In May of this year the New York Times and Forbes Magazine reported on an announcement made by Vogue Magazine that their 19 international editions would no longer be using any models under the age of 16, or who appear not to be in healthy condition due to an eating disorder.
Starting with their June issues, Vogue took a positive step forward in improving the body-image health of teens by ensuring that no young or unhealthy models are used in their magazine. In Vogue’s fashionable 120 -year history, they have long been the defining standard in beauty. To Vogue take such a stand against the negative messages young and unhealthy models send to younger readers, is an encouraging step in the right direction.
According to a 2011 survey originally published by The Model Alliance, over half of the working models surveyed began working in the industry between the ages of 13 to 16. In comparison, only 37% began working between the ages of 17 and 20. To have a magazine brand such as Vogue eliminate virtually half of the ‘up and coming’ model population from their pool of possible models, is well, definitely noteworthy in the fashion world. So, what does such a decision mean for those teenagers who will have to wait till they are 17 years old to begin modeling for Vogue?
The Teen Psyche
A chart compiled by the Iowa Collaboration for Youth Development (displayed below) explores the challenges teens face as part of their normal maturation process. When considering the body image and identity development of the early and middle adolescence life periods, its clear that the average teen does not possess the mental fortitude to withstand the demands and pressures the fashion industry imposes on them.
For example, as seen in the chart, early adolescent teens are naturally pre-occupied and critical of their appearance. They also use their peers as a standard for which to judge themselves- as opposed to finding beauty from within. Middle adolescent teens are preoccupied with their appearance while their physical activity varies greatly from excessive to lethargic. These challenges can be difficult on their own. However, when set in the image conscious and unrealistic standards of beauty, adolescents may be left with questions about themselves that they are ill equipped to handle.
Additionally, these questions will compound an already difficult identity development for an early or middle adolescent. As the chart shows, an early adolescent faces questions about their normalcy, feelings that no one understands them, and a desire for privacy. Being under the eternally critical and prying eye of the fashion industry will do nothing to positively help teens to navigate these psychological potholes.
The decision of Vogue Magazine to eliminate the use of models under the age of 16 is one that can only have a positive effect on the emotional and psychological well being of those looking to develop a name in the modeling industry. Vogue has made a responsible decision that is a great step for teen-kind in helping them to develop into happy and psychologically healthy adults.