Why the Modeling Industry Needs Mental Health Education

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Many years ago I opened up to one of my modeling agents in Miami about my chronic struggle with bulimia. At that point, I had been battling the illness for over fourteen years and I was terrified to lose another contract because of it.

After an unsuccessful stint at rehab, my former agent in New York realized that I just couldn’t make the cut with castings and jobs due to my eating disorder and other mental health issues, and sent me back to South Florida without a ticket back. Ultimately, my disorders prevented me from being able to focus at work, maintain a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

A Lack of Knowledge

So it came as a complete shock when, in Miami, after I finished telling my new agent about my history with the disorder, she stared at me blankly. “What is that?” she asked. I looked at her, confused. “What do you mean, what is that,” I said. “Bulimia,” she said, matter-of-factly. I felt like I had sand in my mouth. Not only was I secretly exhausted from being sick, but here was my agent, who was working with models day in and day out, and had never heard of bulimia. The concept completely boggled my mind and left me feeling even more isolated than ever.

Fast forward six years later. I’ve been free of my eating disorder for almost four years, released a memoir about my recovery from mental illness and the modeling industry, am a fierce advocate, and am studying psychology. Because of all of this, I understand so much more about why the modeling industry desperately needs mental health education.

In fact, this is an area that I’ve been specifically researching since 2015, and my exploration has led me to develop a mental health education program for fashion professionals and models. After a National Eating Disorder Association Conference, I was inspired to address this very issue about the gap in mental health care in the modeling industry, and got to work in developing a program that could fill it.

The Need for Mental Health Education

Last year, I gained even more knowledge and understanding as to the particular needs of the fashion industry when I worked on AB 2539 with Assemblymember Marc Levine addressing the needs for labor protections and health standards for models [1]. While the bill was solid, it was held in the suspense file in the Appropriations Committee.

I took a step back and realized that this was further proof that an educational program could compliment a new piece of legisWoman learninglation; fashion professionals need to be informed about mental illnesses if they are ever going to care about a bill, particularly eating disorders, and models need support and resources because they are not afforded health insurance as stated independent contractors.

Agencies can benefit from implementing my program because it will make them more appealing to models. It’s simple: the fashion industry needs to be educated about some of the primary issues that affect them and the young people they employ: body image, eating disorders, depression, BDD, and so on.

Models, who at large, are not carrying health insurance, can benefit because they will be receiving free support when they need it most: either before something happens, or when it already has and they need that stepping stone to know where to go to get care.

More on this program as it develops. To find out more, please email [email protected]

Community Discussion – Share Your Thoughts Here!

What are your thoughts about mental health education for the modeling community?

Nikki_Dubose_2015 Web-6About the Author: Nikki DuBose is a former model turned author, advocate, and ambassador. Her debut memoir, Washed Away: From Darkness to Light, details her recovery from trauma, severe mental illnesses and the dark side of the modeling industry. Nikki has been featured on television shows and networks such as The Doctors, The TD Jakes Show, CBS Los Angeles, and the Oprah Winfrey Network, and profiled in publications such as People, LA Times, Vogue UK, Esquire, India Times, and Inquisitr. To find out more about Nikki, visit http://nikkidubose.com/.


[1]: Assemblymember Levine Introduces Legislation Creating Health Standard For Models, http://asmdc.org/members/a10/newsroom/press-releases/assemblymember-levine-introduces-legislation-creating-health-standards-for-models

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Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 18, 2017
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com