A winner of Holland’s Next Top Model is suing her agency for refusing to give her the prize money she claims she is due because they say she is “too fat”.
Ananda Marchildon said she only received €10,000 (£8,300) of the €75,000 contract she was promised after winning the competition in 2008, aged 21. She was also stripped of her title.
The 1.83m (6ft) model claims she was sacked by Elite Model Management two years into the three-year agreement because her hip measurement exceeded their maximum limit of 90cm. The average European woman has 102.9cm hips. At the time of her dismissal, Marchildon claims her hips were 92cm.
Her lawyers claim she lost rather than gained weight after winning the show. They argue the agency is obliged to work with Marchildon “as she looked in the final”, rather than retrospectively forcing her to conform to their rules. The case has started a debate in the Netherlands about the extent to which young women are expected to adhere to near-impossible physical standards.
Dieuwke Levinson-Arps, who is representing Marchildon, claims her client was told by a lawyer working for Elite that she was sacked because “although she has a nice face, she has a fat arse” and that “she never had it in her to become a top model because she was unsuitable for catwalk work”. She said Marchildon’s physiology meant she had “no chance” of having 90cm hips, even with a strict diet and exercise regime. “Already she was very skinny, almost anorexically skinny,” said Levinson-Arps.
In the two years after winning the show, Marchildon received around 20 assignments for Elite, mostly in print advertisements. She did not get any catwalk offers.
Marchildon is suing Elite for unfair dismissal. She wants them to pay out the remaining €65,000 she says she was promised for winning the show. Elite is contesting the claim.
Wikke Kootstra, a lawyer for Elite, said: “It was impossible for Elite to find [Marchildon] modelling jobs since she wasn’t in the required shape.”
Asked about the reason for a preferred hip measurement of 90cm, Kootstra said in an email: “Elite models model couture. Couture clothing is made in one size only: (très très) petite. This is not something modelling agencies can change. (I imagine they would welcome such a change since it would make their job so much easier … but it is not in their power to change what the market dictates.)
“Hip measurements are not the only criterium for the possibility to find suitable jobs for a model; they have to be in excellent trim and take extremely good care of their appearances, eat right, sleep well, exercise etc. It’s not for everybody.”
Kootstra said Elite never signed a contract with Marchildon. After winning the show she was given a contract with another modelling agency, MTA. She was then placed with the higher-profile Elite agency, said Kootstra, “as is customary in the modelling world, to obtain maximal exposure”.
To support their case, Marchildon’s legal team wrote to Tyra Banks, the American supermodel who owns the rights to the Next Top Model brand, saying the incident “exploits” and “grossly neglects” the character of Banks’s original format. Banks does not appear to have received the letter as it was subsequently returned unopened.
Banks has been outspoken about her own weight fluctuations since tabloids ran an unflattering photograph of her in a bathing suit under headlines such as: “America’s Next Top Waddle” and “Tyra Porkchop”.
In March last year a beauty queen in Texas won a case against the pageant’s organisers who stripped her of her crown after she allegedly put on weight.
A court judgment in Marchildon’s case is expected on 7 March in Amsterdam.