Moscow-born Kristina Pimenova has been featured in Roberto Cavalli Junior and Armani Junior campaigns, she has more than two million Facebook fans and 395,000 Instagram followers, and has been called “the prettiest girl in the world.” In the sphere of fashion models who’ve made it big through social media, none of that is particularly shocking.
What is, however, is her age: Pimenova is only nine. Her social media profiles are run by her mother, who consistently posts candid and posed snaps of the girl in various outfits (most of which have a well curated Model Off Duty look). Fully clothed, makeup-free, and arguably “age-appropriate,” the images are still drawing the commenting creeps out of the woodwork, and some are wondering if Pimenova is being exploited by her mother online.
While we think that the stage-mom motivation is the bothersome part — something we disapprove of whether in the form of spray-tanning a pageant toddler or signing a kid up to busk in the subway — the outcry of the sexualization of children that’s come out of this reveals something unfair about what we expect of people born with model-perfect looks.
Despite laws intended to protect young models from some of the harsher aspects of the industry, teenagers regularly pop up on the catwalk and in ads. Miuccia Prada cast a 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld in a 2011 campaign, then used another14-year-old newbie on the runway last season. Cindy Crawford’s look-alike daughter, Kaia Gerber, landed a Versace campaign at age 10, and 12-year-old Romeo Beckham routinely models for Burberry. That’s not to mention the thousands of child models who work to promote children’s labels and brands. But, there’s still a difference here: Despite her age and the fact that she’s only worked for the children’s divisions of these high-fashion brands, she’s still being talked about as if she’s a grown woman.