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Oh, how I long for the innocent days when Paris was just a city you hoped someday to visit and panties were a staple part of every girl’s wardrobe. Or how about the days when that cute, freckle-faced girl in the Parent Trap was known for being cute, freckle-faced, and a fabulous little actress rather than a cocaine-snorting, rehab grad. And the Olsen twins were back to living with their dad, Uncle Jesse and Joey instead of nightclub hopping and dragging on a cigarette every time the camera flashes. And Vanessa Hudgens was not only the “good girl” in High School Musical but someone your daughter still thought was a “good girl” in real life. And Britney was just a Mouseketeer and singing in the church choir on the weekends. Remember those days? Back when it was good to be good?

Welcome to the new world where bad is the new good. Consider what Helen Grieco, director of California’s National Organization for Women (NOW) said in defense of the spring break, boobie-flashing, Girls Gone Wild videos in an interview: “I think it’s about being a rebel, and I don’t think it’s a bad notion… Flashing your breasts on Daytona Beach says, ‘I’m not a good girl. I think it’s sexy to be a bad girl.’” Yet another fine example of the “girl power” message that has been shoved down our daughters’ collective throats. Since when is it considered “empowering” for college women to lift their bikini tops in response to the drunken catcalls of immature frat boys? Did I miss something here?

Is it any wonder that our world is run amok with girls gone wild? Whether it’s another news story about a beauty queen caught kissing another girl or an American Idol contestant with nude pictures on the Web, the glamorization of bad behavior is nonstop. As Hollywood plays rehab, it begs the question: Where are the good role models? Is the “good girl” persona now extinct, gone the way of shoulder pads and spiral perms? Possibly so, but it certainly doesn’t mean we put our hands up and surrender.

Pantieless Pop Stars and the Never-Ending Rehab Relay

In a Newsweek poll, 77 percent of respondents say pop-star celebrities like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan have too much influence on young girls. However, perception and reality are two different things. In a related Newsweek article addressing the girls gone wild, Emma Boyce, a seventeen-year-old junior in high school, commented, “They’ve got great clothes and boyfriends. They seem to have a lot of fun.” But the fascination stops short of admiration. Boyce went on to say, “My friends and I look at them and laugh at them…Our lives seem pretty good by comparison. We’re not going to rehab like Lindsay.” Mind you, her commentary was prior to Britney’s self-implosion that followed shortly thereafter, including her head-shaving stunt and repetitive visits to a psych ward. Surely Miss Boyce has reevaluated her original assessment that these girls appear “to have a lot of fun.”

I imagine if these pop stars were honest, they’d be the first to admit that “fun” is not a word to describe their plight. If you ever needed proof that one can’t buy happiness, take a look at any one of the above pop stars and their respective infomercials for misery. The truth is, while the girls gone wild effect has touted bad as the new good, most level-headed girls are not rushing out to emulate the pop stars’ brand of bad. There is nothing glamorous about rehab, drug and alcohol addictions, puking in hotel corridors, flashing your privates in public, shaving your head bald, losing custody of your two children, going to jail, having a sex tape leaked to the World Wide Web and so on. Unfortunately, I fear the list will only get longer in the years to come. Should this pack of pop stars clean up their act (and I certainly pray they do), there are, no doubt, others waiting in the wings to rack up their own inventory of wild deeds.

There was a day not-so-long-ago past that I would have sent Miley Cyrus a thank-you note for being a positive role model to young girls. It was during the time when other pop stars were self-imploding before our very eyes. Miley was a breath of fresh air, garnering fans worldwide with her wholesome character on the Disney hit, Hannah Montana. Had I written that thank-you note at the time, I would have thanked Miss Cyrus for having the decency to wear panties in public. I would have thanked her for knowing how to exit a limo gracefully without flashing the paparazzi her private parts. I would have thanked her for steering clear of the nightclubs and tattoo parlors. I would have thanked her for dressing with “decency and propriety” (1 Tim. 2:9). I would have thanked her for not having a cigarette in hand every time the camera flashes. I would have thanked her for having a track record that doesn’t include rehab. I would have thanked her for being famous for an actual talent. I would have thanked her for singing songs with lyrics that don’t make your grandma blush or your mom rush to change the channel on the radio.  I would have thanked her for making my daughter smile at a time when most other pop stars left her shaking her head back and forth in utter disbelief.

