Kayley Chabot from Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada, was only 15 years old when she was signed by Ford Models in New York. Ford Models is a renowned modeling agency which is responsible for discovering icons such as Naomi Campbell and Christie Brinkley. Chabot was excited to start her dream career with such a prestigious agency, ready to make herself famous. But instead of the glamorous lifestyle she imagined, Chabot said she was constantly made to feel fat, even developing a fear of drinking water. The former Vogue cover star blames the ridiculous standards of the modeling industry for her extreme eating disorder which led to alcohol and drug abuse as a young teenager.
The former model told the Daily Mail, “I was so excited to go to New York. But when I got there the agency was shocked at my size. My hips were 37.5 inches and they needed to be 2.5 inches smaller.” Essentially, Chabot was told that not only was she too fat and needed to lose weight, but it was her responsibility to stay thin. “I was so young, I took it to heart,” she said. “I heard them call me fat and I pretty much stopped eating.” This marked the beginning of a fast downward spiral for Chabot.
She began living off of 500 calories a day, supplementing it with 5-hour workouts. She described going to the gym for 2 1/2 hours in the morning, then repeating the same routine again in the evening. This was all to please her agency and lose the weight she thought she needed to get rid of to be a successful model. Chabot began to gradually spiral into anorexia.
Of course, the extreme eating habits and workouts began to have negative impacts on her body within months. Chabot recalls, “My hair was falling out and I was passing out all the time. I couldn’t make it through the day at school and would ring my mum to pick me up because I was so weak or had taken so many laxatives.” It got to a point where she was so fearful of putting anything in her body, she didn’t even want to drink water.
While people noticed Chabot’s weight loss, no one tried to talk to her about it. “No one told me to stop – they thought it was just the sacrifice I had to make to become a successful model.” Her drive to be a successful model, based on the agency’s criticism, forced her to continue her detrimental routine, despite the pain. Chabot says that her agency kept asking her if her body was ready, “but I didn’t think it was ready, I still thought I was too big. I was just 15 and I was dying.”
Finally, the former model broke down. She had a dangerously low BMI of 15.2, was constantly ill and thought about suicide. After six months, Chabot confessed to her mother that she didn’t want to live anymore. Her family immediately took her to the hospital, where she was helped by a team of experts. Chabot’s psychiatrist warned her to quit modeling and not return to New York, but Chabot was desperate. She faked her own recovery and convinced her family to let her go and work. “I wanted to be famous, or have people know who I was. I wanted to feel important,” she explained. “I pretended I was eating but really I was throwing up all the time and everything was spiraling down.”
Things only got worse for her in New York. Her agency immediately put her in a bikini, something she was dreading. But instead of calling her fat, they praised her weight loss. “There I was looking so ill, so sick and they were telling me it was good,” Chabot recalled. “I started to crave hearing that. It became a drug to hear people say how ill I looked or how skinny I was.” She lived with ten other models and formed toxic friendships through a shared desperation to be thin. Chabot’s entire life revolved around keeping her weight down, living off of black coffee and constantly exercising.
In addition to starving her body of nutrients, Chabot turned to alcohol and drugs as a means of escaping the pain she was undergoing. The more frequent the abuse got, the harder the drugs she turned to; it got to a point where Chabot couldn’t imagine her life without the drugs. “It was a cycle. They made things a lot worse. They took away my appetite, which in turn, fueled my eating disorder. And they contributed to my depression – digging the hole deeper.”
Finally, in 2014, Chabot reached her breaking point. She finished her last show season in Paris, then returned to Canada and quit modeling for good. The former model said it was the hardest decision she’s ever had to make, but it was for the sake of her body and her mind. “The agency was emailing me and messaging me but I just could not find it within myself to go back,” she said. Her family supported her decision to stay home and get healthier, helping her keep her resolve. After two and a half years of ups and downs, Chabot finally feels healthy in her recovery. She has since turned to studying nutrition, happy that “I’ve turned an unhealthy obsession into a healthy obsession.”
Despite her extreme struggles with anorexia, Chabot firmly believes it is possible to model and stay healthy. She doesn’t claim to speak for other models, many of whom eat a lot and stay skinny or naturally look very thin. “There were girls who ate beer and pizza every night and others who looked anorexic but that was just their body,” Chabot explained. “It was a small percentage that took it to the extreme that I did.”
Still, she hopes that the modeling industry will change its approach when scouting younger girls. Chabot comments that if she had been older, she might not have fallen prey to such drastic measures. “I was only 13 when I started in the industry and I believed anything people told me – that’s the biggest problem for most young girls in the industry.” Although her age may have influenced her mindset towards it, it is not Chabot that needs to take the blame for the standards placed on her. The harsh negativity of the modeling industry is no longer acceptable in a society of self-love and body acceptance. Not everyone can break free from the illness of an eating disorder. But there’s no doubt that Chabot’s strength is how she got to a healthy weight and a happier place.
[H/T: Daily Mail]