Ananda Marchildon, now 25, is entitled to the prize she won in the 2008 production of the show, a three-year contract worth euro75,000 ($98,500), the Amsterdam District Court ruled Wednesday.
“I’m proud to be able to show that just because a modeling agency wants that, it doesn’t mean that if you have a bigger size you’re done for,” she told the Associated Press in an interview. “You’re still a person and you can be as beautiful as you want and it doesn’t come down to centimeters, it’s how you are and how you portray yourself.”
Marchildon argued she was dismissed after only euro10,000 ($13,000) worth of work, because she didn’t lose enough weight to please the agency.
According to the written ruling, though she gained weight after winning, she had a hip measurement of 92 centimeters (about 36.2 inches) when she won, and Elite could not demand that she go down to 90 centimeters – about 35.4 inches. That is far smaller than the average woman’s hips, but not unusual in the modeling world.
The fashion industry has often faced criticism for creating unrealistic expectations about women’s bodies and forcing models to undergo harmful diets.
“I’m proud to be a good role model, that’s how I see it, for young girls. If you can’t be a model for high fashion, you’re still beautiful,” Marchildon said.
Modeling agencies say that they respond to the demands of advertisers, and ultimately, clothing customers: a model that doesn’t have the right look won’t get work.
“They shouldn’t have let me win, if they can’t be true to their word, it’s as simple as that,” she said.
Elite spokeswoman Rita Camelli in Milan, Italy, said the agency was “disappointed” with the ruling and is now considering its options.
“We felt we were in the right,” she said.
Marchildon, who has dual Dutch and Canadian citizenship, has since left modeling and is working as a craftswoman, hand-making wooden cabinets.
The court’s ruling included an email exchange between the 180-centimeter-tall (5-foot, 11-inch) model and a representative of Elite in the Netherlands whose name was redacted.
“We agreed that you would come by us every two weeks for an evaluation, how it’s going with your diet and exercise and losing weight. We’re going to keep measuring you,” the Elite representative wrote.
“Today, March 23 2010, we measured your hips at 98 centimeters. This is a reminder! The goal is that you have a hip circumference of no more than 90 centimeters at the end of June.”
Marchildon responded that she intended to regain her former shape, and not more.
The ruling said that Marchildon had indeed returned to a 92-centimeter measure by June 2010, but the model and agency parted ways in September.
Later Wednesday, Elite released a statement noting that it had taken over Marchildon’s contract from her former agency and that Elite itself never had a written agreement with her. It did not say whether it plans to appeal.
The court awarded Marchildon around euro65,000 ($85,000) in damages, plus interest and legal fees.
In the Netherlands, underwear company Sloggi hired Marchildon for a one-time shoot Monday to show that she is still fit for modeling work.
“It’s too crazy for words that a model who’s her size would be written off as too fat,” said spokeswoman Monica van Alewijn, saying that Marchildon is thinner today than most models the company uses.
“She’s just a beautiful woman, and for heaven’s sake she shouldn’t starve herself,” she said.