Famed Photographer Toscani ain't messin' around with anorexia.

There’s not much room to question of the message Italian Fashion photographer Oliviero Toscani intends to send with the Nolita “NO ANOREXIA” campaign.

First, we need to thank this brave model for having the courage to pose for this all important campaign. Her participation in this campaign will undoubtedly initiate change.  

You may remember Toscani for his controversial campaign for Benetton, featuring a man dying of AIDS. Now, he takes on fashion stating;

“I have been interested in anorexia for years. Who is responsible for it? The media in general, television and the fashion industry,” he told the ANSA news agency.

“It is therefore very significant that a clothing brand understands the gravity of the problem, becomes aware and supports this campaign,” he said.

The ads, which will be featured on billboards and newspapers across Italian cities, is also being backed by the health ministry.

At the end of last year, the Italian government and the domestic fashion industry adopted an anti-anorexia campaign and called for a return to a “healthy, sunny, generous and Mediterranean beauty.”

Amen to that girls.

For all Pro Ana’s out there, I am thinking the vision of  Terry Schiavo would make a great Thinspiration campaign

*What is “pro ana” and/or “thinspiration?”

It’s sad we need to be this blunt and in your face, but nothing seems to startle the masses these days.


PS Thanks for Autumn, my undercover Italian spy for sending this my way.

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49 Responses to Famed Photographer Toscani ain't messin' around with anorexia.

  1. Jennifer says:

    This sends a message in a big way. I like this and I hope it will change some other designers’ minds (not saying any names), but it is wrong to pick the most sickly looking girls just to create shock value and get talked about. Yay for Italy!

  2. Danni says:

    Leave Terry Schiavo’s memory and her family alone for God’s sake.

  3. Josie says:

    I don’t like this at all.

    Anorexia isn’t CAUSED by our media and culture. Anorexia has been around hundreds of years, before fashion shows, Nicole Richie and TV. Our culture has caused an increase, and helps its continuation, that’s all.
    Our culture is greedy, so people get fat, so fat is the norm, so thinness is glamorised, so people diet, vulnerable dieters can get anorexia.
    Anorexia can be triggered by all SORTS of food restriction, not just diets. There’s depression, physical illness, bereavement, brain damage, stress.

  4. Shana says:

    this is too much.
    i really don’t think getting this graphic is necessary or even helpful to the public.
    and i don’t really get the message either.
    do you, mamaV? because i really would like to understand how posting a naked, anorexic model is supposed to cause something positive.

  5. mamavision says:

    Hi Danni: I certainly do not mean disrespect to the Shiavo’s, and I did add some commentary to clarify my point.

    I found this image of Terry with “thinspiration” tagged across it on anti pro ana site (link provided in post) and I think it is highly relevant, and yes, shocking. Bulimia is what started Terry’s sad downturn in life. The imbalance of her bodies chemistry caused a heart attack, which lead to brain damage, and we all know the rest.

    Do you know how many girls I talk to (privately) on a daily basis that have either 1) already experienced a heart attack of this nature due to their ED 2) are close to this point in their ED and are seriously at risk?

    Do you believe the average young women who is purging understands this risk? I know I sure didn’t when I started this blog, but now I have lost friends to it and I fear I will soon have a friend in Terry’s condition.

    For this reason, I am confortable with utilizing her image to make a very, very important point.

    No disrespect intended,

  6. mamavision says:

    Hi Josie: You and I understand this, but the general public does not. We know the fashion industry in and of itself does not “cause” ED’s, but it is a contributing factor.

    I think about this issue (more than I would care too, trust me!!) and I think about – what if the fashion industry got healthy and went back to the Marilyn Monroe days, or even the Cindy Crawford body days- would that change anything?

    I believe the rate of ED’s would drop, the pro ana mentality wouldn’t be quite so popular, and for both of these reasons I think this is really important to start turning this trend around.

    If this type of “shock” campaign doesn’t do it for your or is offensive, what do you believe would be more effective?


  7. mamavision says:

    Hi Shana: Please see what I just posted to Josie, and tell me your thoughts. Also, I would say the reason I like this shocking, in your face approach is that our culture is just totally out of whack. It seems going to this level is necessary.

    From where I sit, here’s how I see it (now keep in mind I am not sitting here with and ED, I am watching many. many girls suffer intensely with EDs)

    Sometimes, honestly, I just simply can not get my arms around the fact that we have girls delibrately starving themselves. It’s so pathetic and sad, it kills me.

    Then we have this whole other group, those with “real” ED’s, stemming from a mental disease, genetics, and yes environmental factors as well. These young women would like nothing more than to be free of this debilitating disease that has taken their lives away, yet they are subject to the total arrogance of pro anas, the fashion industry, media, etc who glamorize this thin on an anorexic level. It’s just proposterious that this issue needs to be pointed out so blantantly.

    Am I making sense?

