Georgina Wilkin was just 15 years old when she was scouted by a model agency on London's Oxford Street. For about the next seven years, she would continue on her modelling path, but not without annual visits to the hospital for anorexia, organ failure and force feeding. Despite all these hardships, Georgina is still alive today and ready to expose the grave side of the fashion industry that nearly killed her. "'Everyone should know about the pressure models are put under," she says.
Her model beginnings were deceivingly positive -- Georgina was entranced by the modeling world and praised for her thin frame.
"On the first visit to the agency they treated me like the next Kate Moss, saying 'Oh my God you are so unique, we're so excited you've come to us. Who scouted you? Can we get you a drink?'."
She was incredibly flattered and enthusiastic about being successful, so her parents supported her decision to enter the model lifestyle.
When she met with the agency again, however, the facade was already starting to fade.
"They took Polaroid shots, to check that I was photogenic, and then measured every inch of me, right down to the tips of my fingers," she says. "I quickly understood that my body was merely a product, for people to examine and criticize."
Think about being just a teenager and having your entire body scrutinized for what it isn't. We couldn't even grapple with receiving a bad grade on a paper, imagine receiving a bad grade on your body.
Shortly thereafter, Georgina's agency invited her to a casting with a Japanese company looking for models to work in Tokyo.
"I was really flattered when the Japanese agent picked me," recalls Georgina. "She said I could go to work for her in Japan in two months time, on condition that I lose 3in from my hips and one inch from my waist."
At 5'10" Georgina already only weighed about 8st 6lb (or around 117 lbs). Nevertheless, losing weight became her goal:
"The only food I allowed past my lips was salad and vegetables and I'd often go for two days without any food at all. I'd skip breakfast, spend lunchtimes in the school library and tell my parents I'd had dinner at a friend's house so I didn't have to sit down to a meal with them when they got home from work."
Georgina's agency would measure and photograph her in a bikini leading up to bookings. Despite being painfully thin, she was told that she needed to lose more weight.
"The skinnier girls got all the bookings and I was even told I wouldn't be able to work for jewellery companies because my fingers were too fat," she says.
At just 16, in June 2006, Georgina finally arrived in Japan emaciated and starving, yet thought she was one of the "biggest" girls there. She was left to fend for herself, spent most of her time indoors and survived mainly on energy drinks.
Shockingly, Georgina was photographed for a pregnancy catalog wearing a fake strap-on baby bump. Even though she was malnourished and crumbling, the advertisements made her look like a pregnant 30 year-old. TWISTED.
Though she was desperate and unhappy, she couldn't leave Japan. "Part of the deal was that I had to reimburse the agency for the cost of my flight and accommodation from the money I earned. So I couldn't afford to leave," she says.
To make matters worse, she was lying to her parents about her eating habits and hiding her disorder from her family. And yet when she did return to London, she still landed top photoshoots for Gap, Top Shop and Giles Deacon, among others.
Though this was a mark of success, Georgina didn't feel accomplished at all instead focusing on the weight she needed to lose.
"Nobody ate on these shoots, which could go on all day, and we would survive on adrenaline and caffeine drinks. On the occasions I couldn't fit into a dress, I felt so humiliated. The stylists would give me a look, and that would make me eat less and walk even more," confesses Georgina.
Unable to maintain her body weight, Georgina became seriously ill, incapacitated to work and therefore parted with her modelling agency. In 2007, she was admitted to a London hospital where she was treated for anorexia and stayed for five months.
Here's where her revelations becomes unbelievably upsetting.
"I'd kept getting bookings although it must have been obvious to everyone in the business that I was anorexic. My lips and fingers were blue because I was so thin that my heart was struggling to pump blood around my body. The make-up artists would have to disguise it with concealer."
This sad struggle is typical for most models.
"It wasn't just me -- I know of at least six other models I still see photos of on a leading fashion website who are also anorexic. They have the same telltale blue lips and hands."
While in the hospital, the doctors warned Georgina that she was close to dying. Her vital organs were strained, she risked her heart stopping and her kidneys packing up. She was determined, however, to continue searching for success in the industry. Once Georgina was released, in February 2008, she rejoined another agency and put the disorder behind her.
Old habits die hard. After Georgina was cut from a Prada fashion show in Milan at age 18, she convinced herself it was because she wasn't thin enough.
"Too often I'd been told by agents and stylists, 'You could do much better if you were a bit smaller' or 'You've got so much potential, but it would be a good idea for you to join a gym.' This sort of language seeps deep into a young girl's psyche," she says.
She barely ate and walked everywhere in hopes of burning off whatever little she consumed. Literally looking like a skeleton, she landed high fashion bookings until the middle of 2009. Finally her parents' words and warnings got through to her. "My mum had been begging me to get help, so I decided to take some time out and have outpatient treatment for my eating disorder."
Despite leaving the fashion world, Georgina's illness still haunts her. Last year, she was readmitted to the hospital where she was force-fed, received counseling and prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication to help battle the anorexia.
Now, Georgina is working as a PA and finally feels like she has the illness under control. She has been an outspoken voice on the dark side of modelling and spoke about her experience during "The Shape of Fashion" held during London's recent Fashion Week.
"I feel very lucky to have survived but it makes me really angry to see images of models who I know are seriously unwell due to eating disorders. Most high fashion brands have used anorexic girls in their campaigns and the only way this will stop is if we stop buying their products."
Will we ever stop praising women for their pitifully skinny figures? How many more tragic model stories must we hear before we start implementing changes? And furthermore, promoting images of skeletal women sends a damaging message to impressionable girls like Georgina. There is something seriously wrong when an anorexic teenager is made to look like a pregnant thirty-year-old.
What can we do? We can create positive body-image awareness and understand that the fashion industry is not representative of the people who purchase the clothes. Let Georgina Wilkin's story be one that we don't forget.
Via: Daily Mail, Photo via Facebook