The world featured in the newest documentary “Girl Model” features an entire world of people who have decided a model’s life. Except for the actual models themselves. When we first view the casting agents for the Switch agency, they’re lining up groups of incredibly beautiful prepubescent girls with potential to be international models and judging them incredibly harshly. They’re called fat, pigs, and told to go on major diets in spite of the fact most of these young girls could be knocked over with a gust of strong wind at any moment. “Girl Model” explores a world that doesn’t just appreciate youth. It lusts for it.
We’re currently in a state in America where there’s a massive hysteria over our interpretation of pedophilia and what it can be defined as on a case by case basis. Countries are taking measures to put an end to it, and yet barely legal pornography is still a high grosser on the pornography markets. Japan in particular is a place that loves young girls. It has an almost unquenchable appetite for the sexuality of girls barely in their preteens. In one scene young model Nadya is searching for her photos in a local magazine shop only to come across endless magazines of depictions of animated prepubescent girls in compromising positions, all of which are not only considered the norm for the country, but is actually in vogue with audiences. Nadya is one of the many girls that have had their future mapped out for her even before she sets foot in the casting session, and for a thirteen year old girl, she can do nothing more than smile for the cameras and hope for the best.
Nadya is a Siberian villager who spends most of her time in a run down house with her small family spending the day with her grandmother and building upon what will be their dinner for the night. Nadya is unfortunately given the gift of unique beauty and she’s basically been pushed in to becoming a model. Switch has found her to be the right face for their shoot. She’s young and innocence and looks something like a Lolita, which is exactly what Japan is interested in. Meanwhile Nadya’s father has dropped all the weight of the family’s financial future on Nadya whose pay for the modeling will help fix the house and keep the family from going poor. Nadya pretty much has no say in becoming a model and is given a contract where she must travel to Japan and work in some photo shoots that will give her a chance at citizenship in the country and provide her with high pay that will be transferred to her family overseas. The modeling world justifies their treatment of these young girls with a self-righteous often obnoxious sense of altruism where they’re convinced they’re doing these girls good.
One agent even insists he’s saving these girls from poverty and misery, in spite of the fact they’re forced to become sexual object before even approaching their sixteenth birthday. The film shows that the road to success is a tough one and Nadya is given more than her fair share of pressure to succeed. In the first half she finds herself overwhelmed by the city of Japan, and must live in a small apartment with another model, living on almost no food for fear of getting fired from her job and being sent home. Most of “Girl Model” tells of the objectification of this young girl barely out of school who is given the life of an adult well in to her forties and can do nothing but endure, in spite of her alienation from pretty much everyone that surrounds her. “Girl Model” is intent on focusing on the before and after of a life forced in to modeling. Nadya is the girl who may be fractured by her forced entry in to this intense world due to her accidental beauty, while directors Redmond and Sabin spend time with Ashley, an American ex-model who not only loathes her past as a model, but has coincidentally spent almost twenty years scouting models in a business she detests and is filled with corruption. She spends her life in solitude and excess and soaks up her future physically ill at the fact she spent so many years being used for her beauty.
Most of these young girls she absolutely pities and in one eye opening moment describes how most of the audition DVD’s for these pre-teen models eventually make it out in to the underground market never to be seen again. And yet she continues her work every single day because she simply has nothing else. Nadya is very much a young girl who is slowly being convinced the only value she possesses is her beauty, and gets a lesson in the world of high class modeling in a foreign land that is disturbing, often disgusting, and absolutely bleak. But then at the end of the picture you and folks like Ashley realize that the problems with the lust for youthful models reaches farther down than a modeling agency seeking to exploit it and you’re left thinking about the immortal last words of the Roman Polanski film: “Forget it, Jake. It’s China Town.” With a clear cut picture of the “glamour” that comes with the modeling world, “Girl Model” is a stark and often futile portrait of young girls cursed with beauty who can do nothing but use it to elevate themselves above poverty and not fall in to a life of exploitation and sadness.