing the Angels’ “self-disciplined” image. In 2015, French Elle magazine featured Justin Gelband, trainer to the Victoria’s Secret models. At 40, he already held over 10 fitness and nutrition credentials. In the past 9 years, Gelbender trained an average of 6 Victoria’s Secret models annually.

Gelbender stressed most girls he trains aren’t naturally thin – Victoria’s Secret Angels genes aren’t perfect, their figures honed through years of training. Before supermodel fame, Karlie Kloss studied ballet for 11 years, Candice Swanepoel also ballet, and Jasmine Tookes 10 years gymnastics.

Victoria’s Secret Angels train 4 days a week over an hour daily. Gelbend said fitness is fundamental and consistent. A new client like Jasmine Tookes may need three months to peak shape, while nine-year trainee Candice Swanepoel just three weeks.

As Angels wear nine to fourteen kilogram wings and heels, Gelbend emphasizes butt, thighs, etc. He adds weighted vests or hand weights for balance and strength.

Gelbend’s studio wall bears the slogan “Not Model Thin! It’s Model Fit” seemingly repudiating thinness for fitness from balanced diet and hard training.

The Myth of the “Perfect Body”

While Victoria’s Secret long advertised against thin bodies, a study in the Journal of Cosmetic Surgery suggests Victoria’s Secret models have gotten thinner.

Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine compared measurements of Victoria’s Secret models from 1995 to 2018. Analysis showed two inch bust shrinkage, one inch waist reduction, half inch hip decrease over 20 years. Average dress size dropped from 5.2 to 3.7. Despite huge differences, waist ratios and heights stayed nearly identical.

Clothing camouflages supermodels’ incremental thinning. Ab muscle definition also obscures decreasing thinness over time. Nilan Vahi, Boston University School of Medicine associate professor, notes supermodels are slimming while average American women’s waists and dress sizes grow, from 16 to 18. This widens the gap between ideal and reality.

Under the façade of “cultivating a supermodel figure”, Victoria’s Secret still believes in the myth of “the perfect figure”. When Victoria’s Secret launched its “body” collection in 2014, “perfect body” was the slogan. Women’s groups protested this “body shaming” and deformed bodily judging standard.

Victoria’s Secret neither apologized nor halted its decline. In 2019, the fashion show was suspended and 53 North American stores closed. The 2020 New York Times exposé “Angels in Hell” revealed internal misogynistic culture and sexual harassment.

In March 2022, Victoria’s Secret announced fashion show renewal with diverse models. Recruiting industry-first plus-size model Ali Tate Cutler in 2019 exemplified promoting diverse bodies, in her words “the first step”.

Throughout fashion, “perfect body” still curses aspiring and current models. Many countries banned overweight models to prevent deformed standards’ violations against women. In 2017, France mandated health certificates for normal body mass index, fining and jailing noncompliant modeling officials. Spain, Italy and Israel passed similar precedent laws, but France’s fashion dominance amplified impact.

French sociologist Jean Baudrillard asserted bodily obsession and thinness mania are violent in “Consumer Society” since bodies become sacrifice. Today, more realize no “perfect body” defines all women’s beauty – not even the abs-bearing.

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