Karolina Kurkova, Elettra Wiedemann, and Anna Wintour Talked Health at the CFDA’s ‘Well Balanced Life’ Panel

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Karolina Kurkova Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/PatrickMcMullan.com/PatrickMcMullan.com

Karolina Kurkova was uncharacteristically tearful this morning as she took her seat for the CFDA’s panel discussion, A Well Balanced Life. “I had a little procedure yesterday,” she confessed. “I didn’t know how big it was going to be.” She wouldn’t specify further, but remained emotional as she spoke about having a thyroid problem that added 30 additional pounds to her five-eleven frame a few years ago. (Clearly, there’s no sign of extra weight now.) “I was 24 and going through menopause —  That was one of my side effects," she explained. "I thought I was going crazy. I was having panic attacks every minute and I didn’t know what was happening, because I’ve been a healthy person. I’ve exercised all my life. I’ve always eaten well and taken care of myself.”

Co-panelists Elettra Wiedemann, Arianna Huffington, and jewelry designer Monique Péan hadn’t dealt with similar health threats, but they each talked about the importance of cultivating interests outside of fashion, getting a good night’s sleep, and having passion for one’s work. And of course, protein. (Péan advised “bringing nuts with you to the shows.”) Huffington also talked about working through her own daughter’s eating disorder, but interestingly, it was Anna Wintour who pushed the issue. When moderator Alina Cho took questions from the audience, Wintour waved her hand in the air:

I just have a very practical question that I’d like to ask you, Elettra. Obviously, most models are thin, as you’ve all pointed out. And also, those who have eating disorders are usually the masters of disguise. There are a lot of designers here this morning, and I’d like to ask you what your advice would be to the designers and to their teams for warning signs of girls that do have eating problems, how they should handle it, how they should deal with it, and really what they should look for.

Wiedemann admitted that she was no expert, but she recently intervened when a friend was losing hair, growing peach fuzz on her arms, and making strange decisions. “I could tell she was not feeding her brain,” she said. Olivier Theyskens said after moving to New York from Paris, he noticed a major difference in models between New York Fashion Week — at the beginning of the show season — and Paris, after they’ve been starving themselves for runway work for a month. It doesn’t help matters that in many cases, the same dozen girls are booked again and again. 

Diane von Furstenberg, who ducked in late after appearing on Good Morning America, said the industry shouldn’t encourage so many girls to go into the business to begin with. “Not everybody can be a model. It doesn’t matter how skinny you are,” she said. “I think [agents] should be honest and say, ‘You are beautiful and everything, but you will never be a model.’ You know? And it’s okay. You can be something else rather than, ‘If you starve you’ll become a model.’”

Related: The CFDA Wants You to Be Healthy This Fashion Week