meet the model who is “too fat” for the industry
Agnes Hedengård is the model with a BMI of 17.5 (medically underweight) who called out the fashion industry that considered her too big to work.
Last week, 19-year-old model Agnes Hedengård made headlines when she posted a video to YouTube in which she called out the industry's warped body standards. Standing in front of the mirror in her underwear and scrutinizing her body, the Swedish model talked about being rejected by almost every major modeling agency because of the way she looks and her worries about not being able to support herself financially as a result. Agnes is 5'11" and has a BMI of 17.5 - the lower limit of the NHS standard of healthy is 18.5. "I don't get any more jobs since the industry thinks I'm too big," she explains in the video, "they think my butt is too big, and they think my hips are too wide. According to the modeling industry, you cannot look like this. You need to be thinner."
The video went viral, generating news and opinion pieces across the internet. The comments under our own post were a mixed bunch, ranging from the positive - saying how beautiful she was, how empowered viewers felt after watching her inspirational video, and how disgusted they were with the industry - to vitriolic comments about how modeling isn't even "a real job" (um ok…) and that Agnes wasn't just rejected because she was fat, but because she was ugly too. Which goes to show once again that internet trolls are cruel and stupid, and that we've still got a way to go in building a healthy, body positive environment.
At 19-years-old, Agnes has already had to deal with the growing pains that come with being a teenage girl -- she's battled depression, anxiety, and even an eating disorder -- and now she's come out the other side fighting for change.
Did you always want to be a model?
The idea of becoming a model only came to me when I was scouted at a festival back in 2010. Up until that point, the tomboy inside of me didn't understand what it was that models "did" for a living. The only thing I knew about models was that they were tall and skinny and that they would get a makeover in the next episode of America's Next Top Model.
What does modeling mean to you?
Modeling is something I love to do; it is the expression of beauty and emotion through photos.
What is your biggest frustration with the industry?
That you always have to be so skinny. The industry's body ideals are so extreme. Young girls and boys are continually being made to lose weight.
What inspired you to make that video?
I'd had enough. I was tired of always hearing I was "too big." But the last straw was when my model friend, who is five years younger than me, said that she was too big. I wanted to expose this ridiculous side of the industry that discriminates against girls for being too big.
How did it make you feel when agencies said you were too fat?
I got really anxious and sad. I hated myself. I also had an eating disorder.
Would you ever put on weight to work as a plus size model or lose weight to meet the more extreme industry standards?
Never. You must love yourself and never give a damn about what anyone else has to say about your body.
How do you feel about the term "plus size"?
It's stupid. There shouldn't be categories like that. There should just be bodies; beauty comes in every shape.
How can we work towards a more body positive future?
We need to start hiring models in every shape and size and have bigger brands set up shows with different sized models. We need to encourage young girls and boys, and older people too, to believe that they are beautiful just the way they are. We need to learn to love ourselves.
Is modeling always about objectifying women or does it empower you as a woman?
In the past it has been objectifying, but now I feel like it's empowering me. I go my own way, and I encourage others to love themselves and be proud.
What does beauty mean to you?
To be comfortable in my own skin.
What advice would you give to young girls who want to follow in your footsteps?
That it gets better. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you're not good enough. You're your own kind of perfect.
What are your plans for the future?
I'm going find people who want to work with me for me -- people that don't force me lose weight and who like the things I stand for. I'm also going to blog more and continue to post on YouTube. Ultimately I want to do more of what makes me happy!
Text Tish Weinstock
Photography Ellen Waldton