British baby-clothing brand My1st Years has offered Harper Beckham, 9-month-old daughter of Victoria and David Beckham, her first modeling contract. Incredibly, the company sent a letter directly addressed to Harper, saying: "Both your parents are fashion icons, and we can see no reason why you shouldn't start your own career in the fashion industry, even at your young age."
The world of child modeling is a lucrative business, particularly for the hundreds of celebrity children who are pushed into the spotlight from birth. Tom and Katie Cruise, The Beckhams, and Brangelina are all celebrity couples whose children have become instantaneously famous. However, unlike their celebrity parents, these children have had fame thrust upon them without their will or consent.
The letter addressed to Harper Beckham noted that "due to child labor laws," they could obviously not negotiate a contract directly with her. “However, we are prepared to pay you a significant amount to be the face of our new range," explained My1stYears spokesman.
The sheer absurdity of addressing a 9 month-old child as a professional adult arguably says more about the company involved than it does about the Beckhams and their celebrity status. Even more worryingly, after news of the potential contract broke, My1stYears was inundated with requests from ordinary parents exclaiming that ‘my child is much cuter than Harper Beckham’ and should be offered the modeling contract instead. It seems that in our celebrity-obsessed world, every parent is yearning for a taste of fame for their child.
What about the phenomenon of celebrities selling photos of their babies to the tabloids? Christina Aguilera was paid $1.5 million by People magazine for exclusive shots of her son Max when he was just weeks old and Jennifer Lopez reportedly sold pictures of her twins to the same magazine for a staggering $6 million.
While this may not hurt the child directly, it is exploitative, using children for profit.Using a baby's image for commercial gain and splashing this photo across the Internet makes these children a topic of conversation amongst tabloid readers, without their knowledge or consent.
There’s also a growing attempt by many celebrities to go as far as turning their children into fully-fledged brands. Jay Z and Beyoncé have reportedly just filed an application to trademark the name of their daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. If the application goes through, the couple will legally be allowed to use the name as a means of endorsement, publicizing everything from clothing to fragrances. So will Beyoncé and Jay Z now cave to offers, currently reported to be as high as $15 million, for the first pictures of Blue Ivy?
The problems is knowing where to draw the line on this issue. With the growing popularity of child beauty pageants and celebrity culture, we are in danger of the early sexualization of children. And the messages instilled in young people when they are taught to be body and fashion conscious from such an early age will undoubtedly lead to a life-long obsession with image and popularity.