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Sizing Up Vogue's Health Initiative

Magazines consider changing portrayals of the perfect body

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Last month, Vogue launched the Vogue Health Initiative, a six-point plan adopted by its 19 international editions to stop the use of models who are under age 16 or appear to have an eating disorder.

But what, exactly, counts as a healthy body image? Vogue’s June issues, which officially kicked off the initiative, proved that it won’t be easy for all 19 titles to agree. While Council of Fashion Designers of America CEO Steven Kolb lauded American Vogue for championing the idea of “beauty as health,” BuzzFeed fashion blogger Amy Odell pointed out that the overseas editions have been infamous for using unhealthy, underage models. (When the initiative was announced, for example, Italian Vogue had a 14-year-old model on its cover.)

Although American Vogue was lauded for placing three Olympic athletes on its June cover, its British cousin chose Kate Moss, once the face of “heroin chic.” And in an un-Photoshopped pictorial of “real women” in German Vogue, one model puffed away on a cigarette.

It remains to be seen if the initiative sticks after the initial buzz wears off. Susie Roman, program director for the National Eating Disorders Association, hoped the Vogue name is strong enough to change the industry for good. “They can really make significant positive movement toward a healthy approach to body image within the industry,” she said.