Wake Up, Vogue Italia - Pro-Ana Blogs Are Not the Enemy

First of all, let's make a couple of things clear:

1. I think Franca Sozzani is a skilled professional and have a TON of respect for her. This post does not mean to attack her as a professional, but to express strictly personal points of view on this particular project.

2. I read Vogue Italia quite rarely, but I recognize the power this magazine has on the international fashion scene.

3. I think pro-ana and pro-mia blogs are horrible and find it wrong to endorse anything that might be linked to eating disorders in any kind of way.

...having said this, I'll get to the point: I can't take anymore of Vogue Italia's "anti-pro-ana-and-mia" campaign.

Editor-in-Chief Franca Sozzani has taken it upon herself to launch an attack on pro-ana and pro-mia blogs (for those of you lucky enough not to know what those are - ana is anorexia and mia is bulimia. Those blogs, written and created by sick teenage girls, promote eating disorders as a lifestyle and spur each other on in their dieting with tips on how to get rid of hunger or how to vomit, and "thinspiration" pictures of ridiculously thin models) campaigning for them to be shut down.

If you run a blog like this, be warned: Franca Sozzani is coming to get you. She's blogging about this, has a petition, and is now encouraging readers to get involved in the "fight" against pro-ana and pro-mia blogs.

I'm wondering what exactly is going through Ms. Sozzani's mind when she comes up with ideas like this one (or things like the "Curvy" and "Black" sections of Vogue.it). I can tell that she means well - she really wants to be that anti-anorexia voice, that "forward-thinking" fashion magazine editor that's big enough a person to include curvy and non-Caucasian models on the glossy pages of her beloved couture creature. But instead, it all just comes out wrong. It just screams: "look at us! Look how cool and compassionate we are! We even put fat black girls in our magazine! Join us in the fight against the horrors of teenage girls blogging about their misery!"

 I think Ms. Sozzani needs to understand that the girls that run pro-ana and pro-mia blogs (we're not talking international corporations but confused teenagers sitting at home in their bedrooms) do so because they're ill. In my opinion, launching a campaign against them is like attacking a cancer victim or someone born with a genetic disease. Anorexia and bulimia are illnesses - anorexia is the mental illness that has the highest death rate. The girls that write these things on the internet are not "evil" but sick. Their goal isn't to encourage eating disorders in other girls (see, Franca, they don't think the way big corporations do). You can't "give" eating disorders to anybody. It's not like a healthy girl will go onto a pro-ana blog thinking, hey, this starve-yourself-to-death lark sounds like fun. To develop an eating disorder, one has to have a deep underlying issue. These girls express themselves this way because they're sick, lonely, confused, and very much in pain. They suffer every single day and these blogs are their only (distorted and destructive) outlet. They need to be helped, not fought. Shutting down the blogs won't "cure" anyone, I promise you, unless they're shut down because the blogger herself wants to change. And no petition or Letter from the Editor will ever make that happen - unless the Editor herself finds her compassion and gets involved with helping instead of fighting.

Secondly, I don't know if Ms. Sozzani has ever even visited a pro-ana blog. Something tells me that one day she heard someone talk about them and decided they were terrible and that she was going to fight them. If she'd ever visit, she'd find a section called "Thinspiration" - an "inspiration" page full of pictures of unhealthily thin models. Scrolling down, Franca would probably recognize the girl from the June issue, and the September, and oh yeah, there's our December cover...almost all of Thinspiration worldwide comes courtesy of print and runway models, selected by high-power tastemakers such as Franca Sozzani. So...she's basically campaigning to eliminate something that she helped create. And maybe it's just me, but I believe that a national magazine has much more power in spreading a message, positive or negative, than a blog written by a teenager. So maybe Vogue Italia should eliminate Thinspiration from their own magazine first, before lashing out at sick, defenseless girls.

A couple of suggestions to Ms. Sozzani and Vogue Italia from an ex-bulimic magazine writer (that would be me):

* Ban underweight models from your pages. Forever. The technical definition of "underweight" is someone with a BMI under 18. A BMI of 16 is underweight.

* Stop using underage models. High fashion is for women, and women should model it. "Woman" does not mean a 14-year-old. 14 -year-olds should do homework and hang out with their friends, not walk in runway shows.

* When you do feature a curvy model, don't say that she's "curvy". Don't draw attention to it. Let her be just a beautiful woman, like all your other models.

* Stop constantly writing about diets and things like "how to get a flat tummy for summer" in your magazine. Quit putting surgery articles in your beauty specials.

* As an opinion leader, you have the power to change things. Tell designers that if they use an underweight, underage model in a runway show, you won't publish the pictures! I'm no expert, but I assure you this will have more of an impact than campaigning to shut down a couple of blogs read by 10 people a day.

Just a couple of ideas. If you need more, I'm here. But the bottom line? It's simple: to make any kind of positive change in the world, one must start with...oneself.

all pictures from Pinterest


  1. Nice article, thanks for sharing.

  2. This is a very inspirational piece of writing, have you considered sending it to said editor? While I in no way endorse pro-ana kind of blogs, I agree with you that these people need to be helped rather than bullied (in some cases, bullying is what gets them there in the first place, so it won't help)

    Campaigning to close down the blog of a sick young girl not only cuts off her chance to express her issues, but also the chance for people to understand what she's going through and help her.

    I'm a UK size 6-8 and am 5'4 and so am no way under or overweight, but Vogue makes even me feel fat at times. So you're right, she needs to look at what she is doing to these young girls before attacking what she thinks they are doing to each other.

    Also, I think it's really brave of you to address this issue, there should be more people like you in this world xx

  3. Grymt inlägg! Bravo!

    The fight starts from within the industry. Trying to snuff out the symptoms of a disease that branches out from the industry itself is futile to say the least. It's starting from the wrong end of things.

    From what I've understood though, VOGUE Italia is one of the few 'powerhouses' in said industry that have used heavier modells as well on their cover. So, cred on that point at least.

    If simply leaving a comment on here to show support for your stance will do, I'll do it! :)

    PS. Congrats on your brave choice and taking on life outside the box! Best of luck with your freelancing.

  4. Thanks Issy and Charlotte!

    I have now left a link to this post on Franca Sozzani's blog page...

    Thanks Issy for the PS - really nice of you. I officially go freelance on 19 June, I'll let you know how it goes!

  5. concordo appieno. soprattutto con la parte sulla Thinspiration.

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