That was then. Like, you, I got my hopes up that perhaps there was on positive role model left in Hollywood, but it turns out that Miley Cyrus is human, after all. Like any one of us, she’s a sinner saved by grace and capable of falling at any given moment. By the time this book hits the shelves, she could have gone the way of Britney, Lindsay, Paris, or one of the many other fallen pop stars. That is exactly why we should remind our daughters not to put anyone on a pedestal. Miss Cyrus has had some less than “picture perfect” moments where her actions left some mommas angry and disappointed. Rather than wringing our hands and tearing our robes, let’s take advantage of the teachable moments that can occur as a result of celebrity “role model” mishaps.

A Teachable Moment

Miley’s mishaps began with some racy pictures that surfaced on the Web only to be followed by Vanity Fair photo shoot where she bared her back for the camera. Many have chalked the pictures off to momentary lapse in judgment while others have speculated that they signal a craving for rebellion and will only get worse over time. So, what is that teachable moment? Like Miley, my daughter owns a digital camera that came equipped with a memory card that holds more than five hundred pictures.

Role models will come and go, so it’s wise to keep a balanced perspective. Even those who appear to be good will disappoint at times (such as in the examples above). While it’s nice to be able to point our daughters to someone else’s positive example, we want to make sure our daughters’ admiration of the role model du jour doesn’t go overboard and border on idol worship. And I would certainly caution mothers to exercise caution when it comes to looking to pop stars as role models. Most are not worthy of the following.

Today much of the vision of mentoring our young ladies in the art of virtue has been lost.

As an additional twist, my daughter has also been able to serve on the role model side and influence some younger girls through babysitting, mission trips, and a summer camp where she worked. Whether she is the babysitter or the fun camp counselor, mentoring is taking place all the same.

While the antics of those in Hollywood may leave us with the impression that virtuous role models are in short supply, I want to encourage you that they are out there. Our job is to find them and expose our daughters to these fabulous women as much as possible.

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So we know that Beyoncé’s numerous sins include dressing sexy, being married, and saying that girls run the world when that isn’t technically true. But did you also know she’s singlehandedly responsible for luring young girls into sexual exploitation? Rakhi Kumar did, and now (I’m assuming) so does Michelle Obama, and now so do you.

[Rakhi Kumar's open letter to Michelle Obama]

Dear Michelle Obama,
I’m addressing this to you because I admire you. Because you’re smart and a mum to two young girls. And you’re the first lady of the USA. And because you were recently quoted as saying that Beyoncé is a “great role model” to your two daughters, and because you recently tweeted, after the Super Bowl, that you were “so proud” of her. I’m writing because everything you do is admired and emulated by so many; but when you endorse a recording artist like Beyoncé, I see the most misogynistic aspects of the music industry (that prefers girls to be no more complex than dolls) interpret your comments as a seal of approval for the thoughtless cultural currency that they flood the youth market with. I’m writing because I think it’s time to stop suggesting to very young girls that ultimate feminine success – in the music industry or anywhere else – comes with the need, or the expectation for them to undress.

Next time you’re presented with a shortlist of people in popular culture who you should spend time with or commend, think about how many young girls want to be just like Beyoncé: Beyoncé who sings Bow Down Bitch [sic] and wears sheer bodysuits and high heels, singing about making money and being independent.

Remember that in the USA, the average age of a girl when she is trafficked for sex for the first time is 13.

Remember that she’s often brought into the “life” by drug dealers who promise her a celebrity lifestyle, clothes like the ones Beyoncé wears, and situation where she can live like Queen Bey: looking hot, being desired by alpha males, wielding power over others with her body and sexuality.

So please, let it be known that Beyoncé is not a role model. She may have a lot of money, and she may have enormous influence. But she can no longer be called a role model.

(Unless you think it would be really cool for Sasha or Malia to follow her example and sing songs for people on a stage whilst wearing sheer gold glitter bodysuits detailing the contours of their body, under the management of their daddy and/or their husband.)
Ok, first of all, because apparently this is very important to you: It wasn’t a sheer bodysuit. It was a glittery bodysuit with enormous, glittery nipples. Weird? Definitely. Aesthetically appealing? Not to me, no. But they weren’t her personal, actual nipples. I mean, let’s be logical here: Are we attributing to Beyoncé – a seasoned, successful, and image-conscious businesswoman – the decision to update her brand to include frontal nudity in her concert attire? Thinkbox.

