Take a look at the magazine below, how old do you think the cover model is?
Sixteen? Maybe 18?
As Thylane Blondeau’s first ‘grown up’ cover, you could be forgiven for thinking this is her first foray into fashion.
She controversially appeared in the Tom Ford-edited issue of Vogue Paris at age 10, heavily made up, wearing gold heels and posing on an animal rug on top of a bed.
The beauty-focused editorial saw the magazine, and the wider fashion industry, accused of sexualizing children and sparked a debate about how young is too young to model.
She also appeared ‘topless’ in Vogue Enfants, the magazine’s supplement.
Blondeau has since starred in campaigns for Lacoste and walked the runway for Jean Paul Gaultier but it’s her appearance on the cover of French magazine Jalouse (though age-appropriate in a jumper and minimal makeup) that has reignited the debate once again.
The magazine coverline proclaims her to be the “New Kate Moss” but it’s a label not everyone is comfortable with.
Though Kate Moss was discovered at age 14, and began her modelling career when Corrine Day shot her for (sadly defunct) British magazine The Face at age 16, the bigger picture problem here is that by hailing Blondeau as the ‘next’ something, it’s implying that she is a model to watch.
And when you think about it, closely watching a 13-year-old’s ‘career’ is a tad creepy.
The fashion industry makes no apologies for celebrating youth and underage models. Romeo Beckham modeled for Burberry at age 10, Marc Jacobs continues to cast teen models in his runway shows, Chanel used Ondria Hardin, 15, late last year as the face of their brand, and Vogue reneged on their pledge not to use underage models using 14-year-old Thairine Garcia in an editorial in the December issue of Vogue Japan.
Nineties model Yasmin Le Bon recently weighed in on the underage model debate, telling British Vogue the reason designers use children has little to do with aesthetics and more to do with being cheap.
“I think that it is wrong that young girls are now opening shows. It’s hyped up as a discovery of the next big thing, but actually the designers are penny-pinching… These young girls don’t get paid very much, and they don’t have the experience or the confidence to demand to be treated any differently by the industry.”
And the pressure to conform to the modelling industry’s thin ideals is even worse when it’s directed at kids.
“We were slim [when I began modelling], but there was a bit more on us, and we were older,” she says. “This kind of practice doesn’t make good for business,” Le Bon says.
What do you think? Is 13 too young to be a model? Or is the problem that 13 is too young to model like an adult?