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Waif ban tips the scales in favor of health

| Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006

Somewhere in the chic, fashion capitals of Europe, carpenters are working overtime. That's because several major Italian fashion houses have decided to ban the use of rail-thin fashion models during the upcoming season, which means catwalks and runways likely will need some structural redesign.

This, despite what's on display in most couture magazines, is a good thing. I've always wondered why average women, who are more likely to wear a size 8 than those mock-famine victims employed by designers, would even follow an industry that holds curves in such contempt.

Mario Boselli, president of the Italian Fashion Chamber, endorsed the code of conduct which requires models to show medical proof they do not have an eating disorder. The manifesto comes in the fallout of top-paid model Ana Carolina Reston's death. Reston reportedly tipped the scales at a frightful 88 pounds despite standing 5-foot-8.

So big ups to the fashion industry for making changes that could someday save the lives -- not to mention the self esteem -- of young women who may become ensnared in the "thin is always in" aesthetic proffered by the catwalk crowd. But it's also sad to see that it took the death of an anorexic model for the industry to learn something that any man, myself included, could have told the fashionistas in a heartbeat.

Men, particularly those of color, have no time for skinny women.

Sure, beauty comes in all shapes, shades and sizes, but as the late comedian Redd Foxx once said after viewing a fashion show, "The only thing a skinny woman can do for me is introduce me to her healthy sister." Amens to that observation have emerged from the black community in many forms during the years, including Sir Mix-A-Lot's tribute to ample voluptuousness "Baby Got Back."

I remember watching the late director Robert Altman's "Ready to Wear" a few years back, anticipating the climactic end scene where several of the world's top supermodels appear nude. Instead of being turned on, I found myself wishing a plate of red beans and fried pork chops upon them, the same way I did when I went trick-or-treating for UNICEF as an 8-year-old.

The decision of the Italians won't bring an overnight revolution. Kate Moss won't lose her job to Beyonce anytime soon. I'll see chitlin' flavored rice cakes before someone Star Jones' size appears on the cover of Vogue.

But it's a good start, just like a plate of red beans and pork chops.

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