Is 13 too young to be a model?
A model agency says age 16 is seen as ‘‘too old’’ in the modelling world. Four experts debate the question.
THE COMMENTATOR LIBBI GORR
I SPEAK as someone who would have done anything but diet, exercise and undergo surgical leg extensions to be Elle Macpherson.
We had our chest in common, that was enough for me. But if I"d had the opportunity at 13 to be whisked into the world of modelling, I"d have rushed to grab it.
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What an amazing opportunity, if read carefully. Better than working at McDonald"s, I say. With conditions, of course. It"s always the fine print that gets you in life.
A Dolly cover girl winner in 1997 at age 13 was one Miranda Kerr, who boasts an amazingly down-to-earth mum and grandma. Looking at Kerr now, with all the wonder and jealousy her PR people intend, I still feel confident the girl has got her head right.
She"s 28, successful, married to a productive, handsome guy, with access to amazing people and cultures while balancing work with family life. What"s so screwed-up about that?
I"m all for teenagers being set up to have extraordinary adult lives. What I"m agin is teenagers having their innocence and ambitions raped and pillaged so others can make a buck. And I guess this is the point. It"s the adults around the 13-year-olds who make the difference. Their folks. Their agents.
Modelling shouldn"t define your self-esteem, nor shape your core values about what is important in life. Modelling is a job selling stuff to people that they may not know they want, and should be presented as such.
Thirteen-year-olds should model fashions for similar ages, in appropriate contexts; regulated by industry and overseen by carers who know better.
We live in a world of which Germaine Greer dreamed - where women are not judged solely by clarity of skin rather than content of character. ( I said ""solely"". Take progress where you find it.)
If you are lucky enough to have been born freakishly beautiful, it"s not for others to say you can"t exploit it. However, there is a caveat. You as a person are a book, not a cover, just like us. Unless you exist within, you"ll present without.
And that won"t have a Kerrfect ending. Apart from that, dive in and make the most of it. Beautiful face first.
Libbi Gorr is the author of The A-Z of Mummy Manners: An Etiquette Guide for dealing with Other Children"s Mothers.
THE MODEL ALEXANDRA AGOSTON
A MODEL agent came running after my mum and me on the streets of Paris when I was 14. I had no idea about the fashion industry.
As a young girl, you are dropped in the middle of a workforce - a professional environment where you are no longer treated as a year 9 student but as a working adult. You have to open your eyes, be very aware of what"s happening around you and pick it up very quickly.
I am extremely lucky to have an incredibly supportive family, and an agency that nurtured my career from an early age.
At one of my first jobs a stylist gave me a pair of heels to practice in. "Never take these off, OK?"" she said. ""Brush your teeth in them." I took to my homework with enthusiasm, strutting up and down my hallway in my pyjamas and fluoro yellow stilettos.
Without the right support systems it could be difficult. It"s a place where you have to feel confident in who you are and stand up for yourself.
But age is such a personal thing; sometimes you"re not ready at 18; or maybe you"re ready at 13. It"s not an industry where you learn A, B and C and then you"re ready. It"s hard to put a structure to it.
In all honesty, throughout the whole of your modelling career your body is going to be an issue. You have to feel confident about who you are to be a model. Maybe there are dangers if a young girl is putting pressure on her body in such a fickle industry.
It was a great benefit to be able to work in Sydney Fashion Week as a young model, gaining experience and exposure in Australia before starting an international career at New York Fashion Week.
I flew to New York and Paris in my school holidays - studying for exams on the plane, and finishing assignments between shoots for Dior, Christian Lacroix and Giorgio Armani.
Now I"m 23, living and modelling in New York. Although I am no longer afraid of eyelash curlers, can have someone put eyeliner on me without blinking, and can run marathons in heels, I do still feel very young at times.
I"m constantly being challenged, and finding new exciting opportunities with my work. My eyes are still wide open, absorbing and being inspired by the fascinating industry that I was so lucky to be thrown into it.
Alexandra Agoston is an international fashion model who was discovered at age 14.
THE AGENT DRAGAN DIMOVSKY
THIRTEEN is the new 18 in the fashion world.
Just this week 13-year-old Chloe Glassi was named by Girlfriend magazine - the bible for Australian teenage girls - as their model of the year. Also this week, Kate Moss"s 13-year-old sister, Charlotte, released photos from a new photo shoot and top fashion photographer Mario Testino is about to shoot her.
The public reaction to my agency, GEAR Model Management, announcing a model search for 13- to 19-year-olds next month surprised me. I was flabbergasted.
I do not believe that 13 is too young. These young people are gaining an understanding and learning the expectations for what is to come in the future so that they are well prepared for the lucrative, demanding fashion industry.
I believe that they should be mentored by their agency with the support of their family, so that all parties involved can have a mutual understanding of what is to come in the young model"s life.
Once equipped with the knowledge and understanding of the industry at such a young age they will then be able to go into the industry as young businessmen or women and make the appropriate decisions in regards to their future.
They should use the modelling industry as a stepping stone for their future careers and use this to get to where they want to be later in life, whether it"s to help pay for university degrees, travel or pay a deposit on their first home.
I know that no matter from what angle we look at this, there will always be a debate.
When you look back at the ages of Miranda Kerr, Elle Macpherson and Naomi Campbell when they started modelling - and even my head booker at GEAR, former international model Naomi Fitzgerald de Grave - then 13 is the right age to enter into the fashion industry.
The major international fashion houses such as Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Burberry, Calvin Klein and Versace are all using young models. Why? Because in the fashion world small is big; they need young girls as coat hangers. No more, no less. White is the new black and in the fashion world 13 is the new 18.
Dragan Dimovsky is director of the fashion agency GEAR Model Management
THE POLITICIAN PETER GARRETT
SHOULD 13-year-old girls be modelling on the catwalk for international brand products? No.
I think most people would accept that 13 is far too young an age to be working in an adult field, where image is everything.
Modelling age appropriate clothes? Sure. Modelling adult clothes? No way. I was pleased to see that the local modelling industry doesn"t appear to support it either.
Still there is no question that the sexualisation of children is prevalent because some sections of the fashion industry are willing it on. But it should be resisted, and here consumers, media, industry and governments alike have a role to play.
In particular, body image is an issue of huge importance for many young people, especially girls. Nominated by them as their number one concern, negative body image can lead to serious health issues which can affect an individual during the course of their adolescence and into adult life.
Expert advice to the government on the best strategy for dealing with this issue included a recommendation to initiate body image awards to recognise positive steps taken by the media, fashion and advertising industries to represent positive body image.
We want to encourage cultural change and the awards will build on the voluntary industry code of conduct developed by the former National Advisory Group on Body Image which guides the media, advertising and fashion industries in development of body image-friendly practices.
As a parent of three young women, one of whom is a part-time model, I am well aware of the pressures that exist in the industry and the link between the projection of unrealistic images and expectations and poor body image.
As Minister for Youth I"m aware that our goal of providing the opportunity for all young people to lead happy and healthy lives, with sufficient resilience to manage the turbulent journey through the teenage years to adulthood, will be harder to reach if we have a culture that continues to misrepresent images, especially through the use of very young people as role models.
And after all,what can be more unrealistic than a well groomed 13-year-old on a runway in haute couture?