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Friday Dec 11, 2015

An Auckland woman has caused a stir on social media after criticising an image of a "too thin" model in a popular Ponsonby hair salon's window.

AUT student Emma Clarke raised concerns with D&M Hair Design over a poster featuring a model looking "unhealthy and unwell" in their window. The 20-year-old said the image didn't portray a "healthy mind set for viewers" and promoted an unrealistic expectation of how women's bodies should look.

"The way she is portrayed, she just looks gaunt and sick and it is not a very pretty picture.

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"It makes me feel like they are glamorising this image to be something that girls should want to be like. It is unrealistic to be that skinny."

Her concern was echoed by a number of Facebook users who urged the salon to take the image down.

But the salon's owner has refuted claims the image promoted negative ideals.

Michael Sisaengrath said "in real life" the model - New Zealand woman Danielle Hayes - was not extremely thin and he did not see why people had a problem with the poster.

"She is an international model, that is her job and it is not our choice to tell her she needs to put weight on. That is the way she has to be because it is her profession," Mr Sisaengrath said.

"In real life she is a good size 10. It is not like she is starving herself to look like that. Most modelling agencies around the world will not hire anyone who has got an eating disorder or who is anorexic. We don't pick anorexic people."

He said Ms Hayes only looked "skinny" because of how she was posing.

D&M Hair Design says it will not take down the poster until next year. Photo / Doug Sherring
D&M Hair Design says it will not take down the poster until next year. Photo / Doug Sherring

The controversy comes after women's clothing giant Glassons backtracked on its use of skinny mannequins with visible ribs last year and apologised to customers for the "unattainable depiction of women".

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Glassons faced strong public backlash and an online petition demanding removal of the mannequins.

Editor-in-Chief of Healthy Food Guide magazine Niki Bezzant said images of extremely thin models could have a negative impact on young women.

"In general terms I do think that images in the media have an impact. It is everywhere, it is fashion magazines, it is the internet [and] for young women who are vulnerable to that kind of thing it can be potentially quite negative," Ms Bezzant said.

"It kind of glamourises perhaps being unhealthily thin. It is quite an extreme image and I can see how people find it [offensive]. She doesn't look particularly healthy but then it is impossible to know."

Ms Bezzant said images could be deceiving because thin models could also be healthy.

"The point I would make is that you can actually be healthy at different sizes. You can be thin and healthy and you could also be bigger and quite healthy as well. What we need to see in the media is actually a range of images of women at all sizes looking healthy, that would be great."

Danielle Hayes: The owner of the salon which uses her image denies she is
Danielle Hayes: The owner of the salon which uses her image denies she is "too thin".

Ms Hayes could not be reached for comment. However her representative, Unique Model Management director Ursula Dixon, said it was unfair for people to "skinny shame" the young model.

"I personally think there are a range of body types out there and skinny shaming is just as harmful as fat shaming. That is her natural body type and if people have seen her on New Zealand's Next Top Model and that was quite a long time ago, her body has never changed from when she started modelling to now.

"Real women have all different types of bodies and that is the actual truth. All women are real ... and obviously in our industry we see a lot of people trying to shame women who are naturally thin."

Ms Dixon said the model had become a target for people who were unhappy with their own bodies to take issue with. "It is really about people's issues with their own self that they are projecting upon Dani."

Another reader said the way the model was posing made her "look like an insect".
"How she is posing is what sends the message, in this case the message is that looking like a stick is desirable. In the full-size poster she looks like an insect and the poster is more important than what she actually looks like in real life," she wrote.

Mr Sisaengrath said D&M Hair Design would take on board any complaints but the image would not be removed until next year.