Suicide is in the air. Kazakh model Ruslana Korshunova dove to her death from her New York balcony. Canadian model Hayley Kohle leapt to a similar fate from a balcony in Milan. On the same day as Kohle, model Randy Johnston died of a drug overdose. Columbian model Lina Marulinda also chose a free fall from a balcony. But there are other ways to die in the air besides jumping. Models Lucy Gordon, Daul Kim and Ambrose Olsen all recently hanged themselves, Olsen just last month. And of course, the inimitable designer Alexander McQueen ended his fashion juggernaut along with himself by hanging last February. Death is not yet in the ground. Just a few days ago model Noemie Lenoir was found in a forest, nearly succumbed to an intentional drug overdose. Mercifully she is recovering. [Source]
These deaths should not have happened.
By all accounts each of these young models and McQueen were at the height of their careers. Not only were they young and impossibly beautiful in a world that values nothing more but they had also achieved a degree of success in a highly competitive, fickle field. Why they would want to end their lives is a personal and, most likely, unanswerable question. And yet if anyone would have a reason to live, you’d think it would be these who were living the very definition of the dream.
Tragically many people every year choose to end their own lives and so I am not sure if this recent spate of model suicides (that looks funny every time I type that, as if they are modelling the proper way to die – setting the fashion to the very end) is disproportionate to that of the general population. But I do know this: if you ever needed proof that being thin and beautiful is not the secret to happiness than this is it.
Most of us can say when confronted with such an obvious example that of course being skinny, young and hot doesn’t automatically make you happy- Pamela Anderson alone should be cautionary tale enough – and yet we are sold this exact message in hundreds of insidious ways every day. Many of us buy into it. I buy into it. It’s so pervasive that I’m amazed whenever I run into a woman who doesn’t believe it. I want to grab her buy the shoulders and ask her where she gets her incredible self confidence, why she hasn’t been been beaten down by the relentless message that she isn’t enough, but she could be if she just lost weight/erased wrinkles/got bigger boobs/lightened her hair/got a better wardrobe/colored her eyes/toned her tummy (in 10 days! See page 54!)
There isn’t anything wrong with trying to be beautiful, to be healthy, to be your best self. And yet this drive to improve – or “addiction to fixing” oneself as one astute e-mailer put it – is a problem when it engenders self hatred. How is anything beautiful supposed to come out of hate? Ironically this tactic of self-hate is often one of the first weapons we employ, turning self improvement into self warfare. It does work. Sort of. You can hate yourself thin. I’ve done it before. But then you are just thin and unhappy, like so many falling models.
We live in an era where a diet – a diet! – is unironically called “Live Your Best Life.” (You can even buy your “Best Life” at your local grocery store, just look for the little green labels on your favorite brands! It doesn’t say but I’m assuming if you collect enough of the Best Label boxtops and mail them to Oprah then your Best Life will arrive by mail 4-6 weeks later.) Where losing weight is the fastest way to gain instant celebrity, or if you are already a celebrity to get a magazine cover. Where despite the highest unemployment rate in recent history, cosmetic sales and plastic surgery are increasing at an unprecedented rate. An era where models rain from the sky.
It’s sheer craziness. It’s jumping-off-a-balcony madness. I know all this and yet, deep down, I still believe if I could just lose these last 10 pounds I’d be happy. But thanks in no small part to you all, I think I’m finally willing to give that belief up. It feels scary to me. For one, I’ve believed this as long as I can remember. I may have outgrown Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy but I still cling with child-like devotion to the Beauty Bunny. And also, I’m convinced that this perpetual war with myself, this intense hatred, is the only thing between me and weighing 1,000 pounds and being housebound for the rest of my life. I’m afraid that if I give up fighting then I’ll lose everything. But I think that too is a myth. By fighting myself how can I do anything but lose? The key to my freedom is to give up the fight. Can I trust my body that it wants to be healthy? I hope I can. Because nobody should be falling; we should be flying.
Anyone else buy into the myth that thinness equates to happiness? Anyone else addicted to fixing themselves? Anybody else convinced that fighting yourself is the only thing keeping you from oblivion? Anybody totally sick of reading about this still?? (Anyone? Bueller? Bueller??)