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Video: Model: I was fired for being ‘too large’

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    >>> back now at 8:08. now to the ralph lauren model who claims that she was fired for being too fat. we'll talk exclusively with filippa hamilton in just a moment. but first, "today" national correspondent amy robach has details. amy , good morning.

    >> good morning to you, ann. hamilton was already at the center of a photoshop flap, but now she claims she was dumped by ralph lauren because she didn't fit into certain clothing, an accusation the apparel maker flatly denies. it's another photoshop flap. this ad featuring ralph lauren model filippa hamilton looking abnormally thin with her body much smaller than her head. hamilton , who is 23, has worked for ralph lauren for the past eight years.

    >> they photo-shopped her in a way that, for me, is grotesque and makes her look like a cartoon, and the trouble is that it's damaging to her. who wants to hire somebody that looks like that?

    >> after the altered photo appeared on the web, ralph lauren issued a statement, saying in part "we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman's body." but now this revelation -- the supermodel tells us that before the altered photo appeared on the web, ralph lauren told her that she was fired.

    >> they wrote a letter, and they said we're terminating your services because you don't fit into the sample clothes that you need to wear.

    >> she is 5'10" and 120 pounds. she says her weight has not fluctuated since working for the company. critics fear the dismissal is one more negative influence for young women and the perception of the ideal body.

    >> the thought of this model being too fat is laughable. anyone who's seen her knows that she's extremely tall and extremely thin. she has a perfect, you know, "model body," but apparently not perfect enough.

    >> reporter: in recent years, the modeling industry has come under fire in the debate over what's too thin. even "self" magazine, which promotes healthy lifestyles, air-brushed kelly clarkson to look thinner.

    >> what kind of woman are you attracted to?

    >> reporter: supermodel emmy is leading the way away from oh-so-thin looks with these photos of plus-size model lizzie miller appeared in "glamour," drawing rave reviews from real women .

    >> i think when it comes to body issues, we're almost in a one step forward , two steps back kind of cycle.

    >> ralph lauren says hamilton is a beautiful, healthy woman and that the photo-shop mistake only appeared in one department store in japan. as for her dismissal, they say hamilton was dropped for her "inability to meet the obligations of her contract." ann?

    >> all right, amy , thank you so much. filippa hamilton is with us exclusively along with kate white , editor in chief of "cosmopolitan" magazine. good morning to both of you.

    >> good morning.

    >> you had a mult year contract, and back in april, ralph lauren basically released you, basically terminated you, saying "we consider her an important part of our imaging and branding. we regret that our relationship has ended as a result of her inability to meet the obligations under her contract with us." so, what are they referring to? what did you not meet? what did you not do?

    >> i did everything that i could. i was very loyal to them. i was on time every time.

    >> so, you don't know what they're talking about.

    >> no.

    >> no.

    >> i really don't.

    >> and you are 5'10", 120 pounds, and you say you had not gained weight.

    >> no. no.

    >> under the contract. so, why are you arguing, as amy 's reporting, that this termination in april was because of your body, that you had gotten too large, that you had gotten too fat?

    >> yeah, exactly. they say that i couldn't fit in their clothes anymore.

    >> they said that to you?

    >> not to me directly, but to my agency, yeah.

    >> oh. and could you fit into clothes anymore?

    >> i could fit into clothes, yeah.

    >> so, then you didn't understand this. so, you're saying the clear impression was given to you is that they fired you, you say, because you were too large.

    >> because i was too large, yeah, and that's very sad, i think.

    >> yeah, how do you feel about that?

    >> i've been working with them since i was 15 years old, since i was a teenager. so, for me, they were my second family. i considered them my second family, of course, so i was very hurt about this, and i think it's not a good thing. when you see this picture, every young woman are going to look at it and think that it's normal to look like that, and it's not.

    >> is this a common idea? tell me about the end product, because --

    >> first of all, i would like to offer filippa eight pages in "cosmo," so --

    >> there you go.

    >> it really starts with the sample clothes, because they downsize. they're now like a 2 or a 4. and so, you know, to some degree, it relates to the kate moss era. before then, supermodels like cindy crawford and christie brinkley , they were really curvy, but they got skinnier and skinnier and the clothes got smaller. and so, it creates this cycle where you have to fit in the clothes to get the job, and then the models get smaller and that's who we have to use in fashion stories.

    >> so, you're saying we're in a bad point in the cycle --

    >> right.

    >> in terms of the images of women in magazines today and on the runways. you're now at a point where it's moving towards twiggy and not towards cindy crawford , you're saying --

    >> exactly.

    >> and that's part of this pressure. let's talk about what happened then after you were terminated there. was a whole flap as we heard in the last report about this digitalized photograph. and that's actually -- it's interesting, because you say you were angry about what happened in april, but it wasn't until this picture came out that you became angry.

    >> yes.

    >> why did this picture make you so angry?

    >> because i saw my face in this super extremely skinny girl, which is not me, and it makes me sad. it makes me think that raulph lauren wants to have this kind of image, and i think it's an american brand and this is for healthy women and it's not healthy and it's not right.

