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OPINION: Why labelling a 5-year-old girl the "most beautiful" in the world is problematic
We're not denying that this little girl could very well be the "most beautiful" girl in the world – she's stunning! But placing so much weight on the way she looks, at just 5 years old, can be psychologically damaging.
Jare Ijalana, photographed by Mofe Bamuyiwa. (Instagram)
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Photographer Mofe Bamuyiwa recently posted a series of portraits of one undeniably beautiful little girl on her Instagram page. Since then the series has garnered over 50 000 likes and Jare Ijalana, the 5-year-old Nigerian model, has been labelled the world’s “most beautiful” girl.

Oh yes she’s human ! She’s also an angel ! “J A R E “ I want to portray the interception between her childhood and adulthood so both stay timeless ! I could have made her smile and make her laugh out loud but I put her in their natural moments for us to see through their eyes ! Posing them as adults ! Was my trick to create it a timeless portrait ! J A R E , when you clock 21 remember to do same pose and style TEAM Muse : @the_j3_sisters Make up by Dammy of @iposhlooks Creative style direction @mofebamuyiwa Hair by @totalshopwigs Hair styled by @hairkarved Styled by @styledbyseun Assisted by @adebimpe_aj @ernest_chuxx @official_bigjosh #bmbstudio #bmbphotography #mofebamuyiwa #kids #kidsphotography #artsy #love #light #childphotographer #familyphotography

A post shared by BMBSTUDIO (@mofebamuyiwa) on

Bamuyiwa said of the little girl, “Oh yes she’s human! She’s also an angel!” and commented, on the portraits, “I want to portray the interception between her childhood and adulthood so both stay timeless!”

She continued, “I could have made her smile and make her laugh out loud but I prefer her in their natural moments for us to see through their eyes. Posing them as adults was my trick to create it a timeless portrait.

“Jare, when you clock 21 remember to do same pose and style,” she concluded.

The internet praised the portraits and commented that Jare “looks like a doll”, makes the “perfect picture” and could easily be the “new Naomi” – Campbell, we assume. And admittedly, we see it too.

Her beautiful black skin is flawless and so is every feature of her face, including her piercing eyes. Her gorgeous hair falls perfectly on her dainty frame, while she’s posed so elegantly – so classic. Her portraits are powerful and she is so breathtakingly beautiful she could very well be the "most beautiful" girl in the world.

But remove the fact that I’m talking about a model, for just a second, and remember that Jare Ijalana is a 5-year-old girl. Now read that back.

Did that description make you cringe?

Are you crawling in your skin? 

Did it make you feel slightly concerned, even, ashamed?

Because personally, I don’t think we should be describing her in this way, and we definitely shouldn’t be setting a standard for her, and every other girl out there, based on the way they look.

So the following argument has nothing to do with Jare, specifically – I'm not denying her beauty and that such beauty deserves to be seen – but it has everything to do with her age.

1. The pressure

It's problematic to be cataloging Jare as such, because we're putting way too much weight on her being beautiful, and at such a young age.

Jare is striking, but that’s not all she is or all she’s going to be. She might be a model, but she could also be the artist herself, she could be a writer or study science, technology, engineering or maths. She could completely transform the STEM fields, but you’re limiting her potential to the way she looks.

Every time we hold girls and women to this standard, I think of the following quote by poet and writer Rupi Kaur, and suggest we should say to our girls, "I think you are resilient and extraordinary, and not because I don’t think you’re pretty but because you are so much more than that”.

A post shared by rupi kaur (@rupikaur_) on

Also consider the impact that running up and down to photo shoots and screenings might have on a child who is constantly trying to be the prettiest poppet she can be. Never mind the impact it will have on her day-to-day routine and education, think about the psychological damage from believing beauty is everything – and everlasting.

Professor of Global Ethics at the University of Birmingham, Heather Widdows, writes that as we grow up, we start using beauty as a standard by which to judge others, which in turn has a significant impact on the way we feel about ourselves. Her article references the Girls’ Attitudes survey revealing that 47% of girls aged 11 to 21 say the way they look “holds them back” while 69% aged 7 to 11 feel they are just not good enough. She also links this to an increase in anxiety and body-shaming in young women, highlighting that placing such an emphasis on the way they look might make them feel like failures later in life when that (standard of) beauty begins to fade.

2. The pose

My second point has to do not with the psychological but the physical way in which Jare is posed. I don’t want to use the word 'sexualising' to describe this, nor do I want to imply that that’s what the photographer was doing – she clearly just wanted to capture her indisputable beauty in its purest form.

Quite honestly, the idea of seeing children in any other way makes my stomach turn. But we can’t ignore that in one of the images she’s posed perched atop a stool, with her one arm crossing over the other, staring directly at the camera as if to draw you in and make you feel something – anything – like she’s been doing this modelling thing for years.

J A R E @the_j3_sisters CHILDREN ARE A GIFT FROM HEAVEN. I’m pretty excited and elated about my new style of child portraiture . Before I thought of Photographing the @the_j3_sisters , I have had frivolous ideas of how I can make artsy portraits of kids And do away from the norm . The opportunity came and I had to take a bold step to express my ideas of how I want to take portraits of kids. I want to portray the interception between her childhood and adulthood so both stay timeless ! We continue to the next post TEAM Make up by Dammy of @iposhlooks Creative style direction @mofebamuyiwa Hair by @totalshopwigs Hair styled by @hairkarved Styled by @styledbyseun Assisted by @adebimpe_aj @ernest_chuxx @official_bigjosh #bmbstudio #bmbphotography #mofebamuyiwa #kids #kidsphotography #artsy #love #light #childphotographer #familyphotography

A post shared by BMBSTUDIO (@mofebamuyiwa) on


Of course, that’s impossible – it’s literally been 5 years, at best, at most. So while the caption below the image reads, “I want to portray the interception between her childhood and adulthood so both stay timeless”, I ask, does she really have to? At 5 years old can’t she, shouldn’t she, just be 5?

We’re letting our kids grow up way too fast if this is the kind of images we’re taking and the feelings we’re hoping to evoke. We shouldn’t be hoping to photograph a child so that she looks timeless and she shouldn’t feel as though she must. At 5 years old she should be learning how to draw, making her first friends at preschool and playing outside. And I’m saying let her play outside, graze her knees and rub some dirt in it, instead of urgently reaching for the tissue oil to get rid of her scars.

So in-between the compliments praising her as the world’s “most beautiful” girl, one user, though she did share the images said, “She is undeniably beautiful! But let her breathe freely…"

How do you feel about this label? Are we placing too much weight on young girls? Tell us by sending your comments to chatback@parent24.com and we may publish it on the site. Do let us know if you'd like to remain anonymous.

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