Kaia Gerber, daughter of former supermodel Cindy Crawford, is still hot and heavy into her modeling career after first raising red flags at the tender age of 10 about underage girls who model clothes for adult fashion brands.
Last year, as a 13-year-old, she signed with IMG Models, which reps such superstars as Karlie Kloss, Alessandra Ambrosio, Gigi Hadid and Georgia May Jagger.
Gerber followed up with a very adult photo spread in the July 2015 issue of Vogue Italia, shot by well-known photographer Steven Meisel. One of the photos features her with her legs propped wide open in a suggestive pose.
Now 14, Gerber is being lauded as the next hot model, thanks largely to her mom’s celebrity status and Kaia’s own stunning looks. She appears in a new spread in September’s Teen Vogue.
But Crawford, who is encouraging her daughter’s modeling career, is sending the wrong signal to other young teen models, not to mention undermining fashion industry efforts to curb the use of underage models on runways and in adult fashion magazines.
Four years ago, Diane von Furstenberg, then president of The Council of Fashion Designers of America, called on designers to prevent girls under age 16 from working the Fashion Week catwalks.
The Council adopted voluntary guidelines that have largely been ignored.
Sara Ziff, founder of Model Alliance, a group working on behalf of models, explained the situation this way:
“When most people think of models, they think of supermodels who command large sums, but most working models are not supermodels. Most begin their careers as children, and work in debt to their modeling agencies. The pervasive practice of pay in ‘trade’ contributes to models’ disempowerment in the workplace. Without adequate safeguards, child models often stand to be exploited by adults who do not have their best interests in mind. A unified national floor of standards would protect child performers wherever they engage in work across the country.”
In July last year, Congresswoman Grace Meng, a New York Democrat, introduced the “Child Performers Protection Act of 2015” (H.R.3383) in Congress.
Among other things, it would establish set working hours and salary and savings requirements for underage models, banning the odious practice of paying models with clothes. It would also provide protections against sexual harassment.
The bill, however, is still languishing in the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
“We know, and expect, this is going to be a long conversation and process,” Meng told The New York Times. “But at least this highlights the problem.”
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual in the fashion industry.
In February, Mason Grammer, the 14-year-old daughter of Camille and Kelsey Grammer, caused an uproar when she walked in the Malan Breton show at New York Fashion Week.
A slew of other underage models have appeared in major fashion shows, including Ondria Hardin, Kylie Jenner and Valerija Sestic. Kendall Jenner posed in a very adult bikini fashion spread at 15.
Sistine Stallone, the now 18-year-old daughter of actor Sylvester Stallone, also began her modeling career at 15. Her work included a racy BDSM-inspired bikini photo shoot.
Dutch model Roos Abels, 14, caused an uproar when she walked in the Prada show at Milan Fashion Week.
In Europe, Sofia Mechetner, 14, is the latest underage modeling phenom. She raised eyebrows when she hit the catwalk for Dior’s 2016 spring-summer collection in Paris last September.
She wore a white Dior dress with a sheer top, clearly exposing her breasts.
Mechetner stoked the fire when she told The Jerusalem Post she has no problem posing nude. “Fashion nudity is about art and not about sexuality,” she said.
Chanel fashion guru Karl Lagerfeld, who has no qualms about using underage models, endorses the Israeli model’s work.
Lately, Lagerfeld has been featuring Lily-Rose Depp, the 16-year-old daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis in an eyewear campaign.
Lily-Rose raised eyebrows in April a year ago when she appeared on the red carpet at Chanel’s 2014/15 Metiers d’Art Collection show in New York. She was 15 at the time.
“The public wants to see them [clothes, glasses] on girls like this,” Lagerfeld said in a recent interview. “They can identify even if it’s not the same age group. That’s the girls of the moment, fashion is about the moment.”
Kaia Gerber’s spread in Teen Vogue’s September issue has been widely covered by the media and drawn gushing coverage. Cindy has also touted her appearance on social media.
“Guess I better watch my back…Love this shot of @KaiaGerber by #StevenMeisel for @VogueItalia!” the doting mom wrote on Instagram along with a photo of Kaia from the shoot.
In a sampling of fluffy coverage, Town and Country magazine on Tuesday (Aug 9) named Gerber one of its latest “it girls” in its second annual “Modern Swans” issue.
Gerber is the youngest model in the bunch, which includes Depp, the Hadid sisters, Sistine Stallone and others.
Kaia’s latest editorial feature in Teen Vogue is certainly age-appropriate, but she’s plunging into adult modeling.
She was signed as the face of Chrome Hearts’ spring-summer 2016 campaign. The Los-Angeles based accessories and leather brand features Kaia in a mix of trench coats, jewelry and oversized sunglasses all designed for older women.
Crawford caused an uproar in 2012 when she let Kaia, then 10, pose for the racy Italian luxury brand Versace. She modeled the brand’s new children’s line, wearing heavy makeup and thigh-high skirts.
At the time, Crawford praised the brand. “I’m so thrilled that Kaia was chosen to be part of the first Young Versace Campaign,” she said in a statement.
After an uproar ensued over the Versace shoot, Crawford vowed not to let her daughter model again until she was 17. But Kaia made her professional debut in Teen Vogue two years later, coinciding with her 13th birthday.
Her first modeling contract with IMG Models soon followed.
While Gerber will probably have a successful, high profile career, the same can’t be said for thousands of other unknown underage models who want to emulate her, but end up being exploited and sexually objectified.
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