Anastasia Knyazeva six year old Russian model
Photo: Anastasia Knyazeva (Instagram/anna_knyazeva_official)


The Mail Online is asking if a six-year-old is “the most beautiful girl in the world”

This little girl is not being complimented. She is being fetishised, says Rachael Sigee

Added on

By Rachael Sigee on

The Mail Online splashing on a woman’s looks is hardly a shock. It’s not even unusual for it to be a very young woman – a TV starlet or the daughter of a celebrity who has helpfully turned 16, is now “all grown up” and can therefore be legally leched over.

Today’s homepage nonchalantly asks “Is this the most beautiful girl in the world?” about a six-year-old girl. They’ve even put the word SIX in capital letters.

The girl in question is Anastasia Knyazeva, a Russian child whose mother has been posting photos online since she was four. She has a management agency and regular modelling work in her home country. Hundreds of commentators profess their adoration for the “gorgeous girl”.

The Mail gushes that her “legion of fans online... have been wowed by her doll-like features and striking blue eyes”. It reports that some fans have suggested she could be the next Irina Shayk, the 31-year-old lingerie model.

Once again, she is six.

The Instagram account, run by her mother, has hundreds of photos and videos of Anastasia posing for photoshoots and behind the scenes. She pouts her lips, sings into a toy microphone and blows kisses to the camera. She is obviously wearing make-up. She’s not playing… she’s posing.

This is not a parent posting a few pictures of their child for friends and family; she is not being complimented. She is being fetishised. There are several pieces of fan art that have redrawn her as an anime character.

The Instagram account, and the Mail’s coverage of it, is every toddler beauty pageant, every bikini for under-10s, every provocative child’s fancy-dress costume and every padded training bra combined and displayed in hellish technicolour. It is the insidious sexualisation of children writ large.

What it says is that we want our women to look like little girls and, specifically, this little girl. When people comment on her "doll-like features", they are really praising what those features suggest: youth, vulnerability and innocence

Anastasia is the latest in a line of very young girls objectified by the media and the fashion industry – in 2010, Thylane Blondeau, was controversially featured in French Vogue aged 10.

These are children who meet the Disney Princess beauty standards that society has decreed as the most valuable in adult women: white skin, big blue eyes, rosy cheeks, button nose and long straight hair.

What it says is that we want our women to look like little girls and, specifically, this little girl. When people comment on her “doll-like features”, they are really praising what those features suggest: youth, vulnerability and innocence.

It so often appears that the most prized characteristic a woman can possess is youth. We are obsessed with it. In the public eye, women aren’t allowed to age. Our actresses are expected to have surgery to turn back the years (discreetly, of course). Our fashion designers and stylists still show clothes designed for adult women on teenagers. Regardless of age restrictions on models, editors still fawn over the latest 16-year-old on the scene.

And the traditional media is complicit. Coverage of the child stars of Stranger Things became increasingly inappropriate and former Matilda star Mara Wilson wrote an essay detailing her torrid experience of puberty in the public eye.

The Mail’s coverage of Anastasia is as hypocritical as it is unsurprising. It is unashamed click bait for readers who will be outraged by a mother’s exploitation of her child, but who didn’t bat an eyelid when, in 2013, the publication called Heidi Klum’s daughter a “leggy beauty”. She was eight years old.

Anastasia is growing up as so many little girls do – by learning too early that her value lies in her looks alone. That her appearance will be scrutinised and critiqued and judged every single day. Only she is learning this on an epic scale and at the cost of her safety and wellbeing.

No doubt we’ll be updated on her progress in being beautiful. Presumably the Mail has already started its countdown clock to her 16th birthday. When she’ll be all grown up.


Sign up

Love this? Sign up to receive our Today in 3 email, delivering the latest stories straight to your inbox every morning, plus all The Pool has to offer. You can manage your email subscription preferences at My Profile at any time

Photo: Anastasia Knyazeva (Instagram/anna_knyazeva_official)
Tagged in:
young women and girls
women in the media

Tap below to add to your homescreen

Love The Pool? Support us and sign up to get your favourite stories straight to your inbox