Friday's child

15th October 1999 at 01:00
Reva Klein on what's like to be I a teenage model

She's blonde and blue-eyed. She's got legs from here to eternity, a neck whose gracefulness would make a swan swoon and cheekbones carved from ivory. She's young and beautiful and she knows it. So does everyone else. She's a teenage model.

Her stunning visage stares out of the fashion pages of weekend supplements and girls' magazines alike. In some of the photographs she is pensive, in others brazen. But whatever her face is doing, it's her body that does it every time. The heady mix of leggy litheness and a few well placed curves was as if designed to arouse envy in girls and something rather different in boys, dads and grandads.

Getting a modelling job has made life terribly exciting but also rather awkward for the 15-year-old GCSE student. To be catapulted into the public arena may be every girl's dream, but that's because they don't know what the consequences are.

Being different, whether it is because you're the only fashion model at school or because poverty has meant that your parents can only afford to buy you naff trainers, can be a painful experience when you're an adolescent. To be the centre of attention can give you a buzz, but to have people's eyes on you all the time when you want to get on with your schoolwork, your friendships, your life, can make you feel like a freak.

Does she really want to be told by a succession of admirers in the cafe at lunchtime that they saw her in the papers last week? Can it be that much fun to be stared at and commented on by other girls wherever she goes? How amusing does she find it when a Year 7 boy accosts her as a dare, watched by a guffawing group of aspirant new lads?

Sure, being young, beautiful and making bucketloads of money is what all her friends say they want. But not at the cost of their right to privacy at school and in the streets, to go where they want to go, wear what they want to wear.

The dust will no doubt settle with time. The model's schoolmates will gradually lose interest in her new status and she can return to being just another good-looking teenage girl.

If not, she runs the risk of retreating from the madding crowds in self-defence. And when that happens, it's not long before she's incurring resentments and jealousies.

Egos are so fragile, especially when you're young. One person's beauty and success can cause torment all around. When the self-esteem of even one person is low, it can create a powerful domino effect running through a class or a year group.

Whether it's the model who feels alienated from school life because of the dichotomies in her world or those around her who are frightened and hurt by the relative power she wields through her physical presence, fame and fortune can be destabilising for everyone. You don't need to be Hugh Grant or Zo Ball to know that.

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