Young models in big controversy | Shanghai Daily

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August 17, 2009

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Young models in big controversy

FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD Li Yuan, who won the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region section of the Miss Asia beauty contest earlier this month, has become a controversial star, with people concerned her effect as a role model will fuel underage modeling.

"My daughter has been modeling for two years. She has won 50 prizes at various model contests, and was the overall winner in 12 of them," said her mother Fan Xuefang.

Neither the single mother nor the girl consider her age an issue in modeling as long as she has the talent. Li said she would try her best to balance her modeling career and school, but would not say if she would go to senior high school next year.

The Miss Asia pageant, which is run by Hong Kong TV broadcaster Asia Television Limited, has brought many famous stars, including Kristy Yeung and Nina Li Chi, into the limelight. It also attracts teenage girls who dream of becoming stars. The three top finalists are signed by ATV.

"The age limit of the preliminary contest in Guangxi was lowered to 14 this year from 16 in previous years," said He Gang, organizer of the regional heat.

"A lower age limit was piloted in Guangxi this year. In other areas, the age limit is still 16. We required minors to show parental permission in writing before they could enter the contest," he said.

He said: "I feel young contenders - those born after 1990 - are very independent. They are willing to go on stage to demonstrate their talent."

But fashion industry experts disagree.

"Underage girls may be tall enough but their immature bodies can't fully convey the charm of clothes. Our company doesn't recruit models younger than 16," said Li Xiaobai, chairman of Xin Silu (New Silk) Model Company, which is the oldest and largest modeling agency in China.

One of the judges in the contest in Guangxi, Sha Xiaofan, a veteran models' agent, said school-age contestants often did not display "culture, knowledge and intelligence."

"As an image ambassador, Miss Asia has to shoulder social responsibilities such as charity activities. A minor does not have adequate knowledge or understanding to take up the role," she said.

Sha said in China many underage models give up schooling after winning modeling or beauty contests.





 

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