#1417 Why is NZ’s Next Top Model encouraging 16 year olds to shoot topless?

22 year old Amelia Akiko Nakagawa Gough as shot by Jackie Meiring for New Zealand’s Next Top Model.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: the Top Model franchise is primarily concerned with creating engaging television – finding a real life top model generally comes as an afterthought. In order to create drama, certain things are essential, like the clash of a dozen young girls living in a house, competing against each other to win fame and glory; or the tension that comes with putting young girls into situations outside of their comfort zones. These scenarios can be anything from photo shoots in freezing settings, challenges high above the ground on wires, or, in the case of the most recent New Zealand’s Next Top Model episode, shooting the girls in nothing but underwear. Set in Rotorua, the models’ bikini bottoms and boob-tubes were slathered in mud, however, when it came time for Christchurch schoolgirl Michaela Steenkamp to be shot, no top was provided. The cause of tension for Steenkamp? She’s a Christian. In her words, “I’m a Christian and I don’t think that’s going to stop me from doing a lot of things as long I have a confidence in myself and I have confidence in the Lord.”

The cause of tension for an educated audience? Michaela Steenkamp is only 16 years old.

Nudity is commonplace in the modelling industry – pick up just about any local or international fashion magazine and you’ll see breasts bared for the world to see. Generally speaking though, 18 years old is the minimum age for shoots of this type. Like booker Huia Ngapo recently told me, “If the model is over 18 and experienced, I will consider her doing topless IF I think that the resulting shot will be tasteful, beautiful and beneficial to their portfolio – if these requirements are met and I am satisfied the model will be well taken care of and treated with the utmost care and respect during the shoot then I will allow her to make the final decision herself.”

Steenkamp was clearly a little worried at the thought of being shot nude for the episode, and no booker was on hand to guide her through the process. While this type of tension might make for good television, it certainly does not provide a good example for other young girls looking to break into the modelling industry. It basically tells them that they should just go with what the client wants, regardless of their personal beliefs or whether or not they feel comfortable on set.

According to TV3, “Michaela, Danielle and Amelia all wore adhesive covers for the mud pool shoot. We make every effort to protect the girls’ modesty and none of the girls are forced to do anything that they aren’t comfortable doing.”

While that may be the case, in Michaela’s photo her breasts are still clearly visible.

Just noticed that Hannah McArdle over at Aych Blog made mention of this last night – here’s the link.


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  1. Nada Piatek says

    Thank you Isaac, it is so important that this discussion be had. TV3 ought to fry for this on so many levels, yet sadly it is likely to be precisely for this reaction and publicity that they will have not just allowed, but orchestrated this to happen.

    I appreciate that your voice is well respected and relevant in the industry and hope that as such it will present a platform from which your opinion will spark further dialogue. If TV3 doesn’t reply to your request for comment then TVNZ should grab you!

  2. Olivia says

    Thankyou!! I have found the producers of NZNTM are just out to make money – the modeling always comes second, and it’s not even that great.

    I feel like it’s a cop out to Tyra and ANTM where she actually teaches them life lessons, and says it’s OK to be curvy, its OK to look a little different.

  3. isaaclikes says

    Fair call, LC, I did initially post her photo. And, like I said, I do think Michaela is amazing. On closer reflection though, I felt that it wasn’t an appropriate image and that’s why I took it down.

  4. Kate says

    gotta say, I’m uncomfortable with under 18s being on the show at all. ANTM is over 18, why do we have do get kids involved in our version?

  5. LC says

    “Woah, Michaela is amazing. Perfect body for the job, great face, she’s gotta be final three.” & you chose to post her topless photo. Yes, I realise you have changed it now. Finding this a bit contradictory.

  6. ponderrr says

    People just forget about age when it comes to modelling sometimes! I have a 16 year old friend who is from the USA who came here for two months for Nova and she prancing around in lingerie in Jay Williams music video? Just because she looks older doesn’t mean she can. And in a way I feel she’s being exploited here since people don’t know who she is. Like when Zippora had that topless shoot last year I think EVERYONE made a big deal because she was known. Maybe we should pay attention to age more?

  7. Nope says

    “Why is NZ’s Next Top Model encouraging 16 year olds to shoot topless?”

    Just to give you and others something to get your knickers in a bunch about! LOL!

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