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Elle Gibson is the Cadbury Dream Model Search 2007 winner 

I’m munching on a Cadbury Dream chocolate bar which the major sponsor of the Cadbury Dream Model Search has supplied. (I have been spreading the love by giving away some of the chocolate to friends while I am here.) It was a good night, with Elle Gibson from Whangarei winning the competition, which includes a photo shoot with Lucire on Monday that Hannah Richards is helming. Barry Betham is styling, with Vada doing the hair and Phœnix Cosmetics the . Then she’s off to Sydney for a shoot there. She gets contracts, cash, and more.
   The judging process is confidential though there will be glimpses of it on C4 later this month in a show. I am told that this is July 28 at 7 p.m.
   The girls who didn’t get prizes should not fret. Last year, nine of twelve finalists wound up with contracts. The 12 finalists this year, by all accounts, were even better. I think the same thing will happen with their contracts.
   Choosing a model was very different to choosing Miss Universe New Zealand, which I had to do earlier in 2007. There, it was choosing a beautiful, independent and confident young woman. Here, the criteria, as far as being a member of the was concerned, differed. You’ll have to watch the show on C4 later this month to learn what they are: I have sworn silence on the judging process.
   Elle is 14, and the issue of a ’s youth is dealt with in the next print issue of Lucire in . I met Elle’s Mum and stressed the importance of family in helping her career develop and flourish.
   Chloé Hamer (Lower Hutt) and Kathleen Cooney (Napier) were the first and second runners-up. Shavaugn Ruakere was a fabulous compère and the show was over in around an hour, a good length for 2007’s short attention spans.
   No disrespect meant to the other competitions I have judged at, but this was the best organized I have ever participated in. Caroline Barley and Jo Bell deserve massive applause for their organization and their accommodation of sponsors’ requirements. The Rendezvous Hotel has been fantastic as well, from the moment I walked in the door. As to the DB9 from Independent Prestige: well, what can I say?
   It’s time to send out call sheets for the shoot.
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Jack, don't you think all the high moral grounf you flag as your own is compromised by this.

Can you explain why fashion needs 14 year old models without destroying the fashion matrix?

I hate the idea that we're becoming a society that has been condioned to accept the sexualisation/objectification of people I consider to be children.

I have huge regard for you but can't back you on this one.  
Not really. I was there to do a job—and that job was to find a model of an international standard, with a huge potential future ahead of her. By discussing values with her family, I like to think I have set Elle on a good path. I also trust Nova and Trump as being good, ethical grounds at which Elle can flourish. All modelling, sadly, is objectification to some extent; in addition, I doubt we will see Elle in any compromising jobs, given the calibre of the agencies she is contracted to now.  
Isn't this the sort of thing Mr McGregor was referring to?

"Miles and I had a great time at the Cadbury Dream Model finals, despite not knowing quite where to look when 14-year old girls strutted out in their underwear, says Tim Harper..." (from your press page links).

Finding a model is one thing, putting underage girls in lingerie in public is another surely? Is have to ask too, is this the best face of fashion/modeling? I read that the Independent Model Health Inquiry in London has called for under-16 models to be banned from the catwalk and photoshoots; "It warned that models under 16 were particularly vulnerable in a profession that might ask them to model revealing clothes in sexualized poses. There was a risk of children being sexually exploited when they were made to represent adult women, the report said."

Your thoughts?  
Lulu, I think it’s worth watching the show on the 28th for yourself on C4. The Hey Sister underwear was hardly revealing and you probably know the brand to be more youthful and funky—suitable for teens—than suggestive and sexy.
   In my view, most of the girls were well wrapped up and the garb was suited to their ages. We are not talking La Perla here; the tops and knickers I recall could not ever be seen as sexualizing the models. If Mr Harper in Thread viewed the girls through his lens that way, then it is his perception. From those I have spoken to, it is a minority view; no less valid than yours and mine, but (based on this unscientific sample) not fully representative.
   It is also worth noting that many (most? Not sure without checking) of the girls were over 16. In the interviews I just recall that quite a few were about to start or at uni.
   I should repeat that if the agency and magazine are sensitive—and the agencies involved here are—then the chances of the dangers you point out are miniscule if even non-existent. While I do not deny that there are nonces out there—I have done my share of stories condemning them in the modelling trade and earned a few black marks in the process—I saw nothing in this competition that came anywhere near unethical or amoral.  
Postscript: only one entrant was 14, going on 15.  
I think my comments are more general than specific; whether or not you (or anyone) looks at the entrants with a lascivious eye or not, I guess I find it odd that there is an industry where the public display of underage girls in their underwear is normalized (outside the advertising industry, where I concede you use models from the age-appropriate group, like Hey Sister, to model the product).

Plus there is the issue that these girls are represented by the industry as an idealized form of womanhood to grown women. You say that there was only one 14 yo in the contest, but I think it's very relevant that she was also the winner.  
Your point is valid and worth exploring, Lulu. It is true that (young) models are represented as ideals to grown women; it may be a peripheral issue to me on this thread, but I agree with you. It is an issue that perhaps goes to the core of the fashion industry itself, and lack of consumer acceptance of, well, reality. It is why I said that all modelling is objectification, but I also know that that was not the initial reason either you or David fed in a comment.
   If you don’t mind, I’d like to continue chatting about this on here, especially since you and David have been engaging in an intelligent and reasoned dialogue. Quite a contrast to the sour-grapes comments I saw on one blog after Miss New Zealand.
   I hear what you are saying. At the core (I am assuming), you and David are both saying: can we stop this early sexualization of children; surely it is our (yours, mine) responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves? Surely we should not create images that encourage undesirable behaviour? And, perhaps, I was wrong to have made this decision along with my fellow judges?
   The answer to the first two questions is the affirmative, and of course within my own work I try to have a firm hand on these matters. You are not talking to a brick wall here: I don’t like the idea of 11-year-olds wearing make-up or 15-year-olds considering plastic surgery. I don’t like the idea that a nonce picked up the teen special issue of Pavement last year because he got a kick out of the 13-year-old in there.
   Our own shoot with Elle was done with her youth in mind, while also fulfilling the brief to showcase her as a competition winner, hence our choice of a female photographer who sees eye to eye with us here and a top and highly ethical stylist. (With the weight issue, I was banning too-skinny models from catwalk coverage many years before that became hotly debated. I have not been as firm on age, but then I do not show half-naked 13-year-olds in my publications.)
   Here, we are talking about a competition that was open to 14-year-olds, and I was expected to do a judging job based on the girls’ merit.
   If Elle Gibson had the same abilities and was, say, 16, I venture that she still would have won. Or if (other things being equal and she had developed more) she came back in three years’ time, she would have probably still stood a good chance. So age was not a deciding factor in this case (if I may bring it back to the specific rather than the general).
   I have said more than I was probably permitted and I hope that C4 won’t edit the show to make us look like perverts. Well, at least you got to know more of the story here before it aired, rather than any of us needing to be on the defensive post-broadcast.
   This is my thinking aloud, but there has been a shift toward youthful images in the 20th century. Just when the bar shifted into showing under-15s in this light may deserve investigation, especially as to its root causes.  
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