Back in 2011, 10-year-old Thylane Blondeau unwittingly became the center of a controversy surrounding the ethics behind child modeling. Despite not even being in her teens, Thylane’s distinctive appearance led to her being branded “the most beautiful girl in the world” by publications across the globe, eventually landing her one of the most controversial fashion photo shoots ever for an editorial in the magazine Vogue Paris.
Thylane’s appearance in Vogue Paris, wearing copious amounts of makeup and dressed in towering heels and short dresses, led many to criticize the publication for having a child take part in a shoot typically reserved for women twice her age, with the magazine condemned for “sexualizing” the young girl. Many began claiming that the photos were exploitative, with Thylane’s parents facing criticism for allowing their daughter to pose for photo shoots that could be interpreted as provocative, leading to coverage from the likes of Good Morning America and ABC News.
An article published by Nouvel Observateur back in August 2011 placed a focus upon Thylane’s mother, reality TV contestant and fashion designer Véronika Loubry, who reportedly said of the Vogue Paris photoshoot: “I understand that this could seem shocking. I admit I myself was shocked during the photo shoot. But let me be precise: the only thing that shocked me is that the necklace she wore was worth €3 million!”
But Thylane’s Vogue Paris shoot was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to the debate surrounding the pre-teen. As described by Jezebel, more controversial images of Thylane existed online — including one in which she is shown to be topless, wearing beads that cover her otherwise nude upper body — though news broadcasters were unable to feature them on TV as a result of them being difficult to credit. Jezebel wrote in its 2011 post on Thylane: “It’s not that the news networks don’t realize that these are seven-month-old pictures (that garnered a good deal of attention back when they were published): it’s that a lot of Thylane’s other modeling photos are difficult to credit. It’s a matter of copyright. Though these pictures circulate widely online, and are clearly professional pictures from magazines like Vogue Enfants, exact information about who shot them and for which issue is hard to come by. And nobody wants to get sued.”
Despite the mounting criticisms surrounding Thylane’s fledgling career around this point, she and her parents persisted and she continues to model to this day. Although she’s still only 15, she has now spent 11 years in the modeling industry, after first appearing on the runway for Jean Paul Gaultier at the age of four.
The French model has now become an “It girl” of sorts, rubbing shoulders with celebrities and prominent figureheads in the fashion world alike, alongside appearing at various high-profile events in her home country. Thylane is now backed by the agencies WME and IMG.
As is the case with any teen standing on the periphery of celebrity, Thylane also boasts an expansive online following, with 874,000 followers on Instagram.
In an interview with Teen Vogue magazine back in 2015, Thylane described her attitude to having been thrust into the modeling world at such a young age, saying: “Well, Kate Moss started modeling at the age of 15, and that was a little while ago. So no. I’m not too young. If you have a good agency and people who take care of you…it’s perfect.”