Underage girls working in the fashion industry isn’t new. But after years of consciously discouraging the sexualization of young girls and promoting fair treatment and healthy lifestyles for minors, it comes as a bit of a shock that Kristina Pimenova is being dubbed the “most beautiful girl in the world” at just eight years old.
Born in 2005 in Moscow, Russia, Pimenova started modeling at the age of three, scoring contracts with Armani, Benetton, Fendi, and Roberto Cavalli’s children’s lines. She landed the cover of Vogue Bambini, her Facebook fan page has more than 2 million likes, and her Instagram handle, which is managed by her mother, has 416,000 followers.
Of course, children have always worked as models, but Pimenova’s case is especially disconcerting thanks to her massive social media following, which opens her up to trolling on an international scale. Many commenters have called her a “babe,” “flawless,” and are even making remarks on her long legs and other body parts. Not even old enough to walk down the aisle, Pimenova has even received marriage proposals.
But Pimenova, and more specifically her mother, Glikeriya Shirokova, who is also a model, has come under fire following recent media attention. “My child would never ever ever ever ever wear shorts this tight and small—ever,” one Instagram user wrote. Another said, “Parents like you are the reason why girls grow up to have many issues… also there are so many sick people out [there] that look at these in sexual ways.” One even called the provocative photos a “pedophile’s dream.”
In response to the criticism, Shirkova told MailOnline: “You must think like a pedophile in order to see something sexual in these pictures, so it is time for you to see a doctor.” She insists that all the photographs are completely innocent and despite claims that she’s exploiting her daughter’s beauty for personal gain, she insists the problem is with people who have their own personal and possibly psychological issues. “I do not accept those accusations about sexualization of my child,” she said.
The debate over how young is too young will never end. Brooke Shields’s Calvin Kleins commercial in 1980 at the age of 13 might have kicked off the conversation — at just 15, she suggestively asked, “You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” — but Angelina Jolie and Liv Tyler both started modeling at 14, and Cameron Diaz and Charlize Theron at 16.
Dannielynn Birkhead for Guess. Photo: Guess
More recently, despite standards put in place from organizations like the Council of Fashion Designers of America to discourage the industry from using younger models, children still appear in unnecessarily seductive positions. Dannielynn Birkhead made her debut as the Guess Kids Girl at just 6. Maddie Ziegler, the dance phenom who appeared in Sia’s recent hit music video “Chandelier,” has started to pursue a modeling career post-Dance Moms. Kaia Gerber, Cindy Crawford’s daughter, became the face of Versace’s kids line at 11. Each of these young girls have been the subject of backlash related to their appearances and beauty pageants — which have been around forever — exist strictly to critique little girls’ looks.
“The most common worries are that girls will learn to view themselves as sex objects, or that girls will develop anxieties when they fail to meet popular standards of beauty,” Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., writes on her website Parenting Science. The psychologist questions whether media images of sexualized girls change the way society views children and if children appearing in vulnerable positions make viewers more likely to believe to believe that young girls are willing participants in sexual activity.
But for some reason the same criticism doesn’t come down on boys. Hudson Kroenig has appeared in Chanel campaigns and walked in multiple runway shows and he just started kindergarten. Romeo Beckham is the face of Burberry and the commentary surrounding his appointment was met with giddiness and plaudits for the cute choice. Just one more double standard that starts at an impossibly young age.