Vogue images labelled ‘obscene’ by mental health advocates
By Liz Lockhart
It is several days now since I first saw the pictures of Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau. I felt deeply disturbed on several levels at the time and, when asked to write a report for Mental Healthy about the subject of ‘child models’, I felt that I needed time to get my thoughts straight before I ranted about my first impressions.
Unfortunately time has not altered my initial feelings about the exploitation of this pretty young girl. For those of you who do not know about Thylane, she is a 10-year-old little girls who has quite a successful modelling career. She is called a ‘supermodel’ in several articles which have been written about her.
Uproar erupted when she appeared in Vogue Paris magazine. The publication featured a 15-page spread which included several photographs of Thylane in seductive poses. She posed in a chair, on a bed and on an animal skin rug. So what is all the fuss about? Well we carefully considered our audience before publishing these, but believe they must be seen for the 'exploitation' to be really understood:
Thylane’s appearance, to me, is ghoulish. She is wearing heavy make-up, stiletto heeled shoes, dropper earrings, an ankle bracelet and has her hair back-combed up. Yes, she looks fascinating but very odd. These are not the images of the beautiful young girl which she is. These are not the sexual images of a woman – what are they meant to be?
Nick Watts, body image and eating disorders campaigner, told Mental Healthy ‘The over-sexualisation of childhood has been rife in debate, especially in the last few years. As someone involved in the body image movement it is a subject I follow closely. This move by Vogue is yet another example of young children being introduced to what is an adult world and potentially being exposed to the pressures of the modelling industry at an age at which they may not be able to deal healthily with the pressures and aspirations they can face.’
‘ We cannot solely blame advertising and the fashion industry for the pressures paced on people an society as a whole, but moves like this, in my opinion, are debilitating and can have a negative effect on enjoying exactly what children should be expected to enjoy - their childhood.’ added Nick.
The Vogue spread is entitled ‘Cadeaux’ – the French word for gift. What a gift these pictures are for perverts and paedophiles. Why are we sexualising children? Will other children see this and think it’s grown-up to look like this? ‘It makes you wonder what Vogue was thinking of. Were they really interested in this girl’s appearance or a cheap publicity stunt at her expense? Is this really what readers want?
Also worrying is the fact that this little girls if exceptionally thin. Only last week we reported on the rising number of children with eating disorders-Eating disorder cases rise in young people, according to latest NHS figures. Surely we must not let this type of image become acceptable in the media. Media images have been blamed, at least in part, for the increase in eating disorders in young men and women and now, it would seem, we have to worry on this front about our children.
Mental Healthy editor Charlotte Fantelli adds 'Obscene, simply obscene! There is no other word to describe this depraved photoshoot, to me this is condoning children being viewed in an immoral, adult and sexual way. If a man had painted up a child like this and taken photos of her, we would say 'he is a sick pervert!' Yet it is freely allowed in the media? Also what message does it send to other 10-year-olds? That dressing like this is socially acceptable? No good can come from this and I for one will never purchase Vogue again.'
Childhood is all too short. It should be an amazing time of exploration, learning, growing and the one time in life that there is total innocence - innocence to all things, not just sexuality.
The burning question for me is ‘What are this girl’s parents thinking of?’ The rate of mental ill-health among celebrities who were pushed into a career when they were children is sky-high. I hope that this child can live a normal life and enjoy the few, short years that she has left as a little girl!
Photographs taken from Daily Mail - (c) Good Morning America - Originally appearing in French Vogue by photographer Tom Ford.