The Sacrifice of Being a Teen Model

Chris BeecherArgument, New Voices, Previous Editions

For many teenage girls, becoming a model means walking the runway in designer clothes, having hair and make-up done professionally and becoming famous. Because of the clothes models wear and having their hair and make-up done, some girls appear to look older. Yet many forget how young some of these girls really are. Each year the industry focuses on pursuing younger models to walk in runway shows, although many forget the reality of what it is like being an underage model. Besides having the opportunity to wear designer clothes, young teens must decide whether they want to follow the industry’s grown-up demands, such as modeling clothes that are inappropriate for their age or posing nude. These days, girls start to model at the age of thirteen, even though some haven’t gone through puberty or are barely starting to develop.  Although some say that teenagers want to follow their dreams and model, there must be an age limit of when girls should start modeling because they haven’t fully developed, they don’t know when to say no, and their childhood and their education should come first.

Modeling has been around since the 1800’s. Back then, models were women who were older and had fully developed into a curvy and fuller body. Now, the ideal model is  young, tall and skinny, for example, sixteen year-old Kendall Jenner. These young teens aren’t fully aware how tough the modeling world is until they are in the industry. In the article “Regardless of Age, It’s About Rights” former model and author Sara Ziff shares her experience has a teen model: “I started modeling at 14, I was unprepared for the adult pressure like photographers who put me on the spot to take age-inappropriate photos and designers who barely covered my body on the runway…16-hour days were routine for me…spent by shuttling between New York and Paris, I was jet-lagged, sleep deprived, and malnourished.” When Ziff speaks about her modeling days, it’s clear that she felt she wasn’t treated rightly, so now she speaks up for teen models.

Many agree that teenage girls should not model at such an early age because they have not fully developed.  From the article, “Girls Must Finish Developing First,” author Lisa Machoian argues that “starting to model at the age of 16 increases the many developmental risks for which teenage girls are vulnerable.”  Due to the pressure of having the perfect look, girls tend to harm themselves in order to fit in. They stop eating in order to get skinnier and start to experience depression because they lack nutrients. Since they are only teenagers, they think that doing harm to their body is no big deal. But over time, their bodies start to get weaker causing the girls to live an unhealthy lifestyle for the rest of their lives.

Yet some disagree and believe that modeling should be for anyone. In the article “Needed: Involved Parents and Vigilant Agents” author and former model Peggi Lepage argues that “girls should model at a young age but should work locally…Working in a home market allows a model to get a taste for the business.” By allowing the girls to work close to home, the agency would make them feel comfortable. Even though girls have their parents around to look over them, agencies only show the young model and her family the good side of modeling and what she can get out of it if they start at an early age. But an agency can easily take advantage and try to pressure young models into wearing clothes that are not age-appropriate.

Since young teens haven’t fully developed, they also don’t know how to stand up for themselves. In the article “Teenage Models Have Teenage Needs,” author Carre Otis argues, “Young models are expected to shrug off their instincts and comply with the industry’s demands.” Many agencies expect teenagers to do whatever they are told even though some things are not appropriate for their age. This can cause teenage girls to stress about whether or not they want to follow their own dreams of becoming a model. Being in an industry where sex sells, girls are faced with decisions of how far they want to go in a photo shoot.  Some argue that girls should already know what type of business they are getting into. Otis states, “This is a work environment that values girls solely for how much their exteriors can be commodified, sexualizes them without any regulation or emotional support, and encourages their thinness at any cost.” Even though models have a right to set boundaries and speak up if they feel uncomfortable, many don’t because they don’t want to be disrespectful to the agencies. Girls then tend to do things that they don’t feel comfortable doing and tend to lose their own identity because of the demands they are told to follow.

Another reason why there should be an age limit to modeling is because young teens lose their childhood and their education. Being a model is 24-hour job. Girls have to learn how to balance their schoolwork as well as their job. Since modeling is an international job, there can be times where they might have to fly out of the country and miss out on school. Year after year, young women sacrifice an education and their own well-being for the misdirected hopes of what modeling might someday bring. But modeling is hard business. Many girls think they have the look for what it takes to be a model, but when they actually get in the business they realize that it’s a whole other world. Some disagree and believe managing school and modeling can be possible. Peggi Lepage argues, “ If girls work locally, agents are forced to work around school schedules.” Although this is possible, not every agency is willing to work for the girl. They will twist around the idea that modeling must be more important. Therefore, the young teenage models will sacrifice their schoolwork in order to get into the modeling business.

Being a model does come with its advantages for example, having the opportunity to travel the world, work with designers, and getting to meet celebrities. In today’s society, having a career at an early age might seem lucky. In order to be successful in the industry, models need to look young, which is why agencies are interested in teen models. Being at least five feet and seven inches with clear skin and weighing around 90 to 130 pounds is an ideal teen model. Agencies pursue teen models because they are inexperienced but are eager to learn the business. Since the media portrays the modeling life as glamorous,  many girls dream about being a model.

Although the media portrays models as ideal teen idols,  it does not usually show the real facts about being a model. Most teen models suffer from an eating disorder and body dysmorphia. Since they have to fly to different countries to walk on the runway, they are probably never taken care of. At an early age, girls believe that their worth is based on their beauty and not on their strength, and this can cause a girl to follow the industry’s sometimes inappropriate demands because she believes her voice will not be heard. Modeling should have an age limit because  young teens do not fully understand how to take on the world. They need to live their childhood, learning so that later they may have successful careers.



Work Cited

Lepage, Peggi. “Young Fashion Models Need Involved Parents and Vigilant Agents.” Room for Debate. The New York Times, 13 Sept. 2012. Web. 21 Nov. 2012.

Machoian, Lisa. “Girls Must Finish Developing Before Becoming Fashion Models.” Room for Debate. The New York Times, 14 Sept. 2012. Web. 21 Nov. 2012.

Otis, Carre. “Teenage Models Have Teenage Needs.” Room for Debate. The New York Times, 13 Sept. 2012. Web. 21 Nov. 2012.

Ziff, Sara. “”Regardless of a Fashion Model’s Age, It’s About Rights.” Room for Debate. The New York Times, 12 Nov. 2012. Web. 21 Nov. 2012.