I was listening to the radio when the host announced, “Up next, an underwear model with body image issues,” to which her co-worker scoffed, “This is important stuff right here.”

I guess I didn’t catch the punch line.

The man on the radio brushed the headline off as a joke, laughing at the hilarity and the irony of the situation. Not too long ago, I might have laughed with him because there was a time when I also believed that models set the standard and therefore had no reason to struggle with body image issues.

But then I met a model who helped me see past the magazine covers and catch a glimpse of the heart of the modeling industry.

Like most models, she is small-framed. She has clear skin, shimmery, hazelnut hair with soft highlights and 8 percent body fat. Yet her agent is demanding that she lose 10 pounds in the next two months because a 115-pound model is tooheavy and isn’t worth representing.

“At least it pays well,” she said as she shrugged, and she took a bite out of the second cucumber in her lunch bag. “Want one?” she asked.

I refused to take her lunch, considering it was barely fit for a rabbit. But she insisted: “I have strawberries too! Please, have one! I brought too many.”

We usually point and stare at the models on the front covers, secretly wishing we could be like them. If only our waistlines were thinner, our cup sizes larger, our legs longer, our skin clearer. But we are rarely reminded of the disturbing reality that the models we compare ourselves to are, more often than not, vulnerable to eating disorders and relentlessly harsh criticism.

Though we conveniently forget this simple truth, even models are human — just like us. We like to set standards, goals if you will, to push ourselves to work toward something that we perceive to be accepted by the rest of the world.

What would happen if we dared to regard each person as an individual and didn’t categorize ourselves into such an elaborate hierarchy? Between the celebrities and the models, Forbes’ “Most Influential” and People’s “Most Beautiful” lists, we are wired to believe that there is a standard to be reached. A select few have achieved a certain level of perfection, and we should follow in their example.

But nobody is perfect. We were all born into different circumstances, and each of our environments shaped us into the people we have and will become. For that reason, none of us have the right to judge, compare or assume.

The girl I met is passed off as another pretty face, a dreamer with little intellect or common sense. And when she is insulted, she takes it and brushes it off, like it’s just another day.

Her colleagues would say, “I worry for you sometimes”; “How did you even get into college?”; “You’re so stupid.”

Every time I was with her, I’d wait for her to stand up for herself, but she didn’t even blink. And all she did was smile, laugh and keep talking. She’s so used to it by now, she doesn’t even acknowledge the snide comments anymore — not because she’s immune to criticism, but because she is already unbelievably hard on herself.

When did we become so callous and forget how deeply our words can cut. At what point did we decide that we can and should determine or dictate the worth of another person? She shouldn’t have to believe she’s too fat, just as we shouldn’t feel entitled to call her stupid.

So actually, this is important. It might not make the front page of the Wall Street Journal, but that doesn’t make voices like hers any less deserving of our attention.

Daria Etezadi is a rising sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. Made From Scratch appears every other Monday at

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