I have two beautiful daughters. My youngest is just over six months old. Everyone who sees her asks if we’ve considered getting her into baby modelling. So after hearing the suggestion countless times, we decided to give it a try.
My wife and I are both creatives, as anyone who reads my
rare occasional posts will know. Naturally we want our little one to be creative as well. (In my reoccurring nightmare I award her a bonus for finding me a new tax loophole).
The decision: I guess a part of us hoped that baby modelling would act as an introduction to the creative industries. In reality that makes no sense, as she’d be unlikely to remember any of it by the time she’s old enough to make any career decisions…unless of course we had her modelling for many years, which I fear would require the kind of selfish tenacity that is a little too close to pageant-parenting for me to stomach.
We also hid our now apparent selfishness behind the old chestnut of “the money going towards her future.” I think in reality we thought it could be interesting [for us] and we’d get some nice photographs of her for FREE.
So we sent an email with some pics to one of the most reputable agencies in Denmark. The very next morning (yes, those words were typed with a little smugness) they replied asking us to bring her in with a ‘selection of on-trend outfits’…okay (???).
Before I go on, let’s explore that smugness a little: what is it based on? My daughter’s beauty. How superficial is that?
In all objectivity, (as objective as a parent can be about their offspring) she’s bright and very advanced for her age. I think she’s going to do great things. But in the context of this agency’s eager response, I can only really be smug about her looks. They haven’t replied with haste because of her motor, social, speech and cognitive abilities…they just think she looks cute. And I, being a dad who hopes to bring his daughter up to value more than just looks, laps it up. Hmm.
Anyway, we arrive for our appointment at their surprisingly small but beautiful office, and something instantly feels weird.
Staff members come up to her and interact in a way that feels…well, odd. Maybe I’m looking for it, in reaction to my uneasy feeling, but they seem to be eyeing her up, much like how I imagine a car salesman examines a new saloon.
Not that it is at the fore. No, it’s tucked safely behind the usual oohs and aahs and the odd “I think she looks more like you.” But nevertheless it’s there – in their prolonged stares. They’re watching her; seeing how she behaves – taking mental notes.
One over-caffeinated woman comes over and ruffles her hair, in a manner that’s more ‘Vidal Sassoon’ than “aren’t you cute”. By now we’re already feeling weird about the whole thing. We don’t say it. The office is too small for discretion, but we can sense it on each other, the way people who’ve lived together for years can.
After some minutes, we’re introduced to the owner and told to lay out the clothing on a table – a table small enough to take only five items. My wife has chosen about 23. She precariously arranges her overlaid selections and we wait – for what we assume will be an in-house style guru. I imagine him tutting, while pulling out knitwear from behind squinted eyes and jazz hands, as a pubescent intern mops sweat from his glistening brow.
In fact, the owner simply returns, chooses a top and bottoms and hands them over, asking us to dress her. We do and wait.
Some more minutes later, we’re invited into a broom cupboard of a room. Without warning another chirpy young employee pulls out a brush and proceeds to apply blusher to my presently five and a half month old daughter. “Are you having a laugh?” I ask. In times of anger, my mind’s voice clicks into either business English, cockney or Jamaican Patois. Today is cockney.
I say mind’s voice because I actually say nothing. We sit there and let this woman put adult makeup on our daughter. I assume it’s adult, as I don’t think Max Factor has a line for the under 1s yet…
“Time waits for no one. But you can press pause on your baby’s youthful appearance with…”
I digress. Looking back, I can only put our silence down to shock and sheer disbelief. It’s over before we have a chance to snap out of it. Perhaps our faces object on our mind’s behalf, as she applies only two light and very timid brush strokes, before sheepishly inviting us back to the waiting area.
After some more waiting and height measuring, we’re asked into the studio (a bigger cupboard). Well my wife is asked, as only one parent can go in. I collect the surplus clothing and leave to sit in the car.
Ten or so minutes later my wife returns – daughter in hand. She looks at me and we almost simultaneously say we’re not letting our little girl do it. My wife tells me that the co-owner/photographer said they want her on their books, but warned that we needed to work on getting her to sit still and that she stares too much. (???)
So what did the experience teach me?
I think my strongest feeling was one of disgust and compromise. I felt as though I’d stuck a barcode on my daughter, given her over as a product, and in so doing, had erased some of the tacit rules of engagement that I expect of those who interact with her. I had given these complete strangers the authority to pass judgement on my daughter. Judgements and actions that wouldn’t be appropriate in any other scenario. And all in exchange for money. Put simply, I felt like I’d pimped her out.
Would I advise you to avoid it?
No. At the end of the day, I doubt that the above account is a typical experience. Perhaps they need to refer back to their manual. Perhaps we’re over sensitive. Who knows? No, I’d say try it, but be brutally honest about your reasons before going, and don’t allow those reasons to cloud your judgement when you’re there.
Returning to my reasons, I think I’d have to add that a small part of me thinks my girl is incredible, and liked the idea of other people seeing it too.
Hmm. That sound is me swallowing a very bitter pill.