In a recession, even infants have to pay their own way. Or, at least, more and more parents hope they’ll be able to. Child modeling agencies have reported a 100 percent increase in applications over the last year. And Web sites like Baby Modeling Secrets are springing up throughout the blogosphere, claiming they can instruct parents on how to turn their children into “baby model superstars.”
Before I get holier-than-thou about this trend (which I will, don’t you worry), I’ll say that I understand parents’ temptation to put away some college money for their kids. Legally, parents cannot access baby modeling money unless they want to pay excessive taxes on it. If your child loves to smile for the camera, it could be tempting to send a few snapshots to modeling agencies, in hopes of bettering your child’s future.
But as journalist Damon Syson readily points out, baby modeling just ain’t worth it. And he’s speaking from personal experience. Looking back on his attempts to make some future traveling and education money for his daughter, Syson recalls the discomfort of watching makeup artists apply coverup to his baby’s cheeks; the stress of trying to get Ava to stop crying, lest the photographer replace her with one of the many “extra” babies on hand; the sadness of watching her stare forlornly up at him during a shoot, clearly just wanting to be held.
And then there were the really disturbing moments, like when Syson found out that a photographer had glued babies’ diapers to the floor to get them to stay still while the moms were waiting in the other room.
Perhaps even more disturbingly, I don’t think that the push to turn babies into stars is wholly related to money. Even top baby models make less than $4,000 a year–hardly enough money to justify long car and train rides with crying babies, the stress of trying to get your baby to “perform” for the camera, and the forever knowledge that you allowed your baby’s diaper to be glued to the floor.
So, the sad fact is, seeking baby model stardom is at least as much about vanity as it is about creating a rainy day fund for your child. Looking back on his motivations for getting his daughter into modeling, Syson admits, “We wanted to show off our gorgeous baby (and, it follows, our exceptional genes). Of course, everyone considers their new baby gorgeous. But when John Lewis is paying for them to be photographed, it is proof that they are.”
And in this age of reality TV stars and personal family photos blasted across the World Wide Web, more and more parents are likely to think their child could be the next big star.
This thinking is all too clear from a Facebook group called Hire this Baby!, which shows that pushing your baby into the limelight is certain to cause parents to relate to their kids disproportionately through appearance. As one member of the Facebook group wrote about her baby’s first solid foods, “She is not too sure about them yet. Food on the face photos, though are always a classic!”
I’m certain that when this baby is old enough to think for herself, she will have nothing but gratitude that her mother was not only preoccupied with her looks during her first solid meal, but that she chose to share those looks with strangers everywhere.
Photo: Times Online