By MIA FREEDMAN
The winner of the Dolly Modelling Contest has been announced. She’s 13 years old.
Here are the finalists of this year’s modelling contest, including 13 year old winner Kristy Thatcher. [Post continues below gallery].
The media has been calling me for comment all day and here it is.
One of the first things I did when I became Editor-In-Chief of Dolly in 2005 was axe their annual Model Contest. I knew this would not lead to an increase in circulation (as the Great Lisa Wilkinson once taught me: you don’t gain readers by taking something away, you gain them by adding something new to the mix) but I did it anyway and I’ll tell you why in a second.
The Dolly model contest has always been pretty iconic. Miranda Kerr won it when she was 13 and you’ll hear this a lot whenever the subject comes up, as a justification for why it’s OK and even a good thing. ‘Miranda Kerr won it at 13 and look at her now!’ etc.
But for every Miranda Kerr, there are thousands of teenage models who don’t go on to become Victoria’s Secret Angels and marry Hollywood stars (side note: is becoming a Victoria’s Secret Angel something we want to encourage girls to aspire to anyway? If that’s the pinnacle of your career, what does that say about the values of the modelling industry?).
So why did I axe it? Because I thought the message it sent to girls – that the most important thing about you is how you look – was an appalling one. A negative one. A damaging one.
It’s not just Dolly. Girlfriend is the same. A 13 year old won their model contest last year too.
Remember being 13? At the most mentally and emotionally vulnerable time in a girl’s life, why on earth would you throw her into a world that judges and rejects you exclusively on how you look? And what you weigh.
Here’s a clue that the modelling industry is messed up: the winner of this year’s contest was the youngest finalist. Why? Because if you want to be a model, 16 or 17 is too old. As Girlfriend’s editor said last year about her magazine’s winner, her tender age would give her ‘a headstart’ in the industry.
That’s why girls as young as 13 – like the Dolly and Girlfriend model contest winners – are sent overseas to meet with agents and go on casting. As one model manager said about this practice: ”I know many people think 13 is very young but it’s what the international brands are looking for in Europe,” she said. ”Models are too old now at 16.”
Dolly and Girlfiend’s editors (both of whom I’ve worked with during my mag career) claim their winners will be used in ‘age-appropriate’ ways in their magazines and I believe them. After all, they are magazines for teenage girls whose average reader is probably 13. The models in their pages SHOULD be 13.