  8. Shana says:

    mamaV – in regard to the terry schiavo issue, i do think that most purging girls DO know that heart attack is a risk factor every time they purge. yet the urge is stronger than that fear. and it also doesn’t seem like something that would happen to them.

    as for the shock factor, i completely understand that with the state our society is in, shocking images are often needed to capture the attention of people. however, i don’t see how this picture (which will no doubt capture people’s attention) serves a good purpose. once it captures your attention, what are you supposed to think? i just don’t quite see the direct correlation between the picture and your goal. i really would like to understand it though.

    on a side note, you seem to draw a very sharp line between ‘real anorexic’ and ‘pro-anas’ and i’m not sure that it’s actually the case. i think many people can belong to both groups, to want to believe in the pro-ana myth yet also desperately want to be rid of the disease. i think some people turn to pro-ana as a way to justify what this disease is doing to them and how it’s making them think, u know?

    i do think many ppl on pro-ana forums don’t actually have eating disorders and i would call them wannarexics (at the risk of people telling me that the term is not nice – but neither is wanting an eating disorder) but some of the them are actually sick, and have a real mental disease.

    i think those people turn to pro-ana because anorexia hurts like hell. and it hurts even more to think that what you are doing is twisted and sick and wrong and abnormal. so if they turn it around, make starvation holy, coveted and an ideal, it makes their illness almost a… talent. it’s a desperate attempt to feel good. and it can work, just very temporarily.

    and honestly, i completely understand what you are saying. it’s just… hard to put everything i want to say in words. you are better at that than me.

    and one last question, do you/did you have an eating disorder?

  9. Claire says:

    As you know, we posted about this new ad campaign over on our blog, too:

    From the photographer’s statements and the press release, it seems clear that the company’s intention is to shock people into serious conversation about a serious issue, which we hope is the case. One thing’s for sure: there needs to be a lot more talk (and action) within the industry when it comes to understanding and dealing with eating disorders. If this helps spark some debate, I’m all for that.

    There are a couple of issues I have with the ad:

    1. I would like to see more provocative campaigns that address the fact that eating disorders don’t always come in the form of skin and bones. Bulimics are putting their lives at risk, too (as you pointed out with the Terry Schiavo example). While most of those girls and young women would probably meet the BMI criteria if they happened to be models, they are still unhealthy and in need of help, even though their bodies might not appear emaciated.

    2. As of yet, I have not been able to determine if there is a response device for this campaign other than a link to “what do you think about”, which allows you to send your thoughts about the ad directly to the fashion company. We’ve contacted them to see if they are planning to post some health and referral information on their website or the ad itself.

  10. Vanessa says:

    i just wanted to completely agree with the things shana has said about proana. i see proana as coming originally from a frustration that anorexics feel over treatment methods don’t work very well and being sick and tired of being forced into treatment only to immediately relapse. but as soon as the idea of proana was out there it attracted wanna types which made the whole thing this weird fusion. but to say that anorexics were at fault and wannas were the victims OR that wannas were at fault and real anorexics were the victims is wrong. and there simply is not a clear line between who is a wanna and who isn’t, either.

  11. mamavision says:

    Update on the model’s perspective:

    The woman in the photograph, Isabelle Caro, 23, has been suffering from anorexia for 15 years and weighs less than five stone. “I have hidden and covered myself up for too long,” she told Italian Vanity Fair. “Now I want to show myself without fear, even though I know that my body is repugnant. The … suffering I have experienced only makes sense if they can be of help to others who have fallen into the trap from which I am trying to escape.”

  12. mamavision says:

    Hi Danyel: My advice is always the same in this situation or any other that you are concerned about a loved one- face it head on.

    Go to your friend, hug her and tell her you love her. Ask her about her weight loss and tell her that you checked out the pro ana sites because you were worried about her, not to invade her privacy.

    How does that plan sound? Scary maybe, but its always the best way do go.

  13. Kim says:

    We talked about Terry *a lot* in our high school classes, but I had no idea how she ended up in the hospital. The subject of her bulimia was never brought up even though we talked about her a lot. I’m sure some of my friends don’t know as well…people usually just talk about the feud b/w her husband and her family. I just assumed she ended up on life support b/c of some horrible accident. Wow.

  14. Josie says:

    I think something shocking is definitely an effective method, and a nude anorexic is definitely that!

    I just feel it fuels the assumption that all anorexia is caused by fashion, that all anorexics are vain, selfish and spoilt. It’s offensive to us who are not directly influenced in that way, and anorexics are less likely to ‘come out’ because of the misconceptions and judgements they’ll face.

  15. Sarah says:

    I kind of agree with all perspectives here. I think that “real” anorexics can also be “pro ana” as they (i’ve been there) are looking for people in similar situations to help them cope. Even before I started modelling, I had a problem with food. Once in the fashion industry, it just fueled it for me.\

    side note.. stupid question, hope it doesn’t offend, if it does, sorry, i just needed to ask something.. I thnk I have mono(my two best friends have it and I shared a bed with them 2 nights ago now i feel like crap) however I am scared to get my blood tested because I made an idiotic decision when it came to drugs last weekend.. (i’m 17 so my mom would know) so do you know if they were testing for mono if they would see that? thanks guys. I’m just tired of pretending like i’ m not sick haha.

