The Age of Modeling
By Margretta Sowah
Twitter – @bohomags
First and foremost, there is nothing sexual about ten-year-old model, Kristina Pimenova. Not her poses or her backdrops or her deer-in-headlights gaze. The problem is not over-sexualising this girl. The problem is romanticizing her.
Kristina Pimenova, born December 27, 2005, is a Russian native. Her parents are no stranger to fame or wealth, with dad being a soccer player (he played in the 2002 FIFA games) and mum a former model. Not only has Miss Pimenova been exposed to ‘the good life’, she is also a competing gymnast. This girl is on fire! Though the controversy is obvious it does pose the question; is there a right age to follow your dreams?
When researching this topic I found myself conflicted by opposing forces. When it comes to the exploitation of the youth (which is the general consensus) in relation to modeling/beauty pageants and the like, are we protecting the youth while exploiting our needs? What I mean by this is, the rally behind Miss Pimenova’s modeling contract is really addressing the exploitation of needs and wants – the desire to acquire. According to Investopedia, Social Responsibility means that individuals and companies have a duty to act in the best interests of their environments and of society as a whole. As I stated in my other article on Naomi Campbell vs Tess Holiday, does Fashion and the Modeling industry – not to mention production companies – have a social responsibility to the public more so than the client?
In Kristina’s case the answer lies not in the sexualisation of her but the romanticizing of her. This means that though this girl is protected – for the most part – by laws and other social norms from too much scrutiny over her sexuality, this does not stop consumers, pop culture and the general public from romanticizing her as “a beautiful little girl.” This is sort of like the ingenue problem where there are certain roles society is more comfortable with investing in both financially and emotionally; hence the damsel in distress ‘ingenue’ – young novice, fresh-faced seemingly innocuous female comes into play in one form or another.
According to abc.net.au in 2013 New York’s laws tightened its rules for children in the Modeling industry. The legislation, “signed by New York governor Andrew Cuomo, gives models under the age of 18 the same labor protections as child performers.” Actress Milla Jovovich, who started modeling at the tender age of 11, told reporters in the article, “It seems incredible that young kids in the modeling industry haven’t had equal rights to other child performers until now.” If you are not fully aware of the laws governing your vocation, as a child not a parent, can you fully assess a dream job or calling?
What makes a model?
Oxford dictionaries describe a model as ‘a person employed to display fashionable clothes by wearing them.” Not the most thought wrenching definition but true to form. A model is someone employed (meaning there is an exchange of goods and services) to display items for sale, usually clothing or accessories. Let me make this point again; how old do you have to be to know this is your dream? Is there a right time/age to follow your dreams?
If you go on LinkedIn, TED or Medium there is no shortage of articles prompting us to follow our dreams, at any age. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, heck even Einstein memes are pushing the point of chasing your goals – fulfilling your dreams, stepping into the unknown. If you could go back and speak to your ten-year-old self, what would they say to you about your current vocation? I know mine would be like… “Why aren’t you a ballerina/bird watcher yet?” I have yet to do one proper lesson as an adult or seriously consider studying our feathered friends.
How does Kristina know this is something worth pursuing? Besides the obvious superficiality of the calling? Is the roar of cachet and bountiful opportunities the reason for her family’s openness to a different kind of exposure? Kristina is no stranger to scrutiny as a training professional gymnast. The same goes for her mother and father in relation to their personal successes. Should a child as young as ten – remember when you were ten? – hold some responsibility for what she works hard for?
Foundations of youth
“Youth is wasted on the young.” A popular quote by George Bernard Shaw. What is so appealing about the young? Being youthful; vibrant, trusting, limper and naive. How I miss those years. It is no surprise child stars, performers and models are opting for the safer option of management within the family – Momagers, to be exact (a word trademarked by Kris Jenner). When it comes to exploitation, like a murder or any criminal situation, the family is the first under question.
Kristina’s mum, Glikeriya Pimenova, has said; “I do not accept those accusations about sexualisation of my child.” The 39-year-old mother of Kristina then goes on to address the media; “I am certain in my mind all her photographs are absolutely innocent. I have never asked her to take this or that pose, and in fact I must say she does not especially like it when I am photographing her, so I do it quickly and when she doesn’t notice […] You must think like a pedophile in order to see something sexual in these pictures, so it is time for you to see a doctor.”
Though pictures of Kristina on her social media accounts (operated and run by her mother) are innocent, people have already begun to pick apart milestone adverts with heavyweight companies such as Armani, Roberto Cavalli and the United Colours of Benetton.
Her mother continues to say; “Kristina likes to be photographed by professional photographers. She communicates with them well, and is a very sociable and open-hearted child […] I see that my daughter likes it and that she is good at it, and this is the reason why I am going on with it. After all, it is our duty as parents to spot the talents of our children and to develop them. If she had only been a shy child who is scared to meet new people, she would have never succeeded. A pretty face is not everything in this business.”
Having good looks and charisma must elicit envy from the outside world. But we are worried for Kristina’s bubble; the naive bubble we want all children to inhabit for as long as they can. The world is a funny place. You can be criticized for being unattractive and criticized for being too attractive. You can drop dead with a perfect bill of health and be a loose-goose and live relatively longer than the people around you. Life can be very humbling. Having said that, at the impressionable age of ten, can you grasp the concept of a career? Of making and breaking the bank – or mold? Or is it just another game, when you are a child?
Is there, truly, a right age to follow your dreams?
This article was written by Margretta Sowah; a freelance writer and Fashion Marketer based in Sydney. All opinions expressed are her own. She cannot be held liable for bad taste. She also likes to spin yarn from time to time.