Editor’s Note: This article contains mentions of eating disorders and disordered eating. Please take care while reading, and note the helpful resources at the end of this story.
A New York City-based model caught the attention of over 15 million people on TikTok when she uploaded a raw and emotional reaction video to a recent casting director’s comments.
22-year-old Anna Gantt (@annavgantt) started filming herself while crying after coming home from a particularly harsh rejection that included the client saying, “We’d really like to see more of your bones” in order for her to book the job.
“I deal with rejection from clients in more castings than I do not,” Gantt told In The Know. “I could feel my face turning red from embarrassment when the producer told me I would get the job if I could ‘lose weight’ and look more ‘waify’ before the shoot in December. I took the train home to my apartment and decided to record my grief.”
Gantt has worked in the modeling industry for seven years and said she had never experienced such a personal rejection before. It also felt like a slap in the face because, five years ago, Gantt began undergoing treatment for an eating disorder.
“Before I began my recovery, I did like being physically exhausted all the time and eating one 400-calorie meal a day,” she shared. “But it wasn’t because I liked being underweight; it was the gratification I got from clients who made me feel that I was making them proud to book a severely underweight model. I am far more deserving.”
In her TikTok, Gantt said she’s gained 35 pounds in recovery.
“And I look great!” she affirmed in the viral clip. “I’m still thin!”
In 2017, a study at New York Fashion Week conducted by researchers from Harvard University, Northeastern University and Boston Children’s Hospital found that over 62 percent of the models interviewed admitted to having been asked to lose weight or change their size by their agency or someone else in the industry.
Women of color, in particular, are disproportionately at a disadvantage when it comes to securing jobs in the industry — and not just due to weight. In 2020, Afro-Latina model Joan Smalls posted a video about moments where she was rejected from opportunities because of her race and because her hair was described as “too difficult to work with.”
More and more models have started to speak out against industry standards. Former Victoria’s Secret model Bridget Malcolm posted an Instagram video in July 2021 detailing the trauma she endured in her modeling years, which ended when she turned 26 and had a nervous breakdown. Malcolm is also in recovery for an eating disorder — allegedly encouraged by her agent and clients — and is two years sober.
“It was a flashback to a very dark time in the thick of my body dysmorphia and anorexia,” Gantt added about the experience. “What I heard was, I’m only worthy when I am less than 115 pounds.”
It was the pent-up emotion that led Gantt to post on TikTok for her 100,000 followers. Gantt, who is also open about her trichotillomania — a body-focused repetitive disorder (BFRD) that involves recurrent, irresistible hair-pulling urges — said the 24 hours after her TikTok was published were a whirlwind of unexpected support.
“I have received heartfelt messages through TikTok from fellow models that I admire and look up to,” she said. “[It] has reminded me that sharing my authentic experiences and showing the reality of my job can spark a conversation that leads to change.”
One of those models was Tess Holliday, a plus-size model and body acceptance advocate also in recovery from an eating disorder. Holliday commented, “Eff them. You’re stunning. The industry needs to change, not you.”
The company Lashify, which makes DIY lash extensions, even offered Gantt a job in the comments section of her video. The opportunity just further reminded Gantt of the impact she could have as a model — even if there are directors and clients out there who are “stuck in the ’90s” when it comes to casting.
“After receiving the feedback I have on my TikTok and also private messages, I think I [will] stay in the industry,” Gantt said. “There won’t be change if I run from the issue at hand.”
For aspiring models — which Gantt said she’s seen plenty of on TikTok and Instagram — Gantt advised to say no to jobs that feel like “hell.”
“I can recall a handful of jobs over the years where I wish I would have said no and saved myself some mental distress,” she said. “[For example,] the pain I felt my last year modeling in Europe was excruciating. I was offered a cigarette and Diet Coke one day on set while the rest of the team ordered pizza for themselves. I called my agent later that week and told her I was terminating my contract in that country.”
Across the board, TikTok viewers agreed with Gantt’s emotional video.
“This video is incredibly important,” someone wrote. “I really appreciate your vulnerability in posting this.”
“Healthy is beautiful!” another added.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or disordered eating habits, contact the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) at 1-800-931-2237. You can also connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor at no charge by texting the word “HOME” to 741741. Visit the NEDA website to learn more about the possible warning signs of eating disorders and disordered eating.
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