Former model Julie Kerr's successful career was overshadowed by her secret battle with Bulimia. Picture: Nigel Sutton

London Fashion Week: Modeling put my life at risk says West Hampstead campaigner

Wednesday, February 22, 2012
7.23 PM

As the world’s gaze falls on the capital for London Fashion Week, Julie Kerr has warned that models are half starving themselves in the quest for an unattainable figure.

The 54-year-old of Lymington Road, West Hampstead, said: “There is this all pervasive view that to be thin is beautiful. There is no room for young girls to go through puberty and feel confident about themselves.

“These are young impressionable girls, but they are treated like they are in a cattle market.

“The industry needs tighter regulations. We need to see women of all shapes and sizes on the catwalk.”

Ms Kerr was 18 when she landed her first modelling job in Leicestershire, beginning a career that would take her to London and Paris, and see her image on TV adverts and on the pages of German Vogue.

But behind the glamour she was battling an eating disorder that took two decades to overcome.

“I never thought I was good enough because I wasn’t on the cover of Vogue,” she said.

“In my world that was all that mattered. I started on a diet when I was modelling because I was told to lose weight.

“I would eat nothing but bananas and coffee so I could lose weight quickly.”

This calorie counting soon spiralled into bingeing and vomiting sessions as Ms Kerr’s anorexia morphed into bulimia.

She said: “Rather than having just a slice of cake, without realising it I would have another and another. Then I would panic. I didn’t understand why I was thinking about food all the time, I even dreamed about it.”

Recent trends suggest more people are being treated for eating disorders in Camden, according to NHS figures, and doctors have warned that patients are more severely ill and increasingly need in-patient care.

The hosting of London Fashion Week inevitably triggers debates over how the industry should be regulated and whether there should be a minimum age and size for catwalk models.

Ms Kerr, who now helps other people struggling with eating disorders, thinks it will take a concerted effort by the government and the fashion industry to stop more vulnerable models nearly killing themselves to look a certain way.

She said: “There is a myth in the world that being thin is the key to being beautiful. It is damaging the psyche of our culture.”

For more information on the help Ms Kerr gives people fighting eating disorders visit www.lovinglifeafterbulimia.com