Alessandra Ambrosio Highlights Skinny vs. Curvy Model Debate

What do current and former Victoria's Secret models Brooklyn Decker, Tyra Banks, Claudia Schiffer, Gisele Bundchen and Heidi Klum have in common?

Video: Victorias Secret models prepare to hit the runway.Play


The lingerie line has long been known for its voluptuous beauties, who, unlike most high fashion models, boast breasts, butts and everything in between.

Now, Victoria's Secret is coming under fire after a shoot in St. Barts revealed a strikingly skinny Alessandra Ambrosio modeling the label's newest swimwear.

Body fat seems all but absent on the Brazilian-born Ambrosio. Her pelvic bones and ribs protrude. Even though she had her first child, Anja, a year and a half ago, in these photos she bears closer resemblance to a pre-pubescent teenager than a 29-year-old mother. A photo of Ambrosio next to two plus-size models emphasizes her slight frame.

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Like just about every model in the industry, Ambrosio exercises. Her career -- which, according to Forbes, earned her $6 million last year -- depends on it. She reportedly gets her cardio from dance routines and tones with the trainer who created the Brazilian Butt Lift. And while her pictures tell another story, according to the Daily Mail of the United Kingdom, Ambrosio still sees herself as a curvy girl.

"I'm very lucky to work for a brand that wants women to be healthy," the Daily Mail quoted Ambrosio as saying. "You need to be able to fill out the bra and the panties, so yes, I'm a curvier girl."

Alessandra Ambrosio poses with plus-size models during a Victoria's Secret shoot.

Curvy vs. Skinny Debate Takes Center Stage Again

Once again, the issue of weight has taken center stage in the modeling world, and it appears there's no perfect weight. While Ambrosio might seem too skinny, fellow model Coco Rocha claims she's no longer slim enough for the industry.

"I'm not in demand for the shows anymore," the Candian model said on her blog Oh So Coco last month. Rocha claims she wears a U.K. size six, equivalent to a U.S. size two.

"I've been told to lose weight when I was really skinny," she added. "Everybody knows that, in general, a basketball player needs to be tall and a fashion model needs to be skinny, but how skinny is too skinny?"

French model Isabelle Caro can comment on that. Caro has been battling anorexia for years. At 62 pounds, bones protruding and teeth decaying, she posed nude for an anti-anorexia ad campaign.

Jessica Simpson interviewed Caro for an episode of her new VH1 show, "The Price of Beauty." In the interview, Caro said that a designer told her she needed to lose 10 kilos (22 pounds) if she wanted to model. Caro stopped eating and eventually ended up in a coma. Now, she's trying to pass a law in French Parliament that would ban too-thin models from the runway.

Isabelle Caro posed for a provocative anti-anorexia billboard.

Last month, Ambrosio herself took strides in that direction. She and fellow Victoria's Secret Angels Miranda Kerr, Doutzen Kroes and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley were swapped into Prada's 2010 Milan runway show at the last minute to replace the traditional runway models who were slated to walk.

After the show, Ambrosio told that she thinks "most women relate more to models that have healthy curves, which are also very sexy and feminine."

According to, the model swap came in response to the controversy over thin models on the runways of New York Fashion Week earlier in February. In New York, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) held a discussion on the idea of changing the sample size from a size zero to a size four, allowing more curvateous women to participate in high fashion shows. Despite the discussion, the sample size wasn't changed.

There's a sad irony in that rule. Though models must fit into a size zero to walk the runway, the CFDA stipulates that models who are identified as having an eating disorder must seek professional treatment and stop modeling until that professional clears them for the industry again.

The discussion of too thin models began in 2006, when Brazilian model Ana Carolina Reston died of a generalized infection due to anorexia. Her death caused the organizers of Madrid Fashion Week to institute a minimum Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18. According to The Associated Press, at the time of Reston's death, she weighed 88 lbs., which put her BMI at 13.4.

Earlier this year, it seemed the scales in the skinny vs. curvy debate tipped in the direction of the latter. V magazine featured only plus-size models in its January 2010 issue; New York Magazine put curvy-and-couldn't-care-less-about-it "Mad Men" star Christina Hendricks on its spring fashion cover.

Perhaps not caring is the new black (as the fashion world says), at least on a personal level. Ambrosio declined's requests to comment for this story. And on her blog, Rocha declared she could give a damn what anyone thinks of her figure.

"You know what, I've stopped caring," Rocha said. "If I want a hamburger, I'm going to have one. No 21-year-old should be worrying about whether she fits a sample size. ... I don't do nudes, I don't do semi-nudes, I don't do cigarette shots. It took me a long time in the business to realise I didn't have to do everything people told me I should if I wanted a career."

Canadian model Coco Rocha.