Jundiai town, Sao Paulo, Brazil. A brown-haired teenage girl walks on to the stage at the local beauty contest. Below, her parents, wedged at the front of a cheering audience, clap enthusiastically as a judge slips a green and white sash over their daughter's head and pronounces her the Queen of Jundiai, 1999. Her mother wasn't surprised: 'The other girls were podgy and had bottoms,' she said later. 'She won because she was slim and elegant.'
It doesn't seem an earth-shattering achievement. But for 13-year-old Ana Carolina Reston Marcan it was one step nearer her dream of becoming a supermodel. It would take Reston (who dropped Marcan from her professional name) seven years to 'arrive', by which time she would be working as far afield as Hong Kong and Japan, for designers as well known as Giorgio Armani and Dior.
But it was on 14 November last year that she finally crossed over from being a successful catwalk model to appearing on the cover of every magazine and newspaper in Brazil, and making headlines around the globe. Not for her modelling, but for her agonising death, attributed to 'complications arising from anorexia'.
In a year in which both 'skinny chic' (wearing oversized clothes on tiny body frames) and the American size 00 (an emaciated UK size two, or a waist the same as a typical seven-year-old's) was the height of fashion in celebrity-land, Reston's demise seems all the more poignant. She was also the second model to die from an eating disorder during 2006. In August, at a fashion show in Uruguay, 22-year-old Luisel Ramos suffered a heart attack thought to be the result of anorexia. Although anorexia isn't the preserve of the fashion industry, it's hardly surprising that Reston's death has shone a spotlight on the way the business treats its models, and more significantly, on how destructive our current perception of female beauty can be.
Reston's short life began in Pitangueiras private hospital in Jundiai on 29 May 1985. She was born into a comfortable, middle-class family; her father, Narciso Marcan, worked for a German multinational while her mother, Miriam Reston, sold jewellery. They were neither desperately poor nor offensively rich and lived in a small but elegant bungalow on the outskirts of town.
From an early age Reston wanted to be a model, partly in order to provide her family with a better life. It's not clear why she felt such responsibility, but in the early Nineties her father was diagnosed with both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and was later made redundant. Even before then, though, her mother remembers the young Reston spiriting bras and high heels from her closet and pirouetting around the house in them, asking people to take her photograph. Then one day in 1999, on the school bus home, she spotted a sign announcing a beauty contest for the Queen of Jundiai. She leapt off and signed herself up.
A few weeks later she took her mother on an all expenses-paid luxury trip to Rio - her prize for winning the competition. When they returned, a fashion agent offered to introduce her to Ford, one of Brazil's top modelling agencies, for a fee of £100. The family accepted.
Reston's career took off almost immediately and it soon became apparent that she had her eye on the big prize - becoming a supermodel, like fellow Brazilian Gisele. Reston's friends thought that for the more glamorous catwalk and editorial modelling she was, at just over 5ft 6in, too short. But she wouldn't be put off; she altered her height on her publicity shots and claimed she was just over 5ft 7in. And she seemed to get away with it. In July 2003, after four successful years at Ford, she signed to Elite, one of the biggest agencies in...