In 1996 I heard the word anorexia for the first time in my life. Before I could find out the symptoms of the disease one of the most famous stars I represented at that time fell to it.
For a year we came twice a week to the eating disorders department at Tel Hashomer. We would do it at dusk to avoid "celeb" detection. It all began in the audition of another model that has been asked about the star's sky rocket success despite her low height. The supermodel replied "Why do you make so much noise about her? I Was with her in a lingerie audition, she is plump".
In those days the model was a few days before her period. You women surely know how she was feeling. At that moment I realized how one comment related to the degree of thinness can also crush a successful star of this magnitude.
In 1998, during an audition for a swimwear company, one of girls collapsed in the locker room of the studio. Other girls, while searching for her cell phone found a white box in her bag and introduced me to Laxadin (laxative). They said, "Adi, when you want to drop 6-8 pounds - this is the way."
In 1999 I met an amazing girl named Katie, anorexic weighed 33 pounds and was over 5.5 feet tall. Following an appeal from a social worker claiming that I can influence the girl, we met and bonded. Back then the number of hospital beds in those years was a single digit number and waiting period was more than six months. We had to admit her to a psychiatric hospital in Nes Ziona.
What does a 15 year old girl who just wanted to lose 4 pounds has to do in a suicidal department? This was the only option then and after several months I was able to discharge her in normal weight. I think you can mark the year 2000 as the year I got sucked into the darkest of worlds. This was the year Michal Zoaretz invited me to her T.V. show on Friday evening and called into the show a girl who claimed I had saved her life. It was the same amazing girl, Katie which I accompanied in those years.
After the T.V. show, on Sunday when I got to the studio there were 174 voicemail messages of girls, women and even some men - "Adi, save me!"
After inviting some of them to the office I found out what everyone wants - to look good and to be accepted, to look like in those pictures we take. During those years the models I photographed were size 38. Soon enough I found myself surrounded by dozens of young girls and women from all over the country suffering from the worst epidemic - eating disorders.
I met with the Ministry of Health and with commercial companies. I explained the relationship between the epidemic, the beauty industry and the twisted and surreal social model that we build.
In 2003, along with Knesset member Inbal Gavrieli, we wrote a bill that limits the hiring of skinny models. I realized it was the right way to proceed in a state of law. Unfortunately two weeks before the filing of the bill the government dispersed and I had to start all over again.
I would go to the studio every morning and if in those days I used to get about 30 applications a day to the agency, I got about 20 requests concurrently on anorexia and bulimia. I realized that I could not live the two worlds as they are. I realized I needed to put everything aside, even if it requires canceling myself almost completely.
I felt I have something in my hands that is much stronger than what I knew. And believe me I knew. I had peeks in my life but there is nothing like the feeling of taking a 15 year old girl, completely crushed and with pulse 35, and bring her after a few months back to school with a smile and self-love.
I realized that this is my mission and my calling.
Under the title of Simply You, we held social activities throughout the country. Beauty contests, auditions, workshops and lectures. During which I met with thousands of youth each month in schools and youth communities. I met men and women soldiers and recently started to collaborate with different soldiers in the army to present workshops to soldiers. We lectured to the business community as well and I saw how infected and poisoned we all are from this deceptive "Skinny Drug".
It does not matter if you're 5, 15, or 55 years old, if you live uptown or downtown, we are all striving to be thin without even knowing what the definition of thin is. Is thin 80 pounds? 120 or 140 pounds? Size 24, 28 or 34? When I started in 97-98 models size was 38.
In 2005 I founded an NPO - The Israeli Center for Eating Habits Reform and I was able to gather good people who come from a clean place with no financial interest. I know it's hard to find these days but I was lucky.
As part of the NPO we found ourselves acting as a medical center. We tried to help the promotion of hospitalizations, give services such as nutritionist, psychologists and coachers free of charge but I felt it was just a drop in the ocean.
Even if we can help 1,000 girls it would be nothing compared to the enormous chasm that draws into it nearly one million people in the country as of today.
True, eating disorders do not come only from the social model. There are 1001 reasons that can lead us to a state of eating disorders but I am a living witness to the beginning of this social disease. I was a test photographer, one of five for Elite agency, Ford and IMG. I was hardcore in the industry. I lived with them 24/7.
I witnessed a press conference held by Calvin Klein to announce that Kate Moss has increased sales by 450%. Let me remind you that Kate Moss was a skeleton and from there comes the name "heroin chic". My booker, maybe laughed, maybe not, at the end of the party he said "Well Adi, you should be pleased. From now you will only photograph real women. Because the language has changed in fashion now. Designers choose otherwise."
That same month, all the fashion magazines in Europe and in the United States promoted the heroin chic. Each photograph emphasized the collarbones and many have tried to imitate the photo of Kate Moss with a prominent spine.
I still did not understand the implications of this, but I realized that something wrong is happening.
Later, I got to know the country's various laxatives, the arguments of different types, the common use and all accessories and incentives leading to eating disorders.
