22 year old Amelia Akiko Nakagawa Gough as shot by Jackie Meiring for New Zealand's Next Top Model.
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: the Top Model franchise is primarily concerned with creating engaging television – finding a real life top model generally comes as an afterthought. In order to create drama, certain things are essential, like the clash of a dozen young girls living in a house, competing against each other to win fame and glory; or the tension that comes with putting young girls into situations outside of their comfort zones. These scenarios can be anything from photo shoots in freezing settings, challenges high above the ground on wires, or, in the case of the most recent New Zealand's Next Top Model episode, shooting the girls in nothing but underwear. Set in Rotorua, the models' bikini bottoms and boob-tubes were slathered in mud, however, when it came time for Christchurch schoolgirl Michaela Steenkamp to be shot, no top was provided. The cause of tension for Steenkamp? She's a Christian. In her words, "I'm a Christian and I don't think that's going to stop me from doing a lot of things as long I have a confidence in myself and I have confidence in the Lord."
The cause of tension for an educated audience? Michaela Steenkamp is only 16 years old.
Nudity is commonplace in the modelling industry – pick up just about any local or international fashion magazine and you'll see breasts bared for the world to see. Generally speaking though, 18 years old is the minimum age for shoots of this type. Like booker Huia Ngapo recently told me, "If the model is over 18 and experienced, I will consider her doing topless IF I think that the resulting shot will be tasteful, beautiful and beneficial to their portfolio - if these requirements are met and I am satisfied the model will be well taken care of and treated with the utmost care and respect during the shoot then I will allow her to make the final decision herself."
Steenkamp was clearly a little worried at the thought of being shot nude for the episode, and no booker was on hand to guide her through the process. While this type of tension might make for good television, it certainly does not provide a good example for other young girls looking to break into the modelling industry. It basically tells them that they should just go with what the client wants, regardless of their personal beliefs or whether or not they feel comfortable on set.
According to TV3, "Michaela, Danielle and Amelia all wore adhesive covers for the mud pool shoot. We make every effort to protect the girls' modesty and none of the girls are forced to do anything that they aren't comfortable doing."
While that may be the case, in Michaela's photo her breasts are still clearly visible.
Just noticed that Hannah McArdle over at Aych Blog made mention of this last night – here's the link.
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