Arts, Culture & Media

At this Canadian camp, 8 years old isn’t too young for girls to 'turn heads’

This story is a part of

Across Women's Lives

This story is a part of

Across Women's Lives

RTR3EG3B 2016-4-7.jpg

Lipstick on display at MAC in Paris.
Credit:

Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

Should girls be learning hot beauty tips before they reach puberty?

One Canadian summer camp aims to teach kids just that — from the age of 8.

Girls who attend Clin d’œil sur la mode — “Wink at Fashion” — summer camp in Quebec will learn to coordinate their outfits, hair and makeup, differentiate between styles that are in and out, and use Photoshop to create their own portfolios, according to the camp brochure.

“You will make heads turn!” promises the brochure of the weeklong day camp for girls from ages 8 to 15.

Maybe you’ve seen something like this on the TV show “Dance Moms” or the movie “Little Miss Sunshine.” Some find it fun — inspiring, even. Others say caking on the makeup from such a young age is grossly inappropriate. In Canada, many are outraged by the idea of a camp training prepubescent girls to look hot.

“They suggest that little girls should make heads turn! What if I proposed a summer camp for 8-year-old boys to make girls drop?” says Canadian psychologist Gilles Vachon, who has three daughters. “They want to teach them to sell their charm before they even have an interest in the opposite sex. That makes no sense!”

Jean-Pierre Côté, president of the program’s organizer Camp Rive-Sud, says the youngest campers learn to use only children’s makeup, which he says is more like face paint at an amusement park. Photoshop is not used to alter images of the girls’ bodies, but rather to frame photos for scrap-booking, he explains.

The girls also participate in a fashion show where they strut in front of their parents in redesigned old clothes.

“We ask children to bring clothes that they don’t wear anymore. They modify the clothes so they like them again — like, they can draw a flower on the pants or put a sticker on them,” he says. “It’s little things that are simple and cute.”

But many Quebecers don’t see the cuteness. The camp changed its name after a barrage of negative comments appeared on its Facebook page. It was originally called “100 percent Look.” Côté acknowledges that name “could be interpreted negatively.”

“We didn’t have a lot of space in our brochure to describe what the camp is about,” he adds.

A camp for future fashionistas was originally a parent’s idea, Côté says.

Cringe-worthy as it may be for some, kid makeup and modeling training happens in a lot of places, from Venezuela to China. And yes, there are camps like Côté's in the US as well. In New York City, the “Behind the Scenes” camp added a new section for girls ages 8 to 11 a couple of years ago, says founder Heather Cole.

Thousands of girls from around the world have attended the camp, she says.

By the time they get to camp, the girls already have their own makeup, Cole adds.

“Most 11-year-olds have some makeup,” she says. “We all know that teenage girls wear makeup, so why shouldn’t we teach them how to put on makeup properly?”