Sophia Mechetner signed a modeling contract with Dior at the age of fourteen.
(A fourteen year old model?! Ah, the distortion and absurdity of using a young girl’s body as an emblem of female beauty, almost as if having a feminine figure is a fault that must be concealed).
She lives in Holon, a poor suburb of Tel Aviv. Her mother is an immigrant from Russia, a single mother raising three children. The family lives in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. Sofia’s mother sleeps on the sofa in the living room. Three beds can’t fit into the small nursery, so Sophia sleeps on a mattress on the floor. Her mother makes 4,000NIS per month, a bit more than one thousand dollars, the minimum wage in Israel. Naturally this is not enough to provide for three children. So she takes cleaning jobs after work. Since she works from morning to night, Sophia, her eldest daughter, takes care of her younger siblings. She takes them to school and cooks for them. She also helps her mother once in a while in cleaning jobs.
(“I am not spoiled”, she keeps saying in interviews. But abstemiousness is a double-edged sword, isn’t it? Helps you face the difficulties of life but prevents you from admitting that you deserve more. Sometimes it’s important to be aware you are underprivileged).
In this poverty-stricken environment a friend suggested that Sophia try to find a modeling job. She went to an agency, one thing led to another, and soon she was walking with an Israeli agent in the streets of Paris. In a store on Avenue de Montaigne they ran into Raf Simons, Dior’s chief designer. She asked to have her picture taken with him. He agreed.
(’OMG, it’s Raf Simons!!’. ‘Come on, Sophia, make him notice you.” The profound asymmetry between the two: a naïve excited child under the spell of Paris, that she is seeing for the first time, and a shrewd experienced designer. Was he thinking that after two years of her modeling for Dior he would find a younger Sophia?)
Two weeks later she got an offer to model on the catwalk for Dior at Paris Fashion Week, and a two-year modeling contract for about a quarter of a million dollars.
(A fortune for Sophia! Beyond imagination. Coming from such poverty, did she have any option besides accepting the contract unconditionally, as is?)
Sophia was thrilled. She immediately thought how she could help her family: they could move to a bigger apartment, she could have her own room, and more than anything, her mother wouldn’t have to work so hard to provide for the family. As soon as she got the news she called her mother and said: “You can quit your work, mom!”
(Sweet, sweet girl! The devotion of the mother is met by the generosity of the daughter).
Israeli and international newspapers and journals were suddenly interested in this young girl. “A Modern Cinderella” they called her, describing the unexpected shift from poverty to success. Some wondered if she wasn’t too young to model. To this she answered: “I am not too young to wash floors with mom but am too young to model?”
(She is right, isn’t she? It seems to make perfect sense. The truth is that at the age of fourteen she should neither be washing floors nor modeling).
The Dior Haute Couture Show is not just any fashion show. The elite of the fashion industry, celebs, journalists and photographers, wealthy socialites from France and around the globe, yearn to be invited, to be seated close to the catwalk.
(If you want an insight into values of western society, take a look at these fashion shows. More than anything, designers are eager to present beauty, style, luxury, success.)
The Dior Fall Show of 2015 opened with Sophia walking onto the catwalk wearing nothing but a flimsy white dress made of a completely transparent chiffon fabric and underpants. The body of this eighth-grader was almost completely exposed, and the audience watched her with obvious curiosity. She later said she was afraid she would begin to chuckle.
(No one said anything, no one left in protest. The respectable audience watched attentively as the almost naked girl walked before them. Is she too childish to understand the humiliation?)
Dior described its 2015 Haute Couture fashion as follows: “The garden of earthly delights: a vision of innocence and experience, simplicity and luxury, beauty and decadence through the eyes of Flemish and French masters of both art and craft”.
(A naked girl on stage is the vision of innocence? It reflects a world in which what matters is appearance, not essence. Exterior is more important than substance. The representation of innocence overshadows innocence itself. If we all accept this child to be the image of “simplicity and luxury”, eventually she will be. And forget about Sophia; she will easily be replaced by another young girl).