How young is too young to model? 16? 15? 12?
It's a sticky question, and one that often comes up against the fashion industry's proclivities for youth. A recent and award-winning documentary aims to humanize this paradox."Girl Model" first debuted months ago, and the movie premiered at South by Southwest in March, but the New York Times revives the questions the movie brings up this week.
Directed by David Redmon & Ashley Sabin, "Girl Model" follows the story of a young girl from Siberia who gets snapped up by a scout and flung into the Japanese modeling scene with little money or language skills. From the NYT:
The narrative intertwines the stories of Ashley Arbaugh, a model scout, and Nadya, a 13-year-old girl from a poor family in Siberia. Ms. Arbaugh’s and Nadya’s paths cross on one of the scout’s trips on the Trans-Siberian Railway as she looks for girls who might be attractive to the Japanese fashion market. Nadya, who speaks only Russian, is handed a contract in English and Japanese and is promised $8,000. She is not told that her living costs will be deducted from that amount.
After many unsuccessful castings, Nadya returns to Russia in debt.
"The whole modeling industry and the young girls involved in it are such a recipe for disaster," Sabin told the Austin Chronicle. "I feel like in many ways we document a disaster."
The documentary drops under a media spotlight that's already been exposing the potential dangers of the modeling world. Just this year, Marc Jacobs has received scorn for hiring underage models; the Council of Fashion Designers of America has refocused its best practices guidelines for the industry; and, model Sarah Ziff founded the Model Alliance to bring more awareness to the pitfalls of the biz.
"Girl Model" opens in Canada on April 13th and will be shown at screenings around the country this year.
Watch the trailer above to see Nadya's story and vote below: do you think she's too young to be dipping her toe into the modeling world?
Click through our slideshow to read more about underage modeling.
Moss started modeling at the age of 14 and has said: "All of a sudden to get all of this attention, and to be away from home and working all the time was hard. I was on planes all the time. I didn't see my friends. I cried a lot. It was quite terrifying." (Courtesy photo)
Cindy Crawford's daughter Kaia, modeled in her first campaign at the age of 10. Crawford has been outspoken about waiting until her daughter is older to pursue modeling full-time: "At this point, she's too young to pursue a career. There aren't even a handful of jobs for a 10-year-old girl. But if she's 17 and wants to try it...of course, what can I say?" (Courtesy photo)
The 10-year-old's spread in French Vogue was the cause of major controversy due to her age and the accusations she was being sexualized. Her mother responded by shutting down her facebook and tumblr pages: "hey guys im the mum of thylane something going 's wrong at the moment and bad personn in usa about pictures she make's 8 mounths ago for vogue ,,thylane doesn't know about the buzz and i want to protect her from the deapest of my heart ,,, she's so young ,, so we are going to close this accompte for a while ,,i know that all of you are good person who like her so i send you a big kiss,,thanks" (Courtesy photo)
von Furstenberg came under attack when a 15-year-old model walked in her show. She claimed she had no idea and was extremely apologetic: "I was horrified and terribly embarrassed. From now on I will instruct my casting people to demand IDs. I encourage you to do the same. I am trying to be a good leader and set an example...so please please accept my apology." (AFP)
Jacobs was another designer to come under fire after using at least two underage models in his show. Unlike von Fursetenberg however, Jacobs was less sympathetic: "I do the show the way I think it should be and not the way somebody tells me it should be. If their parents are willing to let them do a show, I don't see any reason that it should be me who tells them that they can't." (AFP photo)
Kloss began modeling at the age of 15. She recently said she wished she had more time to mature before entering the business: "There is no doubt, I wish I'd been a little more mature, a little older because wth this career, there's a lot you have to handle." (Getty photo)
These famous photographers have worked with the best in the business, however they both refuse to work with underage models. van Lamsweerde has said: "We saw this happen to so many models, especially with girls: they start at 14 and everyone says to them, 'Wow, you're incredible. You're so skinny. You look like a boy.' And once that girl is 18 and her body is finished growing, all of a sudden it was like, 'Oh, she's fat.' The poor girl. She's just growing. We felt it was unethical to support that. You get judged anyway and it's not easy. You have to really know who you are first. And at such a tender age--between 14 and 18--you're figuring out who you are." (Courtesy photo)
This Marc Jacob's Lola perfume ad has been banned due to complaints that the 17-year-old was being viewed as a sex object according to the British Advertising Standards Authority: "We noted that the model was holding up the perfume bottle which rested in her lap between her legs and we considered that its position was sexually provocative. We understood the model was 17 years old but we considered she looked under the age of 16. We considered that the length of her dress, her leg and position of the perfume bottle drew attention to her sexuality. Because of that, along with her appearance, we considered the ad could be seen to sexualise a child." (Courtesy photo)