Her name is Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau. You may not immediately recognise her name but chances are you’ve seen her face before. She appeared in an issue of French Vogue that was edited by Tom Ford reclining on a tiger rug, wearing make-up and adult-size high heels earlier this year.
Those images caused plenty of controversy at the time, yet the pre-teen model’s portfolio hasn’t slowed down, in fact judging by the amount of images that can be found of her on the internet, it has dramatically expanded. She now has her own Facebook page and a dedicated Tumblr – which has been renamed from “F–k Yeah Thylane Blondeau” to “Thylane Blondeau Pictures,” the owner of the Tumblr explains the name change was due to the large volume of emails she received when the controversy hit the media three days ago, which were one of two reactions, “either messages about how much [people] love her or that she’s a prostitute.”
The daughter of former French international football player Patrick Blondeau and Véronika Loubry, an actress and television presenter, her first foray into fashion was on the runway at age 4 for Jean Paul Gaultier. She has already been compared to Bridgette Bardot, who incidentally appeared in Elle at age 15.
The fashion industry has always celebrated pretty young things, but it’s current thirst for younger and younger models is now bordering on creepy. 13-year-old Elle Fanning is the current face of the Marc by Marc Jacobs autumn/winter campaign and 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld has also signed a deal with fashion label, Miu Miu.
Admittedly I momentarily let myself get swept up in these compelling images. I let my mind drift off to this seemingly beautiful life and wondered where I could buy that grey beanie. But by the time I got to the second page of her Tumblr fan site, I was sufficiently creeped out.
The most unsettling thing about these images of Thylane is that there is no joy, little smiling and no spontaneous laughter or shots that you might find in other child modelling photographs. I find the vacant stares and coquetteish looks over her bare shoulder while her long tousled hair covers her chest particularly disturbing, like I need a shower disturbing.
Jenna Sauers, editor of Jezebel, offers another perspective and one that blames the fashion industry juggernaut rather than her parents or modeling agency.
“It’s just that so many of the tropes of fashion photography—the focus on the long limbs, the aestheticization and objectification of these young bodies, the preference for blank expressions and softly opened mouths—are inherently sexualizing,” Sauers writes.
“But something about some of these pictures, on a level almost deeper than language, creeps me out. And for that, I blame fashion, not the child or her parents.”
Lets cast our minds back to our childhoods. When I was 10, my life revolved around riding my purple four-speed bike, watching the Henderson Kids and selling pet rocks to unsuspecting commuters in order to buy more lollies. Life was simple. My early brushes with fashion consisted of Mum taking me to the local Kmart to buy a few new outfits every year and rifling through Rosie’s mums fabric box in an attempt to sew our own 10-year-old version of haute couture (tartan waistcoats, if you must know).
I was not being photographed with only beads covering my bare chest staring vacantly into a camera.
What were you doing at 10? And what do you think of these images?