Want to Model? MTV Show Says Weight Loss is Key

MTV's "Model Maker" may send the wrong message to girls about weight loss.


Aug. 21, 2008 — -- For young women pining for a chance to strut down a runway, a new reality show on MTV may give them the chance to do just that -- but only if the wannabe models are willing to shed at least 30 pounds in exchange for a shot at fame.

But just how much the show's contestants may have to lose in order to increase their chances of becoming a model has already angered many body image experts and even obesity experts -- all of whom worry that this show may be the latest detrimental message sent to an already weight-obsessed generation of young girls.

"Anything more than 25 pounds in 12 weeks is really overstepping the boundaries," said obesity expert Keith Ayoob of the show's promise to help the aspiring models lose as much as 80 pounds in three months.

The casting call for the "Model Maker," which began auditions earlier this month, promises future contestants that a role on the show will help them achieve their dreams of appearing on a real catwalk.

Women auditioning for the show have to provide MTV with their bust measurements, dress size and must be ready and willing to "sweat off the pounds" in order to be transformed into a well-groomed fashion model.

"MTV is looking for girls willing to shed the pounds (30-80 lbs), become a model and win $100,000!" reads the casting call announcement on MTV's Web site.

"We are looking for girls with a great attitude, a pretty face and the endurance to sweat off the pounds during a 3 month boot camp style show," the announcement reads.

The casting call also asks for potential contestants to submit a laundry list of other specifics -- including waist and hip measurements and their weight -- and also requires applicants be between 5 foot 6 inches and 6 feet in height who "appear" to be between 18 and 25 years old.

And for the woman who outlasts the other 14 contestants through a myriad elimination challenges, a prize package will be hers -- including $100,000 in prize money, a modeling portfolio and a personal trainer.

At a casting call in Kansas City, Mo., one aspiring model hopeful told ABCNews.com that she hopes to lose 30 pounds if she's chosen to be on the show.

Paige Renfrow, a 5 feet 11 inch 200 pound high school student, said she considers herself to be "pretty" and while she isn't "obsessed with beauty" would still like to lose some weight.

Like many of the contestants waiting in line to audition, Renfrow said she has dreamed of becoming a model since she was a little girl, when she would try on her mother's clothes and get her parents to photograph her.

Despite repeated attempts by ABCNews.com to solicit a comment from MTV, the network declined to elaborate and said it would have more information about the program later this fall.

While casting call dates have been scheduled around the country, the show has not yet been given the green light for taping.

A spokeswoman at MTV said that the decision to go ahead and tape a series will depend on the results of the auditions.

Casting Call Encourages Wannabe Models to Diet, Watch Their Weight

For the young girls already hooked to all things MTV thanks to the skyrocketing popularity of the network's other reality shows like "The Hills," a show such as "Model Makers" may not only be a source of entertainment but also a vehicle promoting unhealthy dieting habits.

"You can get very caught up in these shows -- especially young girls who are still building their self-esteem," said Leslie Goldman, the author of "Locker Room Diaries: The Naked Truth About Women, Body Image."

"These girls want to be pretty and on television, and this show gives them the opportunity," said Goldman. "But there is a clause: They have to drop a lot of weight."

Goldman, who said that she respects a lot of MTV's programming that focuses on teen issues -- such as "True Life," which follows teens as they cope with issues like peer pressure and divorce -- added that she worries "Model Maker's" time frame for weight loss is too aggressive.

"In our culture, it is a numbers game: How much do you weigh, how big is your chest and how slim can you get your hips?" said Goldman. "If a woman has a dream of being a model, it's feasible that she could lose weight and do it -- but not necessarily in three months."

Having struggled with weight issues as a teen, Goldman said that she's also concerned that young girls trying out for the show may be hurt by casting directors telling them that they'll be pretty -- but only if they get rid of some excess fat.

"It's very difficult and crushing to have someone look at you and say you're very pretty but you'd be beautiful if you were 30 pounds lighter," said Goldman.

"When you're talking about losing that much weight, it sounds like health is the last thing on their minds and cosmetics is the first," said Ayoob. "And when you're talking about weight loss, health should be the first priority."

MTV Is Feeding Off Society's Stereotypes About Beauty

For Debbie Then, a social psychologist who specializes in women and appearance, news that another show about weight issues might materialize wasn't particularly surprising.

"This show is just capitalizing on what we already know: You can't blame them for doing it," said Then.

"For women, the bottom line is that, cradle to grave, you have to look pretty," said Then. "And pretty for women and attractive for women means youthful looking and thin."

"I'm not at all surprised that this show is happening or that it will be successful," said Then. "Unless they stop getting ratings they won't take these [types of shows] off the air."

"These are the shows people want to watch."

ABC News' Jim Doblin contributed to this report.

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