Style

24 Models Who Started Their Careers Under The Age Of 18

New York just passed a law that would offer models the same protections as all entertainers under the age of 18. If the law passes, hiring girls under the age of 18 would become a lot more difficult (and probably less desirable) — but top models have been starting their careers well before 18 for decades.

First, let’s take a look at some established faces who started their careers before they became legal adults.


Not all of these ladies are still hitting the runway circuit in New York. Many have become famous enough to transcend the tedium of walking fashion week shows — but it’s hard to imagine where fashion would be if they hadn’t worked as much as they did when they were starting out as young teenagers.

1. Gemma Ward, 25

Courtesy of i-D magazine.

Teen Vogue’s inaugural cover star, Australian supermodel Gemma Ward was scouted at 14, walking Sydney Fashion Week shows a year later — and was in demand on New York’s runways before she’d turned 17. (She was also the youngest model to feature on the 2004 “Models of the MomentVogue cover.)

2. Karlie Kloss, 20

Courtesy of Teen Vogue.

She’s starred in just about every major fashion campaign from Dior to Hermes to Oscar de la Renta — and she started at just 15 years old. She said several seasons ago that that age felt a little young to start out: “I wish I’d have been a little more mature.”

3. Kate Moss, 39

Courtesy of British Vogue.

Discovered famously at the age of 14 at the JFK airport in New York and posed for the cover of British magazine The Face at just 16.

4. Hailey Clauson, 18

Courtesy of i-D.

Clauson posed for this November 2011 i-D cover at 16 or 17. She was at the center of some controversy when Council of Fashion Designers of America president, designer Diane Von Furstenberg, hired her to walk in a fashion show when she was just 15. Von Furstenberg had been promoting an initiative that season to ensure only models aged 16 or older walked in New York Fashion Week.

5. Naomi Campbell, 43

Courtesy of V.

Discovered around the age of 16, and an unrivaled superstar in fashion to this day.

6. Devon Aoki, 30

Courtesy of .

According to Wikipedia, Kate Moss apparently saw something in Aoki when she was just 13 years old (fun fact: both models are notoriously short for the job, at around 5’ 6”, 5’ 7”). At 14, Aoki signed with Moss’s agency, Storm. She’s been breaking into acting over the past decade, with roles in Sin City and 2 Fast 2 Furious.

7. Lindsey Wixson, 19

Courtesy of Vogue Japan.

The face of Miu Miu at 15 years old. Now that she’s 19, it feels like she’s been working for decades.

8. Daphne Groeneveld, 18

Courtesy of Numero.

Daphne started modeling for Givenchy and Giorgio Armani when she was just 15 years old.

9. Tanya Dziahileva, 22

Via Courtesy of Numero.

Debuted on the runways of Alexander McQueen and Chanel when she was just 14.

10. Jourdan Dunn, 22

Courtesy of Teen Vogue.

Discovered while shopping in London, Jourdan walked an incredible 75 fashion shows during the spring 2008 season when she was only 17.

11. Chanel Iman, 22

Chanel started modeling at age 13. In 2006, she came in third in Ford’s Supermodel of the World contest. She’s also a protege of sorts of Tyra Banks, who, Chanel says, calls her to check in “all the time.”

12. Ali Michael, 23

Courtesy of Purple.

She won a model search contest held by Dallas agency Kim Dawson when she was just 15. The following year, she signed with DNA in New York and appeared in Italian Vogue.

(Note: this Purple cover has been censored to be SFW.)

13. Coco Rocha, 24

Courtesy of Vogue Mexico.

Discovered in an Irish dance competition about a decade ago, Rocha has been one of the Model Alliance’s most vocal advocates for improved working conditions for models. She’s also been in just about every major magazine and ad campaign and is a star of The Face, of course.

14. Lily Cole, 25

Courtesy of Dazed & Confused.

Lily started modeling at age 14, and appeared on the cover of British Vogue at just 16.

15. Gisele, 32

Courtesy of Vogue Paris.

Born in 1980 and discovered by Elite in 1994, Gisele went on to place second in an Elite model search contest in 2005. In 1998 Alexander McQueen made her a lot more famous when he called her “the Body” after she walked the slick runway of his “rain” show wearing high heels without falling.

Now, let’s take a look at some rising stars who aren’t even legal yet.


These girls will require a lot more paperwork to do the fashion show circuit in New York come September if the child model bill passes and they haven’t turned 18.

16. Ondria Hardin, 16

Campaigns: Prada fall/winter 2011; Chanel spring/summer 2013.
Previous NYFW appearances: F/W 2013, S/S 2013, F/W 2012, S/S 2012.

Hardin controversially walked in Marc Jacobs’ fall/winter 2012 show aged 14, flouting CFDA regulations at the time. She’s also appeared in an unfortunate blackface editorial for Numéro magazine.

17. Vanessa Axente, 17

Campaigns: Prada spring/summer 2013; Prada fall/winter 2012.
Previous NYFW appearances: F/W 2013, S/S 2013.

“Forever Young” indeed.

18. Valerija Sestic, 17

Campaigns: D&G spring/summer 2012; Armani Exchange fall/winter 2012
Previous NYFW appearances: F/W 2013, S/S 2013, F/W 2012, S/S 2012.

Sestic’s agency also ignored CFDA guidelines during the spring/summer 2012 show season and sent her onto NYFW runways aged 15 — after telling designers she was 16 after all. Sneaky sneaky.

19. Nastya Kusakina, 16

Campaigns: Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2013 (pictured above).
Previous NYFW appearances: F/W 2013, S/S 2013.

20. Kremi Otashliyska, 17

Campaigns: Balenciaga spring/summer 2013.
Previous NYFW appearances: F/W 2013.

A New York magazine profile of Otashliyska begins, “It’s sometimes hard to remember that Kremi Otashliyska is only 16 — although she’s still mastering English, the Bulgarian beauty recites Oscar Wilde quotes like it’s second nature.”

21. Thairine Garcia, 16*

Campaigns: Alexandre Herchcovitch fall/winter 2012.
Previous NYFW appearances: S/S 2013, F/W 2012.

*Garcia, who also walked with Ondria Hardin in that Marc Jacobs show, was “believed to be” 14 or 15 or the time (with a D.O.B. listed as December 1997). That would make her 16 now, though many sites now list her as a 20 year-old born in December 1992. Huh.

22. Mackenzie Drazan, 17

Campaigns: Louis Vuitton fall/winter 2012; Anna Sui spring/summer 2013.
Previous NYFW appearances: F/W 2013, S/S 2013, F/W 2012, F/W 2011.

Note: Drazan, whose birthday is believed to fall in mid-August, may just have turned 18 in time for this September’s shows in New York.

23. Esther Heesch, 16

Campaigns: Emporio Armani fall/winter 2013; Valentino spring/summer 2013
Previous NYFW appearances: F/W 2013.

“Baby Faces” indeed.

24. Yumi Lambert, 17

Campaigns: Chanel spring/summer 2013.
Previous NYFW appearances: F/W 2013, S/S 2013.

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