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Last week Ralph Lauren came under fire for (what looked to be) an extremely altered photo of a model in one of its ads. Bloggers at the website BoingBoing.net posted the image online, and lawyers for Ralph Lauren attempted to sue them for copyright infringement. Unfortunately for Ralph Lauren, this only furthered public interest and outrage over the dangerously thin looking model and, eventually, the clothing company released this apology:
"For over 42 years we have built a brand based on quality and integrity. After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman's body. We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately."
Unfortunately,"addressing the problem" may have included firing the model, 23-year-old Filippa Hamilton. She is 5'10" and weighs 120 pounds--clearly more full-bodied than the photoshopped girl we see in the advertisement. Though Hamilton has modeled for Ralph Lauren since she was 15, the company let her go "as a result of her inability to meet the obligations under her contract with us." But the story gets worse: Hamilton says she was let go because she'd become too fat to model for them. "They fired me because they said I was overweight and I couldn't fit in their clothes anymore," she explained. "I was shocked to see that super skinny girl with my face...It's very sad, I think, that Ralph Lauren could do something like that."
Most of us know that a tall, young woman who weighs 120 pounds is not overweight. But Hamilton claims Ralph Lauren was dissatisfied with her body, and therefore fired her six months ago. However, the company continued to use her image, whittling down her arms, waist, thighs, and possibly several other body parts in the above ad. If they were so unhappy with how she looked, why not get another model for the campaign? Why use the photos and alter and distort them?
Today, Ralph Lauren himself is distancing himself from the ad, claiming, "The image in question was mistakenly released and used in a department store in Japan and was not the approved image which ran in the U.S." So we're confused. They say the photoshopping was an error, that Hamilton is "beautiful and healthy," yet they allegedly fired her for her size? With all these apologies and statements it sounds like the brand still has yet to accept responsibility for their actions.
When I searched for more images of Filippa Hamilton, I instantly remembered her-she was the face of Ralph Lauren's fragrance, Romance, has been featured on the cover of international editions of Vogue and Elle, and has appeared in many ads. She's a gorgeous woman. "I think they [Ralph Lauren] owe American women an apology, a big apology," says Hamilton. "I'm very proud of what I look like, and I think a role model should look healthy."
We're sure models get fired and are overlooked all the time for being what the industry, perhaps unreasonably, considers overweight. Eating disorders are not only common among models, but they're also common among the women and young girls who emulate them. We're happy to see that Hamilton has come forward, and wish more models and celebrities would do the same. It's awesome and empowering when stars admit they've been photoshopped for an ad or movie poster and say how dissatisfied they are about it. With foreign countries banning underweight models from their fashion weeks, and the increasing presence of "plus size" models in women's magazines, we wish the unhealthy representation and falsified depiction of models-and women-would come to an end entirely. Do you think the day will ever come? Sources: [NYDN] [Extra] [Hulu]