Girlfriend, you better work


13 yr-old russian wannabe supermod katiusha/TO2W


Back in July – and by popular request (tks Voguettes) - frockwriter looked into the 2008 Girlfriend Model Search competition. Eyebrows were raised over this year’s state finalists, four of whom were already repped by model agencies - in direct contravention of the comp’s rules, which stipulate that entrants must not have either worked professionally or be agency-affiliated. An organiser told this blog that Girlfriend takes information provided by entrants in good faith and anyone found to be in breach of the guidelines would be disqualified. Well Girlfriend has just unveiled its six national finalists. And although none of the original quasi-pro four are among the names, frockwriter can’t help thinking that the magazine may have other issues with its final selection. One of the national finalists is 12.

Twelve year-old Karla Reid from Fitzgibbon, Queensland, is now in the running for the main title, the winner of which is to be announced in late November.

According to the Girlfriend website, each state finalist wins a 24-month contract with the Chic Management model agency.

In addition to other prizes, the overall 2008 winner of the Girlfriend Model Search competition wins an additional contract with Chic Management's New York affiliate agency Next.

As already reported by this blog, the Girlfriend Model Search entry criteria do stipulate a minimum age of 12.

According to Chic Models director Kathy Ward, previous winners have included a 13 year-old. The competition has springboarded the careers of a number of successful Australian models, including Catherine McNeil, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Sarah Stephenson and Alyssa Sutherland.

Tallulah Morton was of course just 13 when she opened Josh Goot’s Australian Fashion Week debut show in May 2005.

Following the April 2008 controversy over 14 year-old Polish model Monika Jagaciak, a 13 year-old would however of course no longer be able to take part in AFW, which now imposes a minimum age requirement of 16.

The latter controversy erupted over one specific, highly sexualised image of Jagaciak, taken when she was 13.

David Jones recently imposed an age minumim of 18 for its own shows.

“Babymodels” is not a new story.

In 1980, at the age of 14, Brooke Shields became the youngest model to appear on the cover of US Vogue, subsequently appearing in a controversial advertising campaign for Calvin Klein jeans.

However it does appear to be the case that that more young girls are now entering the business than ever before.

At least one model agent, Priscilla Leighton-Clarke, confirms this.

Modelling industry website The Ones 2 Watch recently showcased two extremely young girls: 13 year-old Katiusha from Russia and Noor from the Netherlands.

With a stated birth date of September 27 1995, Noor was most likely still 12 when her images appeared on TO2W website.

Some of the images of these girls are quite provocative. And precisely what is the point that is being communicated here by the girls' respective 'mother' agencies, which presumably supplied the images? To say, "Here's our latest sexy asset, she's ready to promote your products"?

In some images both Katiusha and Noor appear to be either wearing strapless tops – or perhaps no tops at all.

The latter certainly seems to be the intended inference:


noor/TO2W

Any parent who is considering actively encouraging their 12 year-old to enter the modelling profession would be well advised to consider the following.

The modelling industry experienced a dramatic shakeup in 1999 when the BBC's MacIntyre Undercover program alleged that models as young as 13 were being pressured into drugs and sex in Milan by people in positions of trust.

The scandal, which prompted stricter age regulations in some places (notably France), ensared two executives at the European division of Elite Models, then the world's biggest modelling agency - both tendering their resignations to Elite's board of directors.

One of them, Gerald Marie, is today back at the company - as the current president of Elite Paris.

Leaving Russian model mafia conspiracy theories out of the equation - for a moment - over the course of the past four months two models allegedly killed themselves by jumping out of multistorey apartment buildings.

One was Russian Ruslana Korshunova (20), in New York in June, the other Canadian Hayley Kohle (26) – who died last week in Milan. Coincidentally on the same night as 20 year-old American Randy Johnston, whose cause of death has yet to be confirmd.

That’s two suspected suicides out of a total four models who have died over the past four months.

Another Canadian, Diana O’Brien, was murdered in Shanghai in early July whilst on assignment.

Like many entertainment fields, modelling has always been a high pressure business.

But it seems the pressures have never been more intense.