Behind the glamour of modeling lies a grim reality for young girls. Children enter their teen years on a linear path to adulthood. How are they supposed to develop if they skip this part of their life? Models under 18 are tossed in the middle of a professional workforce and treated like a working adult.
Most young models are stripped of their adolescent years to gain experience and exposure for when they are older. But during this time they don’t have the same protections as other child performers. Modeling agencies say that they take care of their models, but often abuse occurs anyway.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America has made efforts to promote the message that “beauty is health.” But their guidelines are more careless than New York labor laws. Child models working in New York lack the protections that exist for other child performers, who have union representation and provisions for chaperones and tutors.
For an aspiring model, to work with a global icon is an honor and industries see this as a gift to the model. Because they are dropped into this career at such a young age, being jet-lagged, sleep-deprived and malnourished is all they know and are used to.
I don’t think these young models realize they have to make the appropriate decisions in regards to their future. These young adults have to be aware of what’s happening around them, understand the industry, not let older people control their actions and realize that not everyone is their friend.
It’s a tough world out there; where image is everything. Teen models have a lot on their shoulders in regards to maintaining a strong sense of identity and self esteem. Young girls have a certain image of what a model is “supposed” to look like. The fashion industry sends out an unnatural thinness message that women, and even very young girls, may try to emulate. Negative body image can lead to serious health issues which can affect an individual during the course of their adolescence and into adult life.
More work needs to be done to ensure child models can finish high school and enjoy basic health standards. Some see it as fashion, but I see it as child abuse.