“In fashion, one day you are in, and one day you are out,” said Heidi Klum. While she spoke in regards of fashion designers, this quote has never been more true, about models. So who’s “in” at the moment? Thylane Lena Rose Blondeau. The beautiful French model is blonde haired, blue eyed, pouty lipped, compared to a young Brigitte Bardot ...and also 10 years old.
Since her appearance in Vogue Paris, she’s been surrounded by controversy over images that critics are calling “over-sexualized” and “creepy”. Although Blondeau isn’t the only child in these photos, she is the main feature, photographed in true model form, donning heels, tight dresses and jewels, sprawled across tiger fur, applying lipstick, and gazing “seductively” at the camera.
At the tender age of 10, her Google search suggests she’s no newcomer to the industry. Pages of photos can be viewed, confirming her to be booking jobs left and right. In fact, most of the pictures are innocent and age appropriate, including her Vogue debut, as the cover girl of Vogue Enfants. Regardless, the editorial is enough to have many parent and women’s organizations up in arms. According to The Daily Caller, Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, suggests consequences for the girl’s parents, “This is clearly child exploitation and her parents should be legally charged.” However, the concern of Veronika Loubry, French entertainment reporter-turned-fashion-designer, and mother of the girl, laid elsewhere than the nature of the photos. In an interview with the Nouvel Observateur, Loubry noted, “I understand that these photos can be shocking. I was present during the shoot and I was shocked ...about the price of the necklace she is wearing! It costs three million Euros!” Certainly a father might be more protective of his young daughter being portrayed as eye candy, right? Wrong. Since the uproar, Blondeau’s father, former professional soccer player Patrick Blondeau, has rarely even been mentioned in connection to the story.
Since the defense of the images, Loubry has shut down her daughters official Facebook fan page stating, “Thylane doesn’t know about the buzz and I want to protect her from the deapest of my heart,,,she’s so young,,so we are going to close this accompte for a while.” But is the damage already done? Senior director of women’s programs at the American Psychological Association, Shari Miles-Cohen explained on “Good Morning America”, “We don’t want kids to grow up too fast. We want them to be able to develop physically, emotionally, psychologically and socially at appropriate rates for their age.” Clinical psychologist Dr. Emma Gray expressed similar thoughts to the Daily Mail, “If children are to develop into happy, grounded and psychologically balanced people, their childhood needs to be spent appropriately preparing for the demands of the adult world. Prematurely exposing a child to the adult world is dangerously preventing the completion of their development into a person who can survive in it.”
On the flip side, the fashion world breads on pushing boundaries and exposing current issues through an art form. Perhaps the intentions were not to glorify sexualizing a young girl, but to emphasize the way the fashion and modeling world glamourizes young girls on a daily basis, without anyone batting a lash. A successful working model will typically begin a career short of their sweet sixteen. Take 15 year old Daphne Groeneveld, who appeared in Louis Vuitton’s Fall 2011 ad campaign, now seasoned pro Brooke Shields, who debuted in Vogue at 14 or Milla Jovovich who was photographed for Revlon’s “Most Unforgettable Women in the World” at the age of 12. It’s not unusual for viewers to pass these young stars for much older, and upon realizing just how young they really are, the reaction is most often surprised and in awe, opposed to outraged and concerned. Yet, these are the same girls who Thylane is merely puberty away of being, minus the controversy. Luckily, amidst all the criticism, Thylane still has a strong online fan base, including blogs, Youtube videos and fan initiated Facebook groups. The general consensus is that Blondeau simply won the genetic lottery, so why not showcase that? Comments like “beautiful” and “impressive” fill the page of “Miss Thylane Blondeau” - a Facebook group with over 4,000 “likes”. One fan even made a point to express the support for her mother, saying “I think Thylane is a great model and her mom knows what is the best for her not the media.”
In an industry where success and value is based off of beauty, it’s a valid point to say that young models are in their prime. More and more we’re seeing girls, not even the age of consent, dominating the modeling scene. Fame aside, Elle Fanning and Hailee Steinfeld are your average middle schoolers. But a primp, prep and prime later, they’re the faces of Marc for Marc Jacobs, and Mui Mui. Doll up and pose a 10 year old similarly in mockery of the inappropriateness, and it’s child exploitation. Of course the images are unsettling, but what they represent, is of equal shock value.