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.