  16. Nathalie says:

    Effective method? Don’t think so. The only reason it is so “shocking” is because she is nude. Put some clothes on her and she wouldn’t look any different than many of us or (since this site is about fashion and pop culture) fashion model, celebrity, etc. I just feel really bad for the woman putting herself out there. Will this “campaign” cure her illness? No. Feed into other peoples illness? Yes.

  17. Sarah says:

    nathalie I have to agree with you. to those with “real” anorexia, maybe this has no effect. to those “pro” anas, maybe it triggers them. it made me feel over weight, personally.

  18. Nats says:

    This picture scares me almost as much as mamaVs comment to Danni thats all I am saying on the matter

  19. Iisa says:

    First off I have to thank you so much, mamaV. I’ve read like all your posts, and.. it just might have saved my life. Recovery isn’t easy, and I’m still not perfectly healthy, but i’m so proud to be sitting here, reading your blog and EATING noodles without even feeling bad about myself.
    What comes to this campaign, at first sight it seemed great – until i checked the link, and continued to the Nolita site with the intro of the fashion shoot. And the model in her skinny leggings – just another stick figure! How hypocritical is that! I felt really disappointed.

  20. scopettg says:

    OMG… Like those poor skinny jews under Nazis’ camp…

  21. Nats says:

    im out of here

  22. mamavision says:

    Hi scopettg: I have a rule not to delete messages, I’m big on free speech. But let’s steer away from comparing anorexics to jewish people from the Holocaust, I don’t think its appropriate in this forum and not relevant to this discussion.
    Thank you for understanding

  23. mamavision says:

    Yes! I am behind a bit, I will get back to you today- tomorrow at the latest. Hang in there ok?

  24. Elle says:

    Josie, though I agree that the fashion industry and vanity are not the direct cause or issues of anorexia, I do think that the media has added to the problem. If we see anorexia and EDs as a reaction to stress, pressure to be perfect, depression, etc, can’t we also see how the media’s constant and pervasive images of physical perfection can add to those stresses. Beauty and fashion images are everywhere and are impossible to ignore. For someone who is already a perfectionist, a high achiever or expects a lot out of themselves, these images create another goal for this person to reach. They represent everything these people want: self-control, beauty, respect, acceptance, happiness. I think I should know, I’m one of those people.

    I accept personal responsibility for most of my choices and know that my ED has little to do with vanity. But the sub-conscious pervasiveness of these images creates goals and ideals that feed my natural tendency for an ED. They help me to rationalize my unrealistic desires for a low weight.

    To me, denying the affect the beauty and fashion media has on our self-esteem is like denying our parent’s impact on our self-esteem and personality. They are both a constant in most young women’s lives.

  25. God. At first I thought “gee, her feet are awfully dirty, why didn’t they clean them for this picture?” Then I realized they’re BLUE…..

  26. Scope says:

    Thought I replied? Didn’t see it posted.
    Anyway, just telling you I am glad you are understanding. And I mean no offense. :)

    I am a pretty nice guy myself.
    Nice knowing you. 😉


  27. Scope says:

    Found my original reply:

    Hi hi~
    No problem. I am also glad you are mature. :)
    Actually, I mean no offence.

    (Luckily I saw your comment… Hahahaha…)
    I do sound like a friend guy, don’t I?

    Nice knowing you.

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  29. Catherine says:

    Instead of promoting ED awareness, the campaign triggered many ED people, like me.

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  39. anonymous says:

    I don’t get the last several comments- are they in a foreign languge or something?

    To be bluntly honest, while this picture is alarming, I have seen it before and heard about her before. I am far along enough in my recovery where images like this don’t make me resort back to my old ways. THANK GOD. But for those who are still in the throws of an ED, I am divided on whether or not posting this picture is appropriate for several reasons.

    You market yourself as “Anti-ED.” One Ed reader may see this and be scared shitless; another, depending on their mental state may not care and say, this is cool, I want to look like her. Yes, I know any Pro-Anna seeking chick can find this image anywhere if they look for it, so your mentality is well… those type will probably see it anyway so who cares?

    My best answer is- you should. Because you are the one who blasts images like this model as a negative influence on Eating Disorders. I sometimes wonder whether or not you truly understand that while I am sure you are trying to be helpful, are also hurtful and counter-productive to the very message you are trying to send.

    I wonder if you genuinely care about people’s well being who may be provoked further by seeing this image into eating disordered behavior and take as a sign of encouragement, verses how much you care about the shock value to generate a larger audience on this blog.

    I just don’t know. It’s my opinion that you don’t think things through before you write. Again, I see your point, but I question the level of appropriateness in terms of what you post verses what you discourage young girls from doing.

    It is nice to see that you are finally recognizing that it is not all the fashion media that causes ed. I’ve never disagreed that it’s a contributing factor and the possibility that perhaps, less emphasis on skinny is cool could help matters. But it is my firm belief that the disease of eating disorders is genetically based, and will always remain so.

  40. Pingback: 'No Anorexia' model Isabelle Caro dies at age 28 | Body Image Activist, Eating Disorders mamaVISION

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