Being fashionably thin is something Magali Amadei knows plenty about. The supermodel, who came to this country from France, saw her developing eating disorder accelerate to full-blown bulimia in America. Ironically, she thinks Americans are more open-minded than Europeans when it comes to admitting and seeking treatment for eating disorders and other mental illnesses.
Amadei, now 26, featured in November’s Glamour, has been modeling for nine years. Someone told her she was fat at age 14, and she began eating and purging with a friend. Later, she lied and told her friend she had stopped, but she continued for years, hiding it from her family, friends and employers. She came to New York City on vacation at age 17 and “was discovered” as a model, procuring a lot of work quickly. With that much pressure, her bulimia went into high gear and the 5-foot-9-inch model, who doesn’t recall what she weighed, felt tremendous pressure to stay abnormally thin. “My image was distorted, so I thought I was fat. I put myself in my own house of horrors, where everywhere I looked, I saw myself as fat. Eating and throwing up is how I dealt with it.”
Then, she was too ashamed to talk about it. Today, on behalf of the American Anorexia and Bulimia Association, she is speaking out about her eating disorder to high school girls all over America. She has been in recovery since 1998. She has volunteered a month of her time, beginning in Beverly Hills, Calif., earlier this month and ending in New York City next week, touring high schools with her message.
“Fashion, to me, is not particularly evil. It’s a great fantasy, but it has such influences on every woman who looks at the images. We are much thinner than we were 30 years ago. We think if we are thin, we’re going to be successful, have the hottest boyfriend. We do get reinforcement for being thin. Well, I went places, was treated like royalty, but nothing could keep me from feeling fat. We live in a society that believes if we’re thin, we will be happy. It’s a pressure we don’t need.”
The dark-haired beauty ate in private, going though periods where she fasted. She also abused laxatives. She knew on one level that she was affecting her health, but didn’t come out of denial until she began her recovery. She noticed an irregular heartbeat after vomiting — usually seven times a day — and her periods had become extremely irregular. She had dark circles under her eyes, her hair and nails were brittle, and she was passing out on some jobs, but she covered by saying she was hypoglycemic. She has 11 caps and seven root canals she directly attributes to the stomach acid washing over her teeth during her bulimic years.
When she ended up on the bathroom floor from laxative abuse, she reached bottom and shared her secret with an old friend, reaching out for support. Today, she doesn’t diet, and doesn’t think of food as something she can’t have. “I learned when I was hungry and when I was full. I had to face my depression and rebuild my self-esteem. I’m pretty sure I see what reality is now.”
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