Moving on: I think holding Beyoncé personally responsible for human trafficking is a bit of a reach. I think conflating her sexy costumes with actual sexual availability is slut-shaming and wrong and contributes to rape culture. I think that requiring women to cast aside any sexuality to be taken seriously and considered successful is also slut-shaming and wrong.

I think that conflating sex trafficking, voluntary sex work, and sparkly-costumed music concerts is closed-minded, elitist, misleading, and flat-out confusing. I think that reducing Beyoncé’s success to “looking hot, being desired by alpha males, wielding power over others with her body and sexuality” says more about you than it does about Beyoncé or about the young women who admire her. And I think that reducing child sexual exploitation to “I want glittery underpants like Beyoncé!” seriously misses… pretty much everything, Jesus Christ, I don’t even know where to start on that one.

Thirdly: I’m sure Michelle Obama appreciates your unsolicited input into the way she raises her daughters, but I’m guessing she’s got this one. If she needs tips, I’m sure she’ll call you.

Fourthly, and in general: All right, folks, time to find someone else to trash.

Seriously. Beyoncé paid for a fancy birthing suite at the hospital (how dare she enjoy luxury!), and that was way bad, and then she wore sexy costumes for the Super Bowl (how dare she dress like a hundred other female performers!), and that was extra bad, and she said that girls run the world, which we totally don’t, and she told “bitches” to “bow down,” which was awful, and as if it wasn’t bad enough that she took her husband’s last name (that would be husband Shawn Knowles-Carter), she named her tour The Mrs Carter Show World Tour, which is unforgivable (how dare she celebrate the life she’s created with her husband and child!). And by far the worst thing a singer can do in the whole world, because if anyone had ever done anything worse, people would be talking about that and not how very anti-feminist Beyoncé is, right?

Right?

Britney Spears, mother of two, spangled-bikini wearer? Lady Gaga, Mother Monster, nipple-tape aficionado? Pink, mother, self-proclaimed feminist, basically wore medical tape and body glitter on a trapeze at the Grammys? Selena Gomez’s bindi? Maybe tee off on Taylor Swift or Katy Perry for just a little while, just to relieve Beyoncé’s quads of the constant weight of our amassed baggage?

Beyoncé is a force of nature, she sang Independent Women and Survivor and Irreplaceable, her band is all women, she’s pro-gender equality and anti-gender wage gap, she supports women through charity work, she does things that people so often identify as feminist-y – and so we load her down with our own expectations and identify her as a feminist icon and then hold to her to arbitrary standards as if she signed up for them herself. And even when she comes out and says she’s a feminist, she gets shit because she said it “ambivalently.” The nerve! How dare she not perform as enthusiastically as we demand at the moment we demand it?

At the risk of being one of those “don’t we have more important things to talk about” feminists… don’t we? Not that anyone is beyond reproach, but God knows Beyoncé’s been picking up reproach for every damn thing she does lately.

Look, I get it; Beyoncé is a successful, self-possessed black woman with a career, a family, a tonne of money, a ridiculous body, a strong sense of self, and an apparent desire to live her life openly without hiding those things like they’re some kind of shameful secret. It’s offensive and terrifying, and God forbid a young girl should find herself inspired by such a woman. But calling her anti-feminist for celebrating her family (which Tami Winfrey Harris, Morgane Richardson, and Andrea Plaid discussed in February), calling her a bad role model for celebrating her body, accusing her of ambivalence for defining her relationship with feminism for herself, or accusing her of promoting child trafficking with her sparkly leotards and sexy dancing is just ridiculous and stupid. And there has to be something else we can be taking on.

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The worst (role) model of the century: As fashionistas fawn over Kate Moss’s 25 years on the catwalk, a scathing LIZ JONES begs to differ

Halfway through Kate Moss’s 25-year reign as the most famous model in the world, when I was editor of Marie Claire, I sent her on a well-deserved holiday.

The destination was a spa in Thailand. She was allowed to take her best friend, fly business class, and indulge in all the beauty treatments her heart desired. We’d turn it all into a fabulous feature: all she had to do was pose for a few pictures and keep a travel diary.

