If Victoria's Secret model Ana Beatriz Barros could begin her career anew, she would not have started when she was 14 years old. "I was way too young. I was a baby. I think people should wait until girls are 18 maybe," the 29-year-old told us at the Juicy Couture store last night, where she celebrated Fashion's Night Out. "I think first they should go to school and then study as much as you can." This season, the CFDA has encouraged designers not to hire models who are under the age of 16. "I think 16 to begin with is too young," continued Barros, who still gets plenty of work as she nears 30. "Today you cannot sell a cream for the women in their forties with a 15-year-old."
Ruby Aldrige, the 22-year-old face of Valentino, also wishes she hadn't started her career at the age of 14. "I left school — I graduated early, when I was 16 years old. I had to put in so much work in order to graduate early. I should have stayed in school," she says. "Sixteen is even so young, you know? You get pushed into this world and it’s so fast paced, and it's very adult, and you want to fit in, so it's hard. Those years are important. Then again, 18 sounds — not old, when I say it, but I’m thinking of models and most of them are much younger than 18." Aldridge advises young models to stay in school longer rather than graduate early: "Those are crucial years."
Annemarieke van Drimmelen, a model turned photographer who now shoots for Vogue, believes the 14- and 15-year-old models aren't the majority of girls booking work. Van Drimmelen, who started modeling at 21, was exhibiting some of her work at the W Times Square last night, including shots of Saskia de Brauw, who is in her thirties. She thinks women "become more interesting" when they are older.
Down at the MAC store in Soho, Beth Ditto offered her non-model perspective: "It can’t be hard to find a model who is over 16. Why is that a problem? Come on, I don’t get it," she said, wondering why brands hire models who are so young. "Are you doing it because they’re flat-chested? Are you doing it because they don’t have hips? Are you doing it for that reason? It’s a really big deal, and that’s the question you should be asking. It’s a child labor issue, but I don’t know. I think I would rather be a model at 14 than work at a Subway, which I had to do. So it just depends on the person and the image and the intention. I don’t know. I have to really think about it."
"But what’s the big deal? There are plenty of women who are anorexic and over 16," she kidded. "But I feel bad because the thing people forget is why that’s there. But whatever. I’ll probably go home and kick myself later for not answering this the way I wanted to. I will think about it. I don’t think you should base your image on something completely unattainable. And it isn’t unattainable for some people — some people look that way — but it’s unfair."
Yet, "There is a market for everybody," said Barros, who considers herself "curvy." "You have the curvy ones and the skinny ones. Also the girls — people don’t understand, they are the way they are. Sometimes they are really skinny, but they are skinny naturally. People say, 'Oh, this is anorexia,' but it's not. I know so many girls, they were born that shape."
With reporting by Jennifer Vineyard