Teen Modeling Sites

Over the last year or so there’s been a big new wave of teenage modeling sites, many of which may have gotten their push from a recent network television special on the topic, which was largely negative and gave the impression that this phenomenon is borderline pornography.

By the strictest definition this isn’t true. These sites are suggestive, that is obvious, especially from the teasers which always show girls between the age of 10 and 16 in skimpy bathing suits. One, however, only needs to look closely at the J.C. Penny insert in your Sunday newspaper stuffing section to find a color catalog that includes pictures of girls from the age of 6 and up in bathing suits.

As one teenager (whose mother won't let her be photographed in swim suits) told me, “older guys see more of you at the beach in a bikini than they would in print.” Which is true! Girls in the pictures are almost never shown from the backside nor do you see them getting up from a towel after sunbathing. At a beach guys get a far bigger eyeful and for free. There is, however, a stigma of pandering to pedophilia associated with doing shots that show too much skin of a girl under 18 years of age.

There is currently a massive need for a “new Britney” according to experts in the "teen advertising industry," but young pre-teens, teens, their parents and many promoters don’t want to see overt sexuality or have the next "role models" appealing to adults. There is some definite backwash from the recent “teen craze” idols and some of the criticism for their being “too sexy” is actually coming from 14 year old girls who want respect, not drooling voyeurs.

Many of the commercial teenage sites are simply that. They are often voyeur sites for adults, who are basically the only people who have credit cards to pay the fees required for full site access or to buy the CD disks of photos. These are commercial venues pandering largely to adult males with Pay Pal accounts or credit cards.

The next logical thing we have to realize is that voyeurism is: What sells books and magazines? Why else do they put a pretty girl with large breasts on their covers! How well would Cosmopolitan sell if it had a flat, blue cover, no picture and just the titles of each article? Would they sell a romance novel as readily with a plain white cover or do those pictures of that handsome "I can't beleive it's not butter" guy help to bolster sales? The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, of course, is one of the largest selling magazine issue around. That issue sells out, while one with a male basketball player on the cover gets a few returns to the distributor at the end of the month!

In the real world a teenager has a tough time breaking into modeling, largely because of the work rules which apply until they reach 18 years of age. In New York, for example, you have to get a special permit from your school which must be carried with the girl and signed by each employer. The work rules limit the teen to 4 hours per day during school days and only after school. On the weekend they can work a full 8 hour day.

One has to remember that one of the ideas of mandatory education is to make you smart, so you fit into the workplace. If a 15 year old is already making $500 a day modeling and the work rules make it overly difficult for them to get work (which is paying more in one day than some teachers make in a 40 hour week) you are hurting that child’s commerce and income potential. Their income also will help with the cost of college and many teenagers can't go to a good college because they afford the tuition! Let a teen model save up $20,000 from work and you can get a BA anywhere.

The teenage modeling sites, however, get around most of these rule legally. There is no on the spot commerce involved. It is no more a professional shooting session than would be a family portrait taken at Sears for $15 with a free 8 x 10. No money is (or should be) paid for the photo sessions. Parents are generally around to supervise. The girls are basically just fooling around and having fun while someone snaps a camera shutter. The commerce comes from the web sites and CD disk sales which is run by an adult. These are sometimes profit sharing situation.

In the case of Cindymodel photographer Curt Newbury, on that network TV special he claimed the web site was or in short order would be making anywhere from $20,000 a year to $40,000 a year. One question that remains unclear is how much does “Cindy” get? If it’s at least a 50/50 split then she’s doing better than many commercial models or actors, especially considering he’s doing all the hard work of taking pictures, making a web site and collecting the money. If, however, there are padded costs (friends who do this and that for large fees – in the medical profession that’s called fee splitting and it’s illegal, that’s where you doctor brings in a friend as a consultant instead of sending you to a disinterested 3rd party). If this is the case we will eventually see a “Teen-age model” lawsuit against some site owner for doing what is typical in Hollywood, creative bookkeeping designed to never show net profits!

Newbury is actually quite a good photographer and more often than not his young models are far more clothed than are some of the other teen models at other sites (but he does do shorts and swim suit shots). He, in fact, offers his services and that of a 14 year old model to any business in their area for $150 a session. That flat fee includes rights to use the pictures commercially and that's a deal!

Most commercial photographers generally charge $500 just to click the shutter. A union model makes $150 an hour minimum. These are low ball rates but motion picture extras can make as little as $30 for a full 8 day on the set. After film and processing costs (although they might use a digital camera which costs nothing to use) they might each make $50 for a lot less work as it might only take 4 hours to do the shoot. That would be $12.50 an hour each, which is more than twice as much as any 14 year old girl would make stocking shelves at K-Mart, if K-Mart would give a girl that young a job (which is legal in many states with a work permit). But, the verdict is still out on how much these girls are making in profit sharing. One day if we see court cases we may find out just how much exploitation went on in these teen sites, then again the girls may grow up and endorse them as being fantastic!

