The law, which applies to all models working in the European Union and the European Economic Area, states: “Unless specified and identified in medical records for a model over 16, the body mass index will be taken into account, particularly when its value suggests moderate or severe thinness after the age of 18, and is lower that the third percentile in French references for height and gender before that age.”
Separately, beginning Oct. 1, any “commercial” image of a model whose bodily appearance has been digitally or otherwise altered will have to be labeled “photographie retouchée,” or retouched photograph.
Those who do not disclose image retouching are subject to a fine of 37,500 euros, or more than $41,000; employing a model without the health requirements and certificate carries a fine of €75,000 and six months in jail.
Though the law had been under discussion for a long time and was approved by the National Assembly in 2015, its publication in the Official Journal was required for it to take effect, a move that occurred last week, spurred in part by the desire of the health minister, Marisol Touraine, to put it in place before the change of administration.
Whether the law will really make a difference, however, remains to be seen.
“I applaud the motivation and appreciate that France has taken a leadership role,” said Sara Ziff, founder of the Model Alliance, an advocacy group. “That said, there needs to be careful attention to how this plays out over the next year or two in France. Are the decrees being implemented and are they achieving their intended effects?”
After all, a primary reason for the prevalence of anorexia among models, and for their exploitation, is the skewed balance of power in the industry, which places models at the bottom of the totem pole, at the mercy of agents, bookers, photographers, stylists…