    >> so, it's against what you think --

    >> oh, yeah.

    >> -- of the place where you worked since you were a teenager.

    >> of course.

    >> and now ralph lauren has said that it was a mistake, and that it was completely inconsistent with its creative standards and grand values. do you think that you might sue? is there a possibility that you're going to sue over your termination?

    >> i don't think so, but i'm not sure.

    >> you're thinking about it.

    >> i don't think so. i don't know. we'll see.

    >> what's the takaway, then, from this?

    >> well, i think women have to protest, and the more they protest, and back it up. because sometimes women say they want real girls in stories, but often, those stories don't rate as well. or if you put a heavy -- or a celebrity on the cover, it might not sell as well. so, women have to complain and then back it up with their actions, with their pocketbooks.

    >> you heard it here from kate white and also filippa hamilton . thank you so much for sticking up for your.

    >> thank you so much.

    >> and thank you so much for joining us this morning. i'm sure we'll probably hear more from ralph lauren 's part of the story as the days progress. but thank you so much.

TODAY
updated 10/14/2009 10:03:59 AM ET 2009-10-14T14:03:59

If you asked people at random to describe Filippa Hamilton in a word, you’d hear a lot of synonyms for “gorgeous.” What you wouldn’t hear is “fat.”

And yet the 5-foot-10-inch, 120-pound model says that is essentially why she was fired by Ralph Lauren after eight years with the fashion designer.

“They said I couldn’t fit in their clothes anymore,” the size 4 stunner told TODAY’s Ann Curry Wednesday in New York. Hamilton said that Lauren wrote a letter to her agent saying, “We’re terminating your services because you don’t fit into the sample clothes that you need to wear.”

Ralph Lauren denied that she was fired for being too large.

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“We consider her an important part of our imaging and branding,” the designer said in a statement to the media. “We regret that our relationship has ended as a result of her inability to meet the obligations under her contract with us.” (Read the company's full statement here .)

Hamilton denied not meeting her obligations to a company that she called her second family.

“I did everything that I could. I was very loyal to them. I was on time every time,” Hamilton told Curry.

Photoshopping controversy
The 23-year-old Swedish-French model, who had been working for Lauren since she was 15, told Curry that Ralph Lauren fired her in April through her agency. She said she had no intention of going public with her complaint, but changed her mind when a Photoshopped image of her in a mall in Japan showed up on the Internet site BoingBoing.com.

TODAY
Ralph Lauren admitted that the digitally manipulated image of Hamilton 'resulted in a very distorted image of a woman's body.'
The advertising image, emblazoned with the Ralph Lauren name, showed a painfully emaciated woman. Bloggers were quick to point out that in the image Hamilton’s head was bigger than her hips.

“They Photoshopped her in a way that for me is grotesque and makes her look like a cartoon,” Geoffrey Menin, Hamilton’s attorney, told NBC News. “The trouble is that it’s damaging to her. Who wants to hire somebody that looks like that?”

Ralph Lauren quickly removed the ad and moved legally to demand that the images be taken off the Web. “We have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman’s body,” the company said in a statement.

Despite the disclaimer, Hamilton said the distorted image moved her to speak out.

“It’s not a good example when you see this picture, every young woman is going to look at it and think that it is normal to look like that. It’s not,” she told Curry. “I saw my face on this super-extremely skinny girl, which is not me. It makes me sad. It makes me think that Ralph Lauren wants to have this kind of image. It’s an American brand ... and it’s not healthy, and it’s not right.”

She said being let go was an emotional blow. “I was very sad. I’ve been working with them since I was 15 years old. For me, they were my second family, so I was very hurt by this,” Hamilton said.

Fashion’s ‘vicious circle’
The thought that she is too fat to model is also devastating. Others in the industry agree.

TODAY
Hamilton has modeled for the designer since she was 15.

Leslie Goldman, a body image expert, told NBC News: “The thought of this model being too fat is laughable. When you see her, she’s extremely tall and extremely thin. She has a perfect model’s body, but apparently not perfect enough.”

Kate White, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, joined Hamilton and Curry and agreed with Goldman. White said that the problem is something of a vicious circle.

“It really starts with the sample clothes. They’ve downsized. They’re now like a 2 or a 4. In some degree it relates to the Kate era,” she said, referring to Kate Moss, the super-thin supermodel whose career began in 1988 at the age of 14. “Before then, supermodels like Cindy Crawford and Christie Brinkley — they were really curvy. But they got skinnier and skinnier. The clothes got smaller. So it creates this cycle where you have to fit in the clothes to get the job, and then the models get smaller and that’s who we have to use in the fashion stories.”

White said that despite some recent efforts to show normal women in fashion magazines, women have to force the industry to change.

“I think women have to protest, and back it up, because sometimes women say they want real girls in stories, but often those stories don’t rate as well, and if you put a heavy celebrity on the cover, it may not sell as well,” White said. “Women have to complain and then back it up with their actions — with their pocketbooks.”

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