I met with major advertisers and CEOs of leading companies in the country. Yeah - those enslaved to the thinness model. I tried to explain to them, show them and let them experience what I see. Unfortunately I quickly realized that almost nobody cares. Whether it is not his home, daughter or pocket that does not interest him. Even if it is the CEO, VP of marketing or an advertising agency supervisor.
In 2007, the first time I experienced the death of a fashion victim. An amazing girl named Hila Elmaliach, a 29 year old girl from Tiberias I accompanied for about 3 years, 3 days a week. I managed to get her into a weight gain after 17 years of illness. She disappeared suddenly for 3 weeks. One night I get a phone call from her mother Perla saying she was not answering the phones because she is afraid to tell me, but I better get there quickly.
I got to the hospital in Safed and she begged me to bring her out of bed for a cigarette. Something inside me told me it was probably the end. I pulled her out of bed like a chicken from the refrigerator in the supermarket. We managed to smoke half a cigarette in the hallway until she collapsed on me and had a cardiac arrest. 3 hours later she died.
When I left the hospital I vowed to myself a vow. It does not matter what the price, how long it will take or what I need to do. Here, by our own hands, our industry will no longer create this drug and smash our body image. It will no longer smash our lives.
In one of the conferences held in the Knesset (I came to every single meeting I was asked to for 12 years) I was referred by the secretary of public inquiries and introduced to Dr. Rachel Adato. She told me: "I know you're desperate, but before you give up, you must meet an amazing woman, member of the Knesset and in addition she is a doctor."
I went up to her room, I met a guy named Leead, the parliamentary assistant to Dr. Adato - salt of the earth. I wish more people like him were in politics. I sat in front of Dr. Rachel Adato and I poured my heart.
I took out all the evidence and all the facts I have gathered in the last 10 years. She looked at me and said, "Adi, I realized that you are a marathon runner. I am a marathon runner as well. We must prove only one thing in this House of Parliament. Our bill is saving lives.". We went into a marathon of work, studies, visits to the homes of patients, visits to countless different hospitals and departments. We did a real job.
We used the Health Ministry, various psychiatrists, professors and universities. All to understand the affects of the beauty model. After a year and a half of hard work everyone came to one conclusion and that is: there is a direct connection between the beauty model and body image problems and eating disorders. The link is direct and decisive.
I must say that in all those years without the help of the media and especially Channel 2 news and Yedioth Ahronot's support and lead, there is no way that this law would have passed. Recently Israel Hayom joined the fight.
In those years of making the law, the media did her part and we exposed the truth in the face. Sometimes it was painful (the Holocaust video we produced), sometimes it was aggressive, directly accused the fashion companies, but it's nothing compared to what will happen if nothing changes...
About a year and a half ago the Photoshop law has passed which basically prohibits underweight models from appearing in advertisements and limits the use of software such as Photoshop to narrow waists. Currently, no one enforces the law.
So we got to the stage where we have to decide. I must say again, we tried to do everything in good ways, straight and non-abusive. It's over. I can't answer 10% of the messages I get for help and it rips me apart. I can not complete workshops with girls for three weeks because there are 40 other girls on the way. It is time we all take responsibility and act on two levels. Prevention and treatment.
Prevention, we know exactly what to do and for us to make it happen, we'll need all consumers to enlist. Every city, every country and every continent. In the past year we have prepared ourselves well and planned the revolution. In our arsenal we have a legal clinic among the best in the country at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, led by Attorney Ilan Jonash and mentor attorney Dr. Raanan Har-Zahav. We have a concept that fits the schools and the education system which we are in contact with the people in charge. There is a new wind blowing in the Ministry of Education and it is blessed.
We created a new language, a new website and an army of soldiers and activists around the world. In the coming days we are opening our first branches in London and New York, and hopefully by the end of the summer we will be netted in at least 16 other countries. All are young, talented professionals and hungry for change. The new language differentiate between the lie to the truth. Between fantasy and reality. Between the real and the unreal.
We will expose to the whole world everything that is real and what is not real. We will make advertisers and especially fashion designers realize they have gone too far. They took the thinness too far and using software like Photoshop has become a tool of destruction. From now on, we will set the rules. Fashion designers must understand that they should match the clothes to the women and not the women to the clothes. There is a thing called genetics. Women do not exist in One Size.
Its OK to continue living in the world of fantasy. But one that you can smell, one that you can touch. Certainly not such that you can die from.
This is not a huge revolution for the industry or has any major revenue impact. This is a small change in perception. We should distinguish from thin and too thin because it is the difference between life and death. In about a month we will hold a press conference in Tel Aviv with all local and international media. We will expose the language and the new trend coming into the fashion world. The real trend.
Regarding treatment, we have a mission to open a unique center specializing in body image problems. We have all the tools, the knowledge and the amazing team to do it. This is where all of our resources will go to. All that remains is to establish it.
In conclusion friends,
When the number 1 cause of death in Israel for ages 15-24 is anorexia (obviously you did not know ...) and when a million patients in the country where at least 50% of them are social disease patients and those 50% can be decreased to 0, it remains only to understand that the end justifies the means.