When the term child model comes into discussion regarding the fashion industry, Thylane Blandeau is the first name that comes to mind.
A child model that first rose to prominence, or rather, notoriety back in 2010 when an editorial of her was released as part of a Vogue Paris issue, Blondeau’s scandalous photoshoot fuelled debate about the sexualisation and exploitation of children, namely young girls in the industry.
Blandeau was only 10 in at the time of the publication in 2010, causing many insiders and outsiders of the industry to condemn ex- Vogue Paris editor-in-chief, Carine Roitfeld, for publishing the photographs.
Following the infamous spread, which was one of Roitfeld’s last, a summit was called in Britain where Fleur Dorrell of the Mothers’ Union described the images of Blandeau in heavy make-up and provocative poses “physically disturbing.” The fever eventually passed, and Blandeau has since grown up to be a happy, healthy, and normal (albeit with ridiculously photogenic looks) teenage girl who’s still modelling, but with more age appropriate jobs.
Taking a look at things in the industry closer to home, Australian reality T.V star, Noni Janur of the Bachelor is now under fire for exploiting young models for her swimwear line through unethical means. Posted back in 2014 on Janur’s swimwear Instagram account, the photo in question that has people slamming Janur’s business ethics shows a then 15-year old girl clad in a bikini blowing smoke from her mouth.
Despite attempts of investigation by The Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB), Janur’s business remains safe as the swimwear line itself is based in Bali, not Australia. Niki Paterson, case manager at the ASB who oversaw many complaints, stated that, “because Instagram can be viewed globally, there is nothing on the page which appears to be targeting an Australian market”.
Regardless, the child model debate rises again with sexualisation and objectifying of young girls. Vanessa Friedman has once criticised the industry for the image that it delivers to audiences and young children, by saying that, “The medium [of sexualisation] is wrong for the message. Kids’ fashion should be – even more than adult fashion – a place of freedom for children to start playing with identity.”
Janur however has defended the photo, stating that the photoshoot had been approved with the model’s family and that it was taken in the “family home in Bali, with her parent’s consent. The smoke seen in the image was a tobacco-free and legal vapour.”
Melinda Lizewski, member of Collective Shout in Brisbane, also home to Janur, has expressed her outrage by saying whether or not “there is photoshopping involved with the smoke, the suggestion of smoking is there, so the message is pretty clear.”
The swimwear line continues to grow as Janur goes back and forth from Australia to Bali, where she resides for half the year.
Is it time to take more legal action for the protection of young child models?