||The Evening Standard
Sophie's Choice: She's Gone Skinny
by Jemima Wells
What's going on with Sophie Dahl? The woman who was once the incarnation of defiant voluptuous loveliness, who once embodied every woman's hopes for a diet-less, body-fascist-free tomorrow has lost all her signature excess pounds. When she took to the runway for designer Zac Posen on Monday, clad in a monochrome tux minidress and vertiginous heels, whispered exchanges on the front row of the New York fashion week show concluded that she'd slimmed down to size 10 or even eight. Speculation is rife about what her new body says about Dahl, her emotional state, her love life, and society's attitude towards fat in general.
Model Sophie Dahl showing off her new svelte figure at the Zac Polen show
"She's losing her USP (Unique Selling Point)," commented one industry insider. "It was her body that made her so unusual and, to be honest, successful." Another muttered: "People talked about her having a realistic body shape, but actually, it was an extraordinary body. It was statuesque and incredible. In a way, painfully thin bodies are more achievable than her amazing proportions." Dahl's lustrous skin and vibrant hair have also helped her - two things that permanently skinny models tend to sacrifice to maintain their minuscule frames.
Shrinking: Sophie slims down in '99 and June 2001.
One thing's for sure, it was Dahl's languorous, curving sensuality that won her the highly controversial Opium ad contract. Tom Ford, whose Gucci empire owns the Opium brand, cast the British model because "I wanted someone for the poster who looked like she'd had too much of everything ... food, sex and love. A woman who denies herself nothing." Unless Dahl piles the pounds back on, we can safely assume that she won't get a repeat booking there.
Nicky Haslam, professional partygoer and long-term consort of both Sophie and her mother Tessa, is quick to defend Sophie's new form. "People tend to lose weight as they get older," he commented. "A lot of people forget that when Sophie first began modelling, she was terribly young. That was puppy fat. She's a very intelligent girl, and she probably just wanted to fit into clothes more easily." He also insists that Dahl is not indulging in any neurotic eating habits. "The last time I had dinner with Sophie - about a month ago - she ate like a horse," he claimed. "She likes a good bowl of pasta."
Nevertheless, the fact is that, intentionally or otherwise, Sophie Dahl has lost weight. What's more - in the past at least - her fluctuating waistline has provided an accurate barometer of her emotional state. Sophie's difficult relationship with food began early in life. Her mother (Tessa) was the original Seventies wild child, dysfunctional, erratic and given to uprooting her brood on a whim. She split from Sophie's father, the Carry On actor Julian Holloway, when she was a baby. Dahl attended 10 different schools in various locations around the world before she was 13, had moved 17 times and been bridesmaid to her mother twice before she was 19, and admitted to comfort eating to combat the turmoil.
At 14, Dahl swapped the comfort eating for anorexia. Her relationship with Tessa wasn't easy, "and I'd think up ways to punish my mother, like not eating. I thought, 'If I can't control where we live, I can control what I put in my mouth'," she later admitted. Haslam thinks that, far from being yet another manifestation of Dahl's long-running food angst, her slimline reinvention is an expression of her contentment. "Sophie had a quite traumatic childhood. Now she's much more secure and her relationship with Tessa is wonderful. She's free to be happy, thin and ravishing."
>>>>Alternatively, there's a very real possibility that Sophie's changing body shape is in some way related to her love life. The string of high-profile men with whom she's been linked has raised a few eyebrows in New York, where she has an apartment. As well as model-turned-TV presenter Vernon Kaye (who affectionately called her "Fatty") and Jamie Theakston, there's been the American actor and director Griffin Dunne, Kylie Minogue's current love interest James Gooding, and most famously, Mick Jagger. Dahl, who was introduced to Jagger by his daughter Jade, originally intended to set the Rolling Stone up with her mother. Things didn't quite go according to plan, and within weeks, Mick and Sophie were spotted canoodling at a Paris fashion week party. Crucially, Dahl lost an estimated stone and a half over the first few months of her relationship with the ageing singer.
So it could be that a particularly torrid romantic entanglement has prompted the weight loss? No one's sure who that might involve, however. It seems unlikely that the friendship she began with aristo model Freddie Windsor late last year is responsible - particularly after Freddie's mother, Princess Michael of Kent, apparently commented: "Freddie is a genius, and he will not end up as the companion of a common little model."
One thing is certain: Dahl's been trying to ditch the excess pounds and the curvy model tag for a while. As well as the various exercise regimes, when in May 2000 Marie Claire used her image in a cover stunt which pitched the lure of her curves against the appeal of alternative cover girl Pamela Anderson's rail-thin body, Dahl took legal action. The official line was that she objected to the way her underwear was airbrushed from the end image, but the subtext was definitely that she was furious at being touted as the token big girl. "I was made the figurehead of this cause which I never asked to join," she announced.
Whether Dahl's new, thin status will make her happy remains to be seen. Whether it will affect her career is clearly open to debate. There is, however, no question that women everywhere feel let down because Dahl no longer looks like "a woman who's had too much of everything". Maybe that says more about us than it does about her. But it's still a shame.
||Just another example on how the media deals with issues regarding weight. First, you're too skinny, then you're too fat...There are all different kinds of body types....it's a no-win situation....