‘No Anorexia’ campaigner Isabelle Caro dies at 28

Ilona Burton

You would recognise the pictures. The poster campaign featuring the naked, emaciated body of French model Isabelle Caro earned her an international title as ‘the face of Anorexia’. But she was far more than that…

On November 17th 2010, Isabelle lost her battle with Anorexia. There was an intimate funeral service for her family and friends in Paris where she was laid to rest.

Only today were the media told the news of her death – I was told over Twitter and as I Googled, more and more pages broke the news. Sterile would be the word to describe it. So soon after hearing, the most sensitive way of writing is merely reporting. No emotion – just the facts – the when, the why, a bit of history, the obligatory iconic  photograph… all pretty much the same; another death.

Isabelle became ill at 13 years old after being told that if she wanted to make it in her dream career as a model, she would have to lose weight. I wonder how that agent feels now. Her weight and state of health, as with many people who live with the disorder, was up and down during her career – I’m sure allowing her to live at least some of her life to the full… one can only hope. Media reports already stand out as being somewhat sensationalist in that they only mention her weight when it was the lowest, or talk of her health when she was lying in a coma never expected to wake again.

It is easy to forget – this sad bag of bones next to the headlines had feelings, a personality, a dream; she was someone’s friend, someone’s daughter. The media speaks in pictures and numbers – but this was a woman who was powerful beyond images of her stick thin figure. This was a young woman who had had enough of suffering and who not only chose to fight, but to use her position as a model and actress (however ironic) to send out perhaps the most striking, raw, and emotional poster and media campaigns I have ever come across. Her death sadly sealed that message she so desperately wanted to communicate.

‘No Anorexia’ were the words that accompanied the image – no explanation was needed other than her sad, lifeless body, sunken eyes, ragdoll, skeleton, whatever you want to call it. Her message was plain and simple. She wanted to warn people, to scare people, and that it did. Italy, one of the countries that I am sure she wanted to target the most (it appeared during Milan Fashion Week), banned the advert. Some problems are too hard to face.

Isabelle was interviewed across the media worldwide, sharing her story and campaigning for changes to be made in the fashion industry and doing everything in her power to warn young women of the dangers of Anorexia. She may not have been so good at taking her own advice, but that is, let’s face it, beyond the point – as I presume was she.

I have never met Isabelle. I do not know her, I am not close to her and I only became aware of her during the uproar that ensued after ‘that’ campaign. Perhaps I feel I have to write about this because this is what I write about. It’s not that. It isn’t that we both know what it is like to live with the illness, to know how it feels never to be thin enough, and to want to change peoples’ minds and raise awareness whilst all the time being acutely aware of how hypocritical we may seem. All that is true, but that isn’t why I am writing. The fact is that I don’t know why. I was deeply saddened when I heard and read the news. I felt compelled to pass on what she put so eloquently:

“I thought this could be a chance to use my suffering to get a message across, and finally put an image on what thinness represents and the danger it leads to – which is death.” Isabelle Caro (12 September 1982 – 17 November 2010)

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  • Ilona Burton

    Wow, thank you.

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