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Dare To Be This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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      “Kiss my fat a--!” This is the message Tyra Banks sent critics who poked fun at her recent weight gain. Everyone knows Tyra: she’s an author, actor, singer, executive producer, talk-show host, host and judge of the reality series “America’s Next Top Model,” and used to be one of the world’s premier supermodels.

When modeling, Tyra, at 5'11", weighed 120 pounds. She recently admitted to gaining 30 pounds over the last 10 years, but said, “I still feel hot.” And shouldn’t she? She is a beautiful woman, but it must be difficult to feel that way when tabloids publish her picture with headlines like “Next Top Waddle” and “Tyra Pork Chop.”

Unfortunately, this is the world we live in: If you’re not skinny enough, pretty enough, or rich enough, you’re not good enough. Can you think of any group who meets all these expectations? Well, I can - celebrities. Celebrities wear the latest fashions, have great bodies, and sport perfect hair and make-up - they set the standard. They filter into almost every part of our lives, especially for teens. We do all we can to keep up with celebrity gossip and trends.

Trying to meet this standard is an important goal for a lot of teens. Girls will do whatever it takes to look like the models on TV, in magazines, and on billboards. Even guys will stop at nothing to look like the athletes they idolize. The only thing these kids care about is fulfilling the impossible standard set by celebrities, and the scary part is they don’t think or care about the consequences.

According to girlpower.gov, eating disorders affect almost five percent of all young women in the United States, and as many as 15 percent have unhealthy attitudes and behaviors about food. In an article for Eating Disorder Awareness Week from kidzworld.com, a physiological study found that three minutes spent looking at a fashion magazine caused 70% of women to feel depressed, guilty, and ashamed. The average American woman is 5'4", weighs 140 pounds, and wears a size 14, while the average American model is 5'11" and weighs 117 pounds.

Even as children, we are exposed to the perfect, super-skinny figure that women are “supposed” to have. Do you remember Barbie? She’s equivalent to a six-foot woman who weighs 101 pounds. If Barbie were a real woman she would have to walk on all fours because of her proportions!

With all these constant reminders that women aren’t skinny enough, it’s no surprise that girls look at themselves and don’t like what they see. It starts early, too: 42% of first through third-grade girls want to be thinner; 81% of 10-year-olds, both boys and girls, are afraid of being fat; and 51% of nine and 10-year-old girls feel better about themselves when they’re on a diet.

Women aren’t the only ones burdened with the fear that they aren’t good enough. Men have problems not only with eating disorders, but also steroid abuse. Guys are supposed to be big and strong, right? That’s what I hear and see from celebrities and athletes. “If you don’t have a six-pack, broad shoulders, and huge biceps, you won’t get the girl” is what I hear all the time. It’s no wonder that there have been 1,084,000 cases of guys abusing steroids.

Not only do these standards wear teens down physically, but emotionally, too. Those who choose not to starve themselves receive lots of ridicule and with that comes self-doubt. Those who convince themselves that they are among the select few who meet the ideal standard make all the “others” think that they aren’t good enough, and this is the one thing that they do succeed at.

On her show, Tyra confronted all the hoopla over the pictures in the tabloids, saying, “Luckily I’m strong enough and have a good support system ... but if I had lower self-esteem, I’d probably be starving myself right now.”

We live in a world where celebrities, models, and athletes set an impossible standard and people are ridiculed if they can’t meet that standard. Sarah Michelle Gellar of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame has pointed out that celebrities have personal trainers and meals prepared especially for them; most people don’t.

So I have two questions: when will this so-called standard be tossed aside? And when will feeling healthy and confident be the standard that everyone strives for? I hope that one day nobody cares about how skinny you are, what you wear, or how you do your hair, but why should I just sit around and hope? Dare to be you, now.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

babyknox said...
Jan. 30, 2009 at 4:50 pm
This is such a gr-8 page! This somethang all young gurls need 2 hear while they have big drams 4 being a model and singer, they should know thats it's not all of what it is cracked out 2 b!
 
tasharocks said...
Dec. 15, 2008 at 12:36 pm
hey is great writing and so true everyone is being to eat less and become thinner i think it is stupid i wish i was a little skinner but i will not stave myself and not eat.
 
monkeys8 said...
Dec. 8, 2008 at 2:02 pm
I fell very strong about this. I "AM" not skinny but sometimes i strive to be. It makes me feel like i have to perfect for "the guys to like me"! Well i think that if i didn't have "great" friends that i would be emotionally damanged. They are always there and i am glad. Right now i think i am beautiful just the way i am wether i am "skinny" or not!
=)
 
SarahSunshine said...
Nov. 25, 2008 at 1:23 am
Wow. Your definitely "correct" on what you just said. I myself, feel like I have to be skinny perfect, into those one pair of skinny jeans. I always imagine what I'd look like if I were skinnier. Today's society needs to make it that being "skinny" isn't the right way. its about being healthy and good. thank you for this reminder of absolute truth. ;p
-D-
 
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