Trigger Warning: This story contains descriptions and information about eating disorders which may be triggering to those who are currently experiencing or have experienced an eating disorder. If you or someone you know is struggling with this mental health condition, please seek help. You can call the National Eating Disorders Association Hotline at 1-800-931-2237 for assistance.
The fashion and entertainment industries are notoriously body-focused and lacking in representation. While this proves difficult for anyone who is part of the industry, it is even more challenging for individuals working in the industry who are in recovery from eating disorders.
However, Christina Grasso, Revlon’s associate digital content creator, and Ruthie Friedlander, InStyle’s director of special projects, are making a change by founding The Chain, a New York-based not-for-profit peer support and mentorship program for women in the fashion and entertainment industries who are struggling with or recovering from an eating disorder.
Ruthie and Christina have both struggled with anorexia for nearly 20 years, and they’ve also both worked in the fashion industry for over a decade. They met last year via Instagram, when Christina sent Ruthie a direct message after reading an essay that Ruthie wrote for InStyle about her eating disorder battle.
“We connected over our shared experience of recovering while simultaneously working in the fashion industry,” Christina shared. “From there, we’ve become good friends and an irreplaceable source of support for one another.”
Many aspects of the fashion and entertainment industries make the recovery process tricky; however, some of the biggest challenges are things that people outside of the industry likely wouldn’t even think of.
“As editors, we’ve both been in situations where we’d have to attend a special event and have PR samples sent to us to wear, but after undergoing weight restoration, they wouldn’t fit and that can be a huge trigger,” Christina said.
Another big trigger is that the fashion and entertainment industries are environments where disordered eating and dieting are rampant. Ruthie and Christina shared that relearning normalized eating just to realize that the norm in the industry is disordered eating has made the recovery process much more difficult and uncomfortable.
“At the end of the day though, we both love what we do and strive to be successful both in our careers and recoveries,” Christina shared.
These shared struggles sparked a fire in Christina and Ruthie to start The Chain so that they could connect with people experiencing similar struggles within the industry, while also inspiring others at the same time. They recently held their first in-person event, where they teamed up with jewelry designer Roxanne Assoulin, who hosted them at her studio.
“It was such a powerful evening seeing what was, for a while, a crazy idea come to life,” Christina said. “Being in the presence of other women who really get it — ‘it’ being both the disorder and the related challenges unique to our field — was an indescribable feeling and we’re so excited to provide that space.”
Ruthie and Christina hope to eventually expand both nationally and internationally, so that they have the opportunity to reach as many people as possible. They shared that creating The Chain has given them both the opportunity to turn something isolating and painful into something with the capacity to touch lives in a positively impactful way.
“Simply knowing that we’ve recognized a great void and are doing what we can to fill it based on our own experience is really powerful,” Christina said.
Christina encourages young professionals in the entertainment and fashion industries who are recovering from an eating disorder to reach out for help.
“Everyone, eating disorder or not, feels some level of inadequacy, but in connecting with others, it makes us feel less alone and empowered,” she said. “There is no lonelier place than an eating disorder, but connection allows us to see that we are much more alike than different in our thoughts and emotions. And that can truly save lives.”
While working in the fashion and entertainment industries can definitely be challenging for anyone, eating disorder or not, it’s clear that Ruthie and Christina are making a huge impact and spreading both bravery and kindness through The Chain. For more information or to learn how to get involved, please visit www.the-chain.us.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. If you’re experiencing an eating disorder crisis, text “NEDA” to 741741.