OPINIONS Observer: 'The younger the better' may not apply in modeling industry

OPINIONS

Observer: 'The younger the better' may not apply in modeling industry

By Han Xiaomeng | People's Daily app

10:20, April 13, 2019

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Recently a video in which a mother of a child model beat her 3-year-old daughter named Niuniu sparked public outrage and sympathy for the children in China's highly competitive child modeling industry.  After the mother published an apology letter on China's Twitter-like social media Weibo, another video showed the mother once forced the girl into a corner and beat her with a coat hanger.

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(Photo via weibo)

The seemingly glamorous child modeling industry is under the spotlight as the industry has created a huge market. This means the need for protection of child models is broader than just a single case. Giving children the opportunities to be in photo shoots and runway shows will enable them to enrich their experiences while improving networking skills, which can be a lifelong treasure. However, when child modeling becomes a profession for children to earn money, children will turn into golden geese of their parents.

That partly explains the reason why child models mature earlier than their peers with a clearer knowledge of society and various professions. They've come into the modeling industry for different reasons but under the same expectations from their parents.

Take a young child model named Haohao as an example. Her mother aspired to raise the good-looking boy into a future superstar. The mother was an agent for years, and understood the entertainment industry rule,“the younger the better.” So due to her son's unwillingness to cooperate at photo shoots for hours a day, she now plans to send him to a training school to hone his temper.

The pitfalls of early fame

The rapid development of the child modeling industry is accelerated by the increasing development of China's e-commerce. Being a model at a young age will surely heighten a children's aesthetic sense as they are required to be poised and elegant. But on the other hand, children will be exploited for profit.

No wonder different parents hold divergent views as to whether they would consider letting their children become models.

Some parents believe that there are many ways to cultivate the talents of children, such as letting them play musical instruments or learn dancing. The child modeling industry is rife with commercial interests and parental desires which go against the interests of children.

With child modeling gaining increasing attention on social media, the lives of children are becoming more commercialized. Kids can no longer enjoy a carefree childhood in which they can discover their interests and habits at their own pace. Children lack a say in making choices as to whether they like modeling or not.

Some parents support their children's desire to be child models and let them accumulate experiences at a young age, but these parents don't push them toward stardom.

However, other parents are blinded be greed and don't consider a child's interests..

A child can earn 100 yuan to 1,500 yuan for one outfit, and an experienced model can wear up to 200 outfits in a day. Models with good reputations can earn as much as 10,000 yuan in an hour. The average workday for the children is eight hours, china.com.cn reported. 

A photographer who's been in the business for 21 years said the most highly paid model he knew earned about 3 million yuan a year, with her base salary starting at 6,000 yuan per hour. The young model, who had mixed blood, started modeling at  just 6 months old. Last year, she did 900 photo shoots. The girl, named Jiajia, boasts that she bought a mansion for her family.

But every coin has two sides. Such successful child models have a tight schedule, often working from early to midnight. Some parents will force their kids to diet to keep their figure, causing malnutrition. Jiajia is 10 years old but only 130 centimeters in height.

It's time to regulate the industry

China's Law on the Protection of Minors stipulates that no organization or individual may hire any minor under the age of 16, except as otherwise prescribed by the state. The law prohibits child labor. Though signing service contracts with child models for a short term is not prohibited by law, forcing children to work full-time as models will inevitably harm their interests. It's time for relevant departments to set guidelines to regulate the industry.

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The home page of Chinese e-commerce site Taobao is seen on a computer screen in Beijing, Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, a total of 110 shops selling children's clothes on Taobao issued a joint announcement Thursday, calling for regulations on the child model industry, banning rude and violent activities toward children. This is a good time to call for self-regulation within the industry. Provisions banning overtime working at night will be published in the future.

There are more disadvantages than advantages for children under 6 years old to be child models. During photo shoots, children may be pressured to do gestures or poses that they don't like, which will make them tend to please adults in the future, said Li Guanghua, a psychological consultant.

A sweeping ban on child modeling is unfeasible. Therefore we should do more to regulate the industry so that children won't lose their childhood. Laws and regulations should also act as a reminder to money-driven parents that children are not tools to satisfy their demands.

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