Furor as 12-year-old girl fronts Australian fashion show

19 September, 2007

The selection of a 12-year-old girl to front one of the world’s biggest fashion shows has created a stir among the media and sparked a fierce debate about the ‘sexualisation’ of children.

The blonde and blue-eyed Maddison Gabriel was picked as the official ambassador of Gold Coast Fashion Week in Australia and has also worn a number of revealing outfits down the catwalk at the event held in Queensland.

Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard himself strongly criticised the decision to make Maddison Gabriel the “star attraction” at the fashion event, saying that it was unacceptable.

John Howard added: “Catapulting girls as young as 12 into something like that is outrageous. There should be age limits, I mean there has to be; we do have to preserve some notion of innocence in our society.” He wants Australia to follow the example of Europe and ban models younger than 16
appearing on catwalks.

Kevin Rudd, Australia’s Opposition leader and a devout Christian whose popularity rose recently following revelations that he once enjoyed a drunken night at a New York strip club, said he had “real concerns about ‘littlies” that young going out there doing that sort of thing.”

Queensland’s Premier Anna Bligh, who was sworn in as the state’s first female leader just two days before the Maddison incident, joined the chorus of anger from advocates of child protection.

Kristy Hinze, a leading Australian model who started her career at the age of 15, described Maddison’s appointment as “awful” and “sick.”

Organisers of Fashion Week parades on the Gold Coast, a stretch of Queensland almost as famous for its bikini-clad women as the beaches on which they lie, claim that they chose Maddison Gabriel as “the face” of the festival unaware that their decision would spark such outrage.

However, Maddison, 5’7” tall, says she believed she deserved to win the modelling competition to become the “face” of the show. “I believe that I can fit into women’s clothes. I can model women’s clothes, so I should be able to do it,” she said.

Maddison Gabriel, who has signed an exclusive media deal and contracted an experienced celebrity agent since the furor broke, insisted that she was not too young and said it was the proportions of her body which were important.

She continued: “I’m really happy. I’m not going to change my dreams. I know I want to be an international model. All this fuss is just silly.”

Michelle Gabriel, Maddison’s mother, sneered at suggestions that Maddison was too young, and demanded an apology from Prime Minister John Howard.

Michelle Gabriel went on, “I believe the Prime Minister is getting very doddery. He does not know exactly what 13 and 14-year-old girls are like. I used to vote for him. We’re trying to get our teenage daughters to act older. I am so happy that I’ve got a daughter who has got a good head on her shoulders.”

Debate about teenage models is a hot topic in the international fashion world, with the British Fashion Council recently releasing recommendations
banning models under 16 from catwalks and photoshoots.





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