Many underage models face loss of innocence, exploitation and sexual abuse as more of them are falling for the tempting traps that are rampant in the glittering models’ world.
“I think it’s not appropriate for me yet to be in lingerie shows or bikini photo shoots as I’m still too young,” said M.N., a 17-year-old model.
This starlet has turned down a host of invitations for bikini photo shoots for ads for cars, lingerie and sexy nightgowns even though these revealing, provocative photos, once splashed on the internet, could easily shoot her to instant fame.
“At 16, I absolutely had no idea of how to act as a bride. I was really nervous and acted quite clumsily onstage,” said teen model Ky Han about her bridal gown show.
“I now have to think twice about which show to take,” Han added.
However, faced with fierce rivalries and competition from equally attractive, fame-yearning peers, not many teen models choose to safeguard their innocence.
In 2009, 15-year-old Hong Que instantly attracted public attention by endorsing several underwear brands. In one show, she shocked people by pacing up and down the catwalk with just two small pasties covering her nipples. Except for them, she was bare from the waist up.
Immediately after the event, her photo was everywhere on the net.
This daring model also launched a series of titilating semi-nude photos in early June this year, right before her high school graduation exam, causing a public outcry.
“Our company doesn’t force us to take such photos, but they say it’s one of the job requirements which everyone has to meet,” said T.V., who used to be a teen model.
“Someone told me that as models, donning bikinis in front of others is normal. She even advised us that the more revealing and provocative we are, the more the media will write about us, thus catapulting us to instant fame,” V. added.
V. added that freelance models can easily turn down invitations for inappropriate shows or photo shoots, while those working for companies cannot since they are on a contract.
Regarding the choice of teen models in fashion shows, a stylist who wished to remain anonymous, explained that many customers choose teen models for the novelty, freshness and naivety they bring to the shows.
In addition, the appearance of teen models in any show or ad photo shoot attracts more public attention, as the audience is more curious about how they perform.
“Asking for their parents’ permission is the biggest difficulty in working with minors,” said Binh Son, photograph reporter for Muc Tim teen magazines.
“They are so worried that the photos may leave a lasting psychological scar on them if treated without care,” said Son, adding that accentuating their innocent beauty, not physical sensuality, is the thing that counts most in taking photos of teen models.
A renowned photographer in Ho Chi Minh City revealed that a superhot starlet can now earn thousands US dollars for a show – a sum which most of her peers only dream of.
However, being paid directly by the customer is very rare, and many teen models lose a chunk of their earnings to the show organizers. At 16, newcomer Ky Han was offered a three-day show on bridal gowns and hair fashion. Afterwards she waited for five months before she was paid just VND 100,000 (US$ 5) per day, while her co-performers received VND 800,000-900,000 per day right after the show ended.
“I was so disillusioned and frustrated. I thought I could earn a lot from performing in shows, so I spent lots of money on taxis, hair styling and makeup,” Han said.
Like Han, V.A.D. also got received a few hundred Vietnam Dong for three days of performing during the traditional Tet holiday.
“This sum wasn’t enough even for petrol. In many shows, myself and those like me had to perform at the end, after the singers’ performances. I was disheartened, but kept reminding myself that I was new in the profession,” D added.
“I watched several shows featuring minors and thought that they seemed much older than their age in an unreasonable way,” said the director of leading Elite modeling company.
“Junior models should only perform for their age’s fashion brands instead of wearing heavy makeup and posing provocatively. They should consider modeling as an extracurricular activity only,” she added.
More than a few teen models, male and female alike, have been sexually harassed during shows or photo shoots.
Many teenage models face the risks of sexual harassment. Photo: Tuoi Tre
T.G.L., a popular model among teens, was cheated into taking titillating, implied nude photos by photographer T.M.
During the photo session, the photographer even ‘touched’ her on purpose so many times that L. decided to leave.
Three days later, that photographer blatantly asked her to take another sexy photo shoot to highlight the rare black line along her stomach.
L. refused immediately.
Another teen model who L. knows told her that she narrowly escaped from sexual abuse by a photographer who is as old as her father.
That photographer wanted to take nude photos of the girl, but she refused. He relented and asked her to go out for dinner. She got dizzy after drinking wine from the bottle he brought, and he offered to take her home.
But in fact, he was taking her somewhere else. He wouldn’t take her home until she threatened to scream.
Among similar victims are male teen models.
D.Q.P. was asked to go for ‘a walk’ at night with the director who had cast him as an extra in a beverage ad.
P. determinedly refused and he didn’t get the role, though some from the casting team thought highly of his acting ability.
Q.P., another male teen model, said he often received flirtatious short messages from male directors after casting sessions.
One of P.’s friends, after the casting session for an entertainment television channel, was offensively flirted with and promised a good role by the vice film director in the restroom.
He declined flatly and was too scared to return to that company.
Junior models are also targeted by rich men. It’s not strange for girls as young as 15 or 16 years old to receive gifts worth US$ 500-1,000. They sometimes even pay the teens’ manager to take the young girls out.
16-year-old model M.N., who is popular among netizens, was ‘match-made’ to a fat man who was older than her father’s age by another model.
N. was promised US$ 1,000 every month, a fancy motorbike and cell phone, and even a modeling prize in return for going out with the man once in a while.
A guru in the fashion world said teen models are easy prey for modeling companies.
He was shocked when he read the contract a teen model he knows signed with a model-training company.
The contract featured only requirements from the model but no responsibility at all on the company’s part.
The girl had to pay the company VND 12 million (US$ 580) per month, including traveling, training fees, insurance and a ‘down payment.’
“Such companies launch global-scale plans, but I know many teen models who can only appear in a few shows at bars throughout the year or distribute leaflets,” the insider added.
According to photographer Nguyen Long, many teen girls resort to serving male customers in bars while lying to their parents at home that they perform in famed designers’ shows.
“Nowadays, many unknown companies are tempting teen models into working for them. The teens waste 3-5 years there, receive no training and no monthly payment. They also have to conform to all of their rules and pay unreasonable sums of money,” Long added.
If they change to another company, they would have to pay large sums of money in compensation.
The companies even create false competition to trap the teens, for example starting two girls at the same point but purposefully favoring one, making the other believe that that girl is favored since she is more obedient, Long added.