Though she died last month, the world is just now learning about the passing of French model Isabelle Caro. The 28-year-old Caro bravely became the face of eating disorders in 2007 when she appeared in a shocking billboard campaign warning of the dangers of anorexia during fashion week in Italy. In the ads, a painfully thin Caro, who weighed less than 60 pounds at the time, was depicted peering over her shoulder with the words “No. Anorexia” plastered in large letters across the top of the nude image.
Caro became one of the leaders of an effort to warn about the dangers of eating disorders, but after the health effects of the disorder weakened her body, she died on November 17 following a long sickness, according to her acting coach, E! News reported.
Caro said in interviews that she had suffered from anorexia nervosa since she was 13, telling CBS News in 2007 that she agreed to do the ad because “I said if I can put my years of suffering to good use then it will not have been pointless. … I know it’s a shocking photo, and I want it to shock. It’s really a warning that it is a serious illness.”
In addition to working as a judge on “France’s Next Top Model,” Caro was featured in the second episode of Jessica Simpson’s VH1 reality series “The Price of Beauty,” in which the singer traveled the globe to uncover the lengths to which women go to attain what society believes is perfection.
Caro’s appearance on the show brought Simpson to tears. “What you are doing right now makes you more beautiful and I hope women all over the world hear about the story,” Simpson told Caro on the show, during which the model described how even as a teenager who weighed just 89 pounds she was told she needed to lose weight. “To us, what you’re doing right now makes you one of the most beautiful people that we have ever seen. And we really just appreciate you sitting in front of us and having such powerful words. God bless you. … And I think it’s important for women to know that the skinnier you are doesn’t make you more beautiful.”
Despite her disturbing image in the 2007 ad, Caro worried that some anorexia sufferers (sometimes known as pro-ana for their support of anorexia as a lifestyle choice) might misinterpret her message. “I hope not. To see my tailbone like an open wound, I show myself as I am. I’m not beautiful, my hair is ruined and I know I will never have long hair again. I’ve lost several teeth,” she said of her looks on the billboard. “My skin is dry. My breasts have fallen. No young girl wants to look like a skeleton. … You couldn’t believe anyone would want to look like that. I don’t think there’s any question about it.”