This was a coup for the magazine as Kate had long refused to model for us.

But it was a disaster. She refused to stop smoking, to give us any photos bar a blurry, long-distance Polaroid — or to write any copy whatsoever. She never even said thank you.

 

Kate Moss age 14 in 1988

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Kate Moss Is Pictured With Anthony Morgan The 1989 Brylcreem Boy Of The Year

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Left (1988): Aged 14, in her first test shots by photographer David Ross. Right (1989) In an early campaign with the Brylcreem Boy of the Year

 

Kate Moss in 1990

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Kate Moss with Naomi Campbell in 1991

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Left (1990): With her unbleached hair and freckles, Kate is still untouched. Right (1991) At 17, with supermodel bad girl Naomi Campbell

 

Kate Moss in 1992

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Kate Moss in 1993

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Left(1992): Kate had a ‘nervous breakdown’over the sexy Calvin Klein ads that made her name. Right (1993): At her best, her fresh face gave women something to aspire to

This isn’t the view you get, of course, in the hagiographies celebrating 25 years of her beauty this week, which ooze quotes from celebrity friends saying how ‘normal’ and ‘down to earth’ Kate is.

Take Grazia’s 13-page homage to the model’s silver jubilee. ‘To not like Kate is to not like life … she’s a safe bet for a brand … discreet …’ it gushed.

Fast approaching 40, Kate is currently on the cover of British Vogue, looking every inch as fresh-faced as her young rival, the 20-year-old Cara Delevingne, who appears on the accompanying supplement Miss Vogue.

But herein lies the rub. Kate may be untouchable in the fashion world, but that doesn’t mean her image is not touched up. It is.

Kate Moss in 1994

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Kate Moss in 1995

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Left (1994): On the catwalk for designer Bella Freud. ‘She was never the archetypal model,’ a booker told me of Moss. ‘A long trunk, short legs but a breathtaking face.’ Right (1995): Kate dated Johnny Depp for four years. She said the breakup was ‘a nightmare. Years of crying. Oh, the tears’

 

Kate Moss in 1996

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Kate Moss in 1997

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Left (1996): On the Gucci catwalk a new, glam Kate emerges. Right (1997): Launching London Fashion Week in patriotic style

 

Kate Moss in 1998

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Kate Moss in 1999

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Left (1998): With fellow members of the Primrose Hill set, famed for their prodigious partying. Right (1999): At New York’s Met Ball, Kate lacks direction

 

Kate Moss in 2000

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Kate Moss in 2001

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Left (2000): At Gucci in Milan, one of her last catwalk shows. Right (2001): Stepping out with new hair and a new man, Jefferson Hack, father of Lila Grace

Modelling years are like dog years. When you take away the airbrushing, make-up and lighting, Kate looks every one of her 39 years. And then some.

A photo of Kate sans make-up and airbrushing was exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery in 2010, and you could see the paper-thin skin around her eyes and mouth due to smoking; the sun damage evident in discolouration, and a slight drooping or ‘hamster effect’ around the jawline.

She had cellulite in her 20s, when airbrushing was in its infancy. Heaven knows what it must be like now, two decades of hard living later — not that we’ll ever see it, of course.

This is what I abhor most about her. I can forgive her lack of manners, but I cannot abide the message she is giving girls with these seemingly ‘fresh-faced’ and ‘normal’ spreads.

I’d go as far as saying it is more dangerous than promoting the waif-like figure and ‘heroin chic’ of the early Nineties, for which she was lambasted.

What Kate’s image is telling young girls is that a lifetime of champagne, rock ’n’ roll, 24-hour partying, cocaine — and the odd junkie boyfriend — can leave you not only untouched, but more beautiful than ever before.

Thirteen years ago, when Kate was 26, I sat bathed in sunlight in a glass edifice in Paris watching her on the catwalk in a Louis Vuitton bikini.

She seemed short and had cellulite. Of course there is nothing wrong with flaws — indeed, Kate’s diminutive stature, at 5ft 7in, and snaggle teeth were what made her memorable, charming and vulnerable in a world swamped with Amazonian models. We in the front row gasped with relief that we weren’t the only ones who looked uncomfortable in a bikini.

The problem is, that version of Kate has disappeared, replaced with someone impossibly airbrushed, forever young, and seemingly invincible.