Teenagers find celebrities fascinating, whether the personality in question is a rock star, an actor or a supermodel. Teens become heavily exposed to this latter group by the media, through magazines, online fashion websites and television advertisements, so it's little wonder that the look and lifestyle of these supermodels has an impact on the views and lives of teens. The effect supermodels have can alter the behaviour and outlook of young people.
Provide Role Models
Young people look for role models as they grow up. These are people who they can look up to, learn from and sometimes emulate in terms of their attitudes and behaviour. Supermodels can sometimes fill this role for teenagers, becoming figures whom teens view as individuals whose success and lifestyles they can to aspire to. In the case of supermodels, teens may begin to emulate these celebrities by copying the way they dress, buying expensive clothes or changing their fashion style to match the supermodel's.
Thin Is a Goal
Supermodels are almost uniformly thin. Since supermodels are presented to teenagers through the media as beautiful and successful, teens associate the size of the supermodel's body with success in life. In effect, many teens are convinced that being very thin is a goal to aim for, and ultimately, that slim is an ideal, and what a human body should look like to be attractive. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 69 per cent of girls are influenced by the appearance of supermodels in magazines when it comes to their idea of an ideal body shape. Girls may thus experience excessive stress through their attempts to achieve their desired body size, and become unhappy if they are not slim.
For some teens, the need to emulate the appearance of the supermodels they see in magazines and on TV goes beyond simply wearing a certain style of clothing. Some teens want to mimic the look of supermodels so much that their physical efforts to do so are unhealthy. A teen might, for example, develop an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, in an attempt to become slimmer, while other teens may spend thousands of dollars on plastic surgery trying to become what they see as more beautiful.
Some supermodels are overtly sexual in the way in which they dress on catwalks and in advertisements. They may wear low-cut tops or be photographed in revealing underwear, for example. While these images may not be aimed directly at teens --- although sometimes they are --- the effect is that teenagers become attuned to sexual images before they reach adulthood. Some teens may feel that dressing in a sexually provocative manner is normal, and even necessary, if they want to be like their supermodel idols.
- Teenagers Today; Model Behavior: Today's Teens and the Role Models They Choose; Tamar Weiss
- Healthy Place; Eating Disorders: Body Image and Advertising; December 11, 2008
- "Magazine Models Impact Girls' Desire to Lose Weight, Press Release"; American Academy of Pediatrics; 1999
- Smith College: Media and Body Image