Here in America, the modeling industry is grappling with recently re-ignited issues surrounding the use of teenage models, from the controversial Marc Jacobs runways to Vogue's recent ban on using underage models in editorials.
But down under in Australia, the underage issue seems a little less prickly: Dolly magazine's cover girl search 2012 has plucked a 13-year-old to win its annual contest. Back after a 10-year hiatus, the model search awarded Kirsty Thatcher the grand prize: a modeling contract with Chadwick Model Management, a Dolly cover (pictured below) and the opportunity to serve as Dolly ambassador for a whole year.
"I always had a dream of becoming a model and I wanted to enter the Dolly model search because I know Miranda Kerr had won it and she's definitely someone whose footsteps I wanted to follow in," she told news.com.au.
In fact, Miranda Kerr, now a Victoria's Secret supermodel, nabbed the honor back in 1997 -- when she was 13 as well. Dolly promoted this year's search with a smiling image of Kerr against a banner reading, "This could be you!"
Not that an Angel-worthy face is the only requirement; the Dolly winner should have "a healthy outlook on life, a well-rounded personality and the ability to represent herself in front of a crowd," the contest states.
But still... is 13 too young to start dipping one's toe into the modeling industry pool? Mia Freedman, the mag's former editor, axed the contest back in 2002 due to concerns that it put too much emphasis on looks. As she told the website mamamia.com.au recently:
"I wanted the magazine to make a strong stand against the idea of valuing teenage girls purely for the way they look. Because no matter how you try to dress it up, the modelling industry is 100% based on external appearance, something few girls can ever change about themselves no matter how much they torture themselves. Girls who are able to model are a tiny tiny minority who were simply born with certain genetics."
Current Dolly editor Tiffany Dunk, however, says that the contest has shifted focus, placing more emphasis on confidence and talent as opposed to sheer beauty:
"We didn't ask about their hair colour or weight and we enlisted the help of The Butterfly Foundation [an eating disorder awareness foundation] when coming up with the guide for the competition," she said.
Check out Kirsty's Dolly cover (and Miranda's from 1997!) below and watch a video on the contest. Do you think Kirsty's too young to be modeling? Sound off in the comments!
Check out some more supermodels from when they were younger!