The debate about how young is too young to enter the cut-throat world of fashion modelling has reared its head once more following today’s announcement that 13-year-old Queenslander Kirsty Thatcher has won the Dolly magazine Model Search contest.
“I like to see myself as being a role model for other girls my age … it’s not about how you look, but about how you are on the inside too. Sure, there is pressure on girls my age to look at certain way, but for me it’s about being healthy and being true to myself,” the articulate and statuesque teenager told PS this morning at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, minutes after receiving the gong.
In her second year of high school, Kirsty beat 500 other hopefuls to win the contest. She will now have an exclusive year-long modelling deal with Dolly and has been signed to high-profile agency Chadwicks, as well as fly to New York to meet potential agents there.
Dolly editor Tiffany Dunk said the magazine would only undertake “age appropriate work” with Kirsty, which extended to “not just fashion shoots, but also as an ambassador for our young readers. This is not just about how she looks, but about who she is”.
However, in 1997, another 13-year-old won the competition, a girl from the country who would go on to become one of the biggest models in the world: Miranda Kerr.
When Kerr won the coveted prize, it caused an outcry in the media because she was so young.
Kerr was flown to Sydney a week before her 14th birthday to shoot for the magazine. She would soon be modelling in revealing swimsuits, leading to sections of the media criticising the inappropriate nature of the modelling for such a young girl.
Years after the press, Kerr would later reflect: “In the media at the time they were trying to cling on to anything remotely to do with paedophilia. Dolly is a magazine for teenage girls, not for old men. And I was fully clothed! Doing a winter shoot! They just made something out of nothing.”
The competition was subsequently axed by former editor Mia Freedman, who said it sent the wrong message to its young readers.
A decade later the competition is back, however current editor Dunk said it had changed considerably, the magazine now working with the Butterfly Foundation which focuses on body image issues and the media, to ensure it presented a “positive role model for young girls.”
Gisele Bundchen has been revealed to be the world’s highest-paid model in the latest ranking by Forbes.