From ‘Early exposure’, 13 Nov 2011, article by Natasha Ann Zachariah, Sunday Times
At just 15, student Fiona Fussi has caused quite a stir. Last week, she set tongues wagging when she was photographed in a bikini as she strutted her stuff for the Elite Model Look 2011 competition here in front of an audience of 300. The leggy, 1.76m-tall beauty is quite a bombshell, but Fussi’s win raises questions about whether teenagers should be photographed or doing runways shows in skimpy outfits at their tender age.
…The combination of flesh-baring and young age might be too much to stomach for some parents, such as Ms Christina Ong. The 41-year-old housewife, who has two daughters aged 16 and 14, says of Fussi’s photo: ‘If adults want to model in a bikini, that is their prerogative. But kids in bikinis, where do they go from there? Being in the media limelight, what if they can’t handle the pressure or get forced into doing things they don’t want?’
Another parent of a 13-year-old daughter, Mrs Josephine P. who is in her 30s, says that Fussi may be too young to handle the attention…. ”I wouldn’t favour a 15-year-old girl taking the pressure of such a huge crowd because she’s too young to weigh the consequences of exposing herself. At that tender age, she may not be mature enough to know the value of and protect the integrity of her womanhood.’
Putting 15 year olds through modelling or any form of talent contest as a means of parents living vicariously through their sexy teenage children is fine, as long as all parties involved are agreeable and accept the reality of leery-eyed men thrice Fiona’s age, paedophiles included, saving her pictures into their computers. The fact is Fiona would get the same attention if she were a national swimmer or diver instead of an Elite model, and some would argue both activities require a skill set and discipline that takes months to hone. Flesh-parading oneself in front of an audience may even be seen by some parents as a confidence-building exercise, and even if it didn’t involve skimpy swimwear, we still subject much younger kids to fairy-tale beauty contests which serve no purpose other than feeding narcissistic traits, teaching kids how to strut barely after they’ve learnt how to walk, or how to pout barely after they’ve stopped suckling.
I was amused to find the following events in existence:
- The King and Queen of the Universe pageant: In 2003, our very own Renfred Ng, 12, won ‘Junior King’. Not a title to be scoffed at, obviously. James Cameron’s ‘I am the King of the World’ proclamation after winning an Oscar for Titanic pales in comparison to what these tiny tots are fighting for.
- The Little Miss Universe Singapore and Little Manhunt 2011: You have the chance of becoming a ‘little Manhunt’ winner from 4 years of age, and all you need to qualify is to be a male and of ‘good moral character’. At 4 years old. Technically it should be named ‘Boyhunt’, but that would sound like the title of a gay porno video.
Turning your kids into sex objects is one thing, but inflating their egos by rewarding them for being the most awesome boy or girl in the universe is equally damaging. Telling your future employer that you’ve once modelled for Elite is a plus point anywhere you go, but being an ex King or Queen of the Universe is something only your mummy will be proud of, and a past glory you should never ever bring up at an interview, unless of course, your boss was secretly a King of the Universe himself once and has his sash framed in a hidden corner of his office. Or if he’s Benedict Goh.
The image of Fiona above, a ‘not even barely legal’ teen with a woman’s body, creates a dilemma in the typical male ogler, who isn’t accustomed to budding adolescence packaged in a sexually-charged female figure, toggling between ‘hot babe’ to ‘someone’s little girl’, a cycle of physical infatuation and guilt. Which is what makes Fiona so interesting. A case of ‘growing up too soon’ perhaps, but I’m sure parents would rather their kids get gawked at and earn prize money while at it, perhaps even capture the attention of media moguls and a shot at celebrity, instead of them having random sex with other schoolkids out of boredom and peer pressure. Being a famous model has conferred a stamp of ‘exclusivity’ on Fiona, which means she won’t hook up easily with any run-of-the-mill boy looking for a quickie, and time will tell if she develops the maturity to deal with all this attention while juggling with school.
Parents who are concerned of Fiona’s daring catwalk being an abandonment of ‘integrity of her womanhood’ , making it sound as if cat-walking in a bikini is as bad as prostituting yourself in a Lolita outfit, have obviously never seen what repressed teenagers are posting on Facebook or sexting other boys with these days. Truth is, you don’t even need to own a bikini to have your ‘integrity’ ravaged. Sexualisation is inevitable, and if parents can’t fight it, the likes of the Fussis have figured out how to embrace it tastefully, and lucratively. At least modelling is an actual job; unlike parents fostering a sense of delusional royalty by dressing their girls as Cinderellas or convincing boys that they’re He-Man.