Back in 2011, Vogue Paris found itself at the centre of a media frenzy when it published images of children, dressed-up, covered in make-up and striking some very adult poses. The reaction was mostly shock, with many criticising the overt sexualisation of children and Lolita-like depiction of girls, some younger than 10. Others suggested it was satirising the fashion industry’s obsession with young girls. Some ignored the creepiness altogether and instead focused on one 10-year-old model in particular – Thylane Blondeau – and began to refer to her as “the most beautiful girl in the world”.
Now she’s 16, she’s fair game. Aside from the fact that, quite clearly, she’s still a child
That, in itself, was sinister enough. But now, according to the Daily Mail (among others) “The little girl once labeled the ‘most beautiful girl in the world'” – she was aged six at the time – “is finally old enough to join the fashion world as a grown-up.” In other words, it’s ok for us to pore over pictures of her, dissect her outfit (“she wore a shimmering animal-print top and moss-green pants”) and maybe give half a mention to that time she may or may not have been “sexualised”. Now she’s 16, she’s fair game. Aside from the fact that, quite clearly, she’s still a child.
Fashion’s preoccupation with young girls is no secret. The very fact that some of the world’s most famous models start working before they’ve even hit puberty, coupled with the lack of women over the age of 35, clearly communicates fashion’s – and society’s – attitude towards women and ageing. But the overt objectification of Thylane Blondeau, herself a young teenager, feels particularly grim when it’s perpetuated by widely read, national publications, which apparently see no harm in doing so. Interestingly, the Daily Mail also took the opportunity to publish the photographs of Blondeau from her Vogue Paris photoshoot again, despite apparently being “outraged” and “in shock” when they were first published in 2011. The hypocrisy is not surprising, but it’s still appalling.
It’s depressing enough that any woman in the public eye faces intense scrutiny over her appearance, whether or not it’s relevant to her job, but to subject children to the same oppressive objectification feels like a step too far, even for the tabloid press.