Farrah Abraham, who shot to fame for starring in the reality TV shows 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom and stayed in the spotlight after having multiple plastic surgery procedures and doing a sex tape with porn star James Deen (which she claimed had been “leaked”), is facing major backlash for having her 7-year-old daughter, Sophia, model bikinis for a clothing line.
This is not the first time Abraham has comes under fire for her parenting style. In 2014, she shared her daughter’s school photo on Instagram and users took her to task for putting makeup on her then-6-year-old daughter. But on June 18, when Abraham shared a behind-the-scenes look at her child’s bikini photo shoot on Instagram, it was met with some particularly harsh criticism — including accusations that the 25-year-old mom was “sexualizing” her daughter.
“Disgusting!” commented Instagram user ellese. “I [won’t] let my daughters wear a bikini anyway! She’ll be conscious of her size/weight/figure by now and she’s only a baby! Well done for ruining your daughter’s childhood.” User senwisdom went as far as suggesting that child protective services should step in: “When will child services get involved and take her child away for her sexualizing her in this manner???” Spoonfullofpositivity commented, “Worst mother of the year goes to…@farrah__abraham.”
But other Instagram users said they didn’t see what the big deal was. “I have [an] 11 year old and a 7 year old,” commented user crystal_newbrough. “They are both girls and when they are in beautiful dresses and out swimming at the lake I think, ‘Wow, my children are so beautiful. I need to take a pic to remember this very day and moment.’ I can’t blame Farrah for wanting to remember how wonderful being a mom can be.” Other users pointed out that children model kids’ clothes, including swimsuits. “And can I just add this as well,” wrote user laurensummerrr. “Who do you think models your kids clothes? Kids do, not adults…it’s no different so get off your high horse and stop being stupid and mean.”
But how harmful is it to model at such a young age? Some experts say that focusing so much on a child’s appearance can negatively affect her self-esteem down the road. “The use of self-focusing stimuli, a mirror, a picture, a camera … anything that induces awareness for others [makes] you start thinking about who you are, and you think about your shortcomings,” Alain Morin, an associate psychology professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, told Today. “When people are exceedingly self-focused, they self-critique a lot and feel bad a lot.”
If modeling is something Abraham plans on encouraging her daughter to pursue, Sara Ziff, who started modeling at age 14 and is the founder and executive director of Model Alliance — which is dedicated to extending labor protection laws to child models — warns of the dangers of the industry and the toll it can take on young kids. “It’s a grown-up industry with grown-up pressures,” Ziff told CNN. “While I don’t think there’s any harm in doing the odd modeling job for a Macy’s catalog, too often we see child models who are being catapulted into working as adults. And they don’t have the maturity to handle those situations.”