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Vogue Violates Its Underage Model Initiative for a Third Time

Vogue has once again broken its own health initiative by including 15-year-old Polish model Julie Borawska in the November issue of Vogue Mexico.
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Vogue has once again broken its own health initiative by including 15-year-old Polish model Julie Borawska in the November issue of Vogue Mexico.

This marks the third official age violation of Vogue's Health Initiative. Launched in June 2012, one of the tenets stipulated was that the magazine would no longer use models under the age of 16. Things got off to a rocky start with two violations in quick succession. The first came with 15-year-old Ondria Hardin in the pages of the August 2012 edition of Vogue China. The magazine's editor in chief, Angelica Cheung, was quick to apologize for the error, and even Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and chief executive of Condé Nast International, commented on how "very serious" the new rule was to Vogue, and how the company would do "everything possible to prevent future errors."

Unfortunately, the second violation came the following month in Vogue Italia's September issue, with another 15-year-old model, Sarah Kees. A 14-year-old Thairine Garcia was also shot for Vogue Japan around the same time, though her editorial went unpublished.

This new violation is disappointing for a few reasons. First, Vogue's track record thus far has been admirable. With the notable exceptions above, underage models have been kept out of the mix. In fact, our research shows that models have been skewing older. For example, our last investigation found that teenagers only took about 10 percent of the spots in the June 2013 issues.

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Vogue Mexico and Latinoamerica editor in chief, Kelly Talamas, told us that the magazine "did not cast any models for this shoot, and was not involved in any manner with the production." Instead, the story was purchased from photographer Kevin Sinclair, and that they "have contacted [Sinclair] to clarify this issue and identify exactly where the protocol failed in order to avoid this from ever happening again." Kevin Sinclair also responded, stating:

"I am aware of the age restrictions with Condé Nast. I was not aware the model was 15 years of age. When we communicated with her agency in Poland they never mentioned that she was so young. We were all under the impression that she was 18 years or older, not 15."

Unfortunately, the more glaring reason that the violation is disappointing is that Borawska's age could not be any less of a secret. It is included on her Fashion Model Directory profile, her Instagram, and it is a hot topic of discussion on her thread at The Fashion Spot. If all this weren't enough, her year of birth is listed on her Polish model agency website. Those are four gigantic red flags that scream "underage model," and all it takes is a basic Google search to find it out. No sleuthing, birth date estimation, or agency telephone calls required.