HELP IS ON THE WAY: InStyle’s special projects director and Revlon’s associate digital content creator Christina Grasso have joined forces in their off-hours to create The Chain, an industry support group for women dealing with eating disorders.
In a joint interview, Grasso said she reached out to Friedlander after reading her InStyle piece about coping with an eating disorder. Having written something about her own issue years ago for another publication, Grasso said she “knew how much courage it took to come out about something like that, especially in our industry where the topic still remains heavily stigmatized.”
While body image issues has been broached within the industry regarding models, others haven’t been part of the conversation. The two formed a friendship and set out to start an initiative that would address the issue in a way that would be beneficial for editors, publicists, writers, photographers and others in the industry.
At least 30 million people of all ages and gender suffer from eating disorders, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, a nonprofit that is known as ANAD.
Friedlander, who first faced an eating disorder at the age of 10, said, “People talk a lot about underage and underweight models, but very rarely do you hear an open dialogue about eating disorders. It’s not very sexy to talk about. It’s less about trying to change the industry and getting people to feel more comfortable talking about it.”
Launched three weeks ago, The Chain has attracted interest from more than 100 people thusfar. The site also provides links to resources for people dealing with eating disorders. There are plans to rev up publicity during New York Fashion Week and the group’s first event — a bracelet-making workshop at Roxanne Assoulin’s studio — will happen in March so that industry people will have the time to get there after the European collections wind down. The gatherings are meant to lend themselves to industry-specific issues such as “‘What does it feel like to ask for lunch when you are in a car full of editors who don’t stop for lunch?’ and ‘How do you deal with that or find a handbag that fit the snacks that are approved by your dietician?’” Friedlander said. “I’m hoping that some people find solace that they can come one time a month, be around people, take their career hat off and say, ‘Ugh, this f–king sucks.’”
Having gone through similar treatment programs, both women said they benefited from group therapy. They hope to create a safe space where people feel they can talk but the conversation won’t necessarily always be about eating disorders, they said. “Obviously, confidentiality is so important to both of us. Even though Christina and I have shared our stories — and that’s been very important in my recovery process — that is not true of everyone. We in no way want to push people to share their experiences publicly,” Friedlander said.
Both women acknowledged that the fashion industry may reenforce certain stigmas regarding eating disorders. Grasso said, “I was 12 at the onset of mine, so that was before I even really knew what my career in fashion would actually look like. But you come into it and it’s basically the equivalent of an alcoholic getting a job at a bar. We’re obviously willingly making the choice to move forward with our careers, but it certainly doesn’t help [being in the industry] in a lot of ways. That’s what we’re trying to mitigate in a way.”