JERUSALEM (AP) — When Margaux Stelman began modeling a few months ago, she always had her sister Simone in mind.
Simone was an ex-model who died three years ago after a long battle with anorexia, a common affliction of models trying to look thinner and thinner — and girls trying to look like them.
Now, thanks to a new Israeli law that prohibits the employment of underweight fashion models, Stelman says she feels protected from the traditional pressures of an industry notorious for encouraging extremes in thinness. The law sets weight minimums with the aim of discouraging anorexia and bulimia, eating disorders that affect mostly young women, who go on extreme diets and are unable to eat normally.
"This disease is something that's very close to me," the 21-year-old university student from Belgium said at a recent photo shoot, the country's first since the law took effect last week. "Doing the exact opposite, showing girls that (they) can be healthy and be a model anyway, it's really something I want to show."
The Israeli law, passed by parliament last year, is the first of its kind. The United States and England have guidelines, but their fashion industry is self-regulated. Other governments have taken steps to prevent "size zero" medical problems but have shied away from legislation.
Israel, like other countries, is obsessed by models. International supermodel Bar Refaeli is considered a national hero. Refaeli, an Israeli who has graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, among others, is not unnaturally thin.
The new law requires models to produce a medical report no older than three months at every shoot for the Israeli market, stating that they are not malnourished by World Health Organization standards. The U.N. agency relies on the body mass index, calculated by factors of weight and height. WHO says a body mass index below 18.5 indicates malnutrition. According to that standard, a woman 1.72 meters tall (5-feet-8) should weigh no less than 54 kilograms (119 pounds).