Plus-size model speaks on dangers of eating disorders

BY KAREN SCHWARTZ
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 12, 2002

Model Kate Dillon was living in New York and Paris, traveling and working for top companies when she left the modeling industry to come home to herself.

Paul Wong
Plus-size model Kate Dillon spoke last night at the Michigan Union as the keynote speaker for Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
JONOTHAN TRIEST/Daily

While modeling was an amazing experience, Dillon said it came at the high price of having to maintain an unnaturally small frame.

"After a year and a half of full-time modeling, something in me just snapped," Dillon said. "I started to see the hypocrisy going on around me - (the fashion industry was) setting this unbelievable standard for the rest of the culture that we couldn't live up to ourselves."

Dillon spoke yesterday as part of Eating Disorder Awareness Week about her experiences with anorexia and the standards society sets as to how people are rewarded for losing weight and being skinny. She said she became anorexic at the age of 12, when a television movie about eating disorders gave her the idea that starving herself might be the answer and could stop the other kids from calling her names and teasing her about her weight. She lost 30 pounds and began a battle with her weight that she said she dealt with for seven years.

"I measured myself every morning. I had numbers and if I didn't hit the number my self-image was shattered," she said.

As she lost more weight, more people were willing to be her friends, and when she was 16, her skinniness was rewarded again - someone said she should become a model. After a year and a half of modeling full time and obsessing about her weight, Dillon went home to San Diego to find a new joy and freedom in herself and her body.

"I started being liberated from the need to please others and fulfill others' ideals and started living by my own," she said. "I'm me, this is who and what I am." Dillon said she gained 50 pounds and realized she was actually normal, as opposed to "normal" according to the standards of the fashion and entertainment industry. She went to New York and became a plus-size model, an occupation she has held for six years.

"I made a conscious decision to live my life without self-doubt and without apologizing to anyone for who I am," she said. She added that she wants to change the way women and beauty are perceived.

"The media just bamboozles everybody everyday, by bombarding us with images and sounds in order to sell products," she said. "They feed us with that anxiety so they can sell us its antidote."

She said American culture lacks a consistent healthy message of body image and that there is hypocrisy as far as the media sending double messages.

"In a magazine, they'll have an article about me as a role model being myself, turn the page, and there's an article about how to lose 10 pounds before tomorrow morning to fit into your prom dress," she said. Dillon also said she feels society is going to change and has changed already in moving toward diversity in its models, but it still has a long way to go.

She said there needs to be a shift in the collective consciousness of the consumer and that consumers need to take responsibility for their own actions and individuality.

"The individual needs to question his or her own attachment to these ideals, standards and images," she said.

Dillon added that she thinks once people start thinking for themselves it will lead to a healthier culture with a more diverse representation of humanity.