The Story of How a Danish Model Stood up to the Fashion Industry
When 20-year old model Ulrikke Høyer was told to lose weight, she finally decided to speak out on the mistreatment of models.
In May of 2017, the successful Danish model Ulrikke Høyer wrote an open letter on Facebook describing her experiences with the casting agents of French fashion house Louis Vuitton prior to a show. Ulrikke Høyer claimed she was told to drink only water for 24 hours and was subsequently dropped from the prestigious show for being “too big”. She was sent back home from Japan to Denmark without stepping onto the runway. However, instead of accepting the treatment from Louis Vuitton, Ulrikke Høyer looked to social media to describe and lament the almost impossible standards that models and women are held to:
“The flip side of the coin is very different and anything but glamorous. With my background since I was 6 as an elite tennis player I’ve been used to high expectations and also to gain a good understanding of nutrition and hard training and therefore I also know that the demands and expectations that is given to the high end fashion models in the industry are often completely unattainable and directly damaging to the human body.”
20-year old Ulrikke Høyer is not the first to describe and spotlight the mistreatment of models, but she took an important stand to help change the practices of the fashion industry, drawing from a deeply held desire to help others in the same situation as herself:
“I am aware that I’m a product, I can separate that but I have seen way too many girls who are sooo skinny that I don’t even understand how they even walk or talk. It’s so obvious that these girls are in desperate need of help.”
In the wake of Ulrikke Høyer’s statement, the Danish Ministry of Health and the Danish Ethical Fashion Charter issued a statement of their own saying that “Ulrikke Louise Lahn Høyer has shared her story in both Danish and international media and it is our belief that her story should contribute to raising further awareness in Europe and abroad on this important issue.”
#DenmarkInNewYork caught up with Copenhagen-based Ulrikke Høyer, who is juggling between modelling jobs, her studies and her newfound activism.
What issues in the modelling industry have you addressed?
First, I believe that the size of designer clothes are the biggest problem. The problem begins with designers producing clothes in small sizes and measures. Then, the [casting directors] have to find models that fit these small sizes, and this is the tipping point. The clothes are unrealistically small, so that the models who are able to fit the clothes often do not have realistic body sizes or are unhealthy.
Another problem is the way models are treated. As a model, you realize that you are objectified and that your job revolves around your looks. But from my experience it is clear that models are not always treated the way we should be.
What were your considerations before beginning to talk publically about your experiences?
I never really doubted whether I should go public with my post or not. I made the decision I did not want to work with people who did not treat me right, or people who were dissatisfied with my body. It was not difficult to post my experiences. I was aware there might be consequences, but I definitely felt like me stepping forward would be worth it.
What will it take to get the modelling industry to change?
It would entail getting everybody in the business to understand and respect they are dealing with human beings. Second, the sizes of clothes need to change. I do believe there are changes happening, but it is going to take a very long time before you can call the modelling industry a healthy business.
Looking at your Instagram account, there are many beautiful photos from your modelling jobs. But tell us why is it also important to show “the other side” like you did?
To give a realistic and true picture of the business that I am in. It is very easy to make your life look like a fairytale, but that is not the truth. There are difficulties, and I think that story is important to tell, especially since so many young girls and boys follow my Instagram account.
How do you think models can help transform an industry that objectifies women into an industry that empowers them?
The fashion industry is very hierarchical, and the models are far down, making it very hard for the models to change the industry on their own. However, we have to support each other and use the means we have, Instagram being one of them, in order to “empower” our colleagues and ourselves.
Silke Baumann is the Press, Culture & Public Diplomacy Intern at Denmark In NY.