Some girls own and operate their own sites. For as little as $72 you can get your own dot com web site. If you have a bank account you can start a Pay Pal account. One 15 year old girl does internet chats with people on a pay per minute basis, just like the telephone psychics or sex lines. She is bringing in roughly $2,000 a month, with no nudity at her site, although she probably does have some pictures in skimpy clothes and one has no idea what she’s really chatting about over the internet. Anyone who has ever paid the 900 number fees (something over $1,000 a month just to get these pay per minute lines) and waited for ages to get an available number is green with envy over a 15 year old girl who is making $24,000 a year and spending under $200 to make it! That’s capitalism in action! There are also no legal regulations for home-based teenage businesses.

One of the first teenage entrepreneurs operating a strict site was Ashely Powers of goosehead.com, which is a true teenage site that has stories, funny little digital video movies and generated her a book deal with major publisher. It also brought in money, although in her case a lot of that money was from pay per click or pay per impression internet banner advertising. It is almost impossible to make money that way unless you bring in a lot of people, in fact you generally need to have a million hits a year to even qualify for these programs. Goosehead, however, was not a teenage modeling site, charged no fees to get in and was aimed at largely teenage kids. You never saw Ashely in a bikini, although she did have a picture of her face first thing in the morning before the make-up went on!

Most, if not all of these sites, keep the true name and location of the girls very private and as a rule you don't get easily, direct e-mail access to the girls. You either have to pay them up front or go through the webmaster who is the operator of the site in most instances.

There is a downside to many of these teenage modeling sites. Some contests, such as American Idol and possibly Miss America, may disqualify you from participation due to this type of exposure. There have already been cases where male models over the age of 18 who were shown in underwear got thrown out of contests, as were girls who posed in bikinis.

Will any of these girls become real, true, big-time models? Probably not. The industry is very fickle. Some might be able to continue with a commercial career on a smaller level, but it won’t be the same after they get older as it was when they were 14. Men are less likely to pay to see 18 year old girls in a bikini than they are to see 14 year old girls. That is where the taint of "pornography” comes in from mainstream or ultra right factions who feel there is less exploitation to pay a girl $5 an hour to stock pampers than $100 an hour to pose in a bikini.

For all of these girls now - especially those actually making some money off these sites and CDs - this may be the biggest, most important moment in their lives. Many will just grow up, get married, have kids and talk about the days when they made money modeling. Some are getting a degree of fame, they have clubs with hundreds or thousands of members and fans. They get letters sent to the site owner which are sometimes screened and passed on to the models. The network television special gave a few them major exposure and a buzz which probably re-set most of their web page hit counters because all the extra visitors generated by that show spun it around! To a degree they have succeeded at what they set out to do in life, even though they aren’t yet on the cover of Seventeen or Cosmopolitan, but of course the chances of any model getting one of those jobs is astronomical. If these girls are making $5,000 or more, then they are probably doing better than the “average” print model with far less overhead and work.

The sites, themselves, are not much different than profession model “official” sites, except for the commercial aspect. You don’t have to pay a “Kathy Ireland” $100 to get access to her site, but you do get to see her in skimpy clothes and even a bikini, but she is also over 18 so it is more “PC.”

When you consider that there are girls over 18 paying some companies upwards to $800 a year to post their modeling pictures and it is unsure if they will ever see one dollar in return from that investment, these teen mode site girls may be getting a decent deal so long as they are not exploited, pushed by their families to do the work against their will or deprived of the “normal” life of being a kid, which includes harassment from fellow students at school, jeers from those who aren’t doing what you’re doing or can’t do it and teenage boys with overactive glands.

One teenager I know complained that boys regular grab her backside at school, a process well-known as “getting a little.” Which is something that the older paying guys who frequent these teenage modeling sites are not able to obtain in the "virtual world" of the internet. Most teenage girls who get made pregnant before age 18 are often made pregnant by teenage boys. Most of these boys are never charged under the “statutory rape laws” and never spend a day in juvenile hall. The girls then end up on the welfare rolls, sometimes for most of their lives.

These teenage modeling sites, on the other hand, may be generating money for some of the girls, so they are not just "getting paid to make babies." In some cases these underage girls are paying taxes because they make so much money! They are working at what they’d like to do in life right now. Some are succeeding and possibly making money, some are not. That is a way of life in business. They are not showing anything more in their pictures than you would see in any magazine, including those which feature models who are 17 years old or clothing models who are as young as age 6 or 7.

The big thing to watch out for, as it is with any aspect for anyone in modeling or acting, is not getting ripped off. There should be no up front, astronomical fees. In fact there should be no fees at all. The photo sessions should be free. The costs deducted from the gross income should be reasonable, not padded, inflated and spread around a bunch of people out to make a quick buck totally exploiting a teenage girl and her parents.

The parents should not be ripping the teenager off, either. A good portion of their income should be saved away for the future when the teenage modeling money eventually dries up, as this is a fad and one based largely on the young age of the girl in the pictures.

Our Model and Acting Special Issues Continues With...

What you Need | Life On The Set As An Actor | Talent Scouts, Junkets, Model Schools
The Model Release | Breaking Into Acting | Extra Work in TV and Movies | Teen Modeling Sites
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