Adi Barkan created Israel's version of the TV hit "America's Next Top Model." But instead of discovering a fashion princess, Barkan discovered a shocking epidemic: Between 35 and 40 percent of the glamorous hopefuls who auditioned for the show suffered from anorexia, an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive fear of gaining weight.
The fashion industry's fixation with unnaturally skinny models worried Barkan and motivated him to redefine beauty. In 2004, he introduced a bill to the Israeli Knesset requiring that models undergo regular medical checkups to ensure they have a healthy BMI (body mass index, an individual's weight divided by the square of their height). "The law's aim is to create a new image of beauty," says Knesset member Inbal Gavrieli, "an image that includes beauty and health in one word."
And now the tide is turning. At a recent modeling audition in Tel Aviv, a nutritionist taught models about healthy eating, while Michaela Goddard, a scout for one of the biggest modeling agencies in the world, emphasized that she's interested in more than models' bodies. "Personality is half the battle in this industry," she explained, "it comes through in photos."