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Modelling at the age of 1: a clear sign of bad parenting?

15 August 2014, 17:16

Lagos - In the wake of baby North West’s modelling debut, let’s consider child modelling and its potential effects on children.

Kimye’s 13-month-old daughter, North West, has made her modelling debut in the new issue of ex Vogue Paris editor, Carine Roitfeld’s CR Fashion Book – a bi-annual magazine.

This was not the first time Roitfeld used a very young model. In fact, she’s infamous for featuring 9-year-old French model, Thylane Blondeau in a provocative and controversial shoot for Vogue back in the day.

The youngster was seen clad in various glam high-end fashion dresses, fur, and sky-high stilettos. A lot of people complained of the sexual nature of the shoot that showed Blondeau in an adult situation, which aimed to provoke lust, thus sexualising the child.

In another case, a few years ago French company Jours Après Lunes launched a lingerie line aimed at girls under the age of 10.

The children who modelled in the ad campaign promoting the brand, were seen posing in ways deemed inappropriate by most. When a girl of 6 is made to resemble the sex siren Brigitte Bardot in both look and demeanour, something’s not quite right. And yes, you read it right. Lingerie for kids!

We always suspected that North West would be modelling before crawling. Yet seeing it made me wonder about the effects of children who start modelling but a year out of womb.

So yesterday, when people were going on and on about how cute and adorable this fashion snap is - showing baby North clad in a Chanel jersey, semi-clutching a mini quilted Chanel bag and  Karl Lagerfeld commenting how one is never too young to start caring about fashion – I cringed.

Why have your children modelling at the tender age of 1? At least give it 16 years or so. We are sure North had but NO CLUE as to what was happening around her and I am fairly certain that she didn’t care less about whether she was holding a pricey Chanel bag or a stuffed toy worth R10.

I also find it strange that Kimye chose this particular magazine to feature North West in. The mag has undoubtedly broken boundaries when it comes to fashion, but it is very much adult, due to its risqué fashion content. Was it just to boost mom Kim’s own ego then? Perhaps.

Many celebrities have stood behind their decisions to have their young children model in massive ad campaigns, whereas others like Nineties supermodel Cindy Crawford, decided that her daughter should wait until she’s older.

Jennifer Lopez for example fiercely defended her decision to pose with her 2½-year-old twins Emme Maribel and Max David for a Gucci ad campaign in 2011, saying: “Marc (her husband at the time) didn’t really want to put the babies in an ad or anything like that.

And I was just like, if they do it, I’d want to do it with my kids because it is for the kids. That’s the connection. That’s what makes it real. We don’t really parade them around like that, so it was for a good cause.”

What is the motivation for the parents? Is it purely for monetary purposes? If you’ve ever watched TLC’s Toddler’s and Tiaras, you’d agree with me that more and more pushy parents feel the need to parade their children around like show horses.

For the average parent who allows or pushes their children into modelling it’s perhaps more a case of ‘I never accomplished much therefore you will’, whereas, when it comes to superficial celebrities I guess it’s more about competition.

Yes, finally Kim K can say: “Has your child been in CR Fashion Book?” “No?” “Ag, shame”. Or maybe being in the spotlight constantly has made her forget that there are other ways to live your life?

Can overexposure at such a young age be damaging to a child’s psyche? Does exploitation on set or the level of self awareness and consciousness harm a young child? Children imitate others’ behaviour and are much more susceptible to be influenced and controlled.

When we place a young child within an industry that can, let’s face it, be rather harsh, superficial and judgmental, then we can only hope that that child is strong enough to deal with whatever’s thrown at them.


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