Models are in the news this week. A 13-year-old won the Girlfriend model search and a model agent (not connected to that competition) was quoted as saying that 16 is considered ‘old’ for a model.
This is not untrue.
I’ve done several media interviews about this and I thought it was worth recapping on something I wrote recently on the subjects of girls and modelling:
THE MODELLING MANIFESTO
If you do not want to be judged on how you look and what you weigh, do not become a model.
If you do not want your daughter to be judged on how she looks and what she weighs, do not let her become a model.
Same with your son.
If you do not want your daughter to be photographed looking sexy and made to look much much older than she is, do not let her become a model.
If you don’t want your daughter’s self-esteem to be DIRECTLY and inextricably linked to her weight and appearance, do not let her become a model.
If you don’t want your daughter to believe her value as a person is determined solely by how she looks and what she weighs, do not let her become a model.
If you don’t want your daughter’s self confidence to be smashed to smithereens by an industry that rejects her 99% of the time based on how she looks or what she weighs, do not let her become a model.
It is not the responsibility of the modelling industry to take care of your kids or boost their self-esteem.
There. Got it? It’s pretty damn simple.
You see, there is no way around it. Modelling is by its very definition a superficial, unstable, unforgiving and temporary profession. I can think of very few other professions where you get worse at it the longer you do it. Modelling has an expiry date and it is frighteningly early.
The National Body Image Advisory Group (of which I was a part and which finished its work last year when we presented our recommendations to the federal government) advised that only age-appropriate models be used by magazines and advertisers.
So what does this mean, exactly?
Well, a 13-year-old appearing on the cover of teen magazines Girlfriend is totally age-appropriate. The problem is that there aren’t many teen magazines or products aimed at teenage girls. Not enough to sustain a career. Worse than that, publications and products aimed at far older women – in their 20s, 30s and even 40s – quickly pounce on teen models to use for their photo shoots and campaigns.
I once had a nanny who was a successful part-time model. She was 21 and had already started to be cast as the ‘mother’ in some of the commercials she did. And not the mother of a baby – the mother of a primary-school aged child, sometimes as old as 10 or 11.
You do the maths.
Do these girls look their age do you think? Remember that all these images come from adult magazines including Vogue and ad campaigns that are clearly aimed at grown women.
So when I heard that the 13 year old winner of the Girlfriend model contest was going to New York to meet with agents as part of her prize, I shuddered a little bit. Actually a lot. Just as I did when I heard the editor (the truly lovely Sarah Tarca who used to be my PA when I was at Cosmo) say that getting into the industry so early would give Chloe ‘a headstart’.