Why Does It Matter That This Missing Teen Models Lingerie?

A few years ago, a friend of mine from my childhood went missing. I was in 2500 miles away in California for college, so I heard about it through my parents. Tons of people I knew combed the woods and fields and city for any indication of her whereabouts while I anxiously followed the story on national news. One day, my then-boyfriend came into the room where I was doing my makeup and quietly informed me that her body had been found. Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that she’d be killed by her ex-fiance, somebody with whom I had grown up friends, as well, and whose house I used to go to as a kid. I can’t imagine how this affected her family nor her close friends, but those “MISSING” newspaper and television stories haunted me, and every single time I’ve heard about a missing person since, I’ve never been able to detach her story from them.

Kara Nichols, a 19-year-old woman from Colorado, went missing on her way to work on October 9. It was “uncharacteristic” of her to not make contact with family or friends, so when they heard she hadn’t shown up to work, they began to fear for her safety. While police say that there is no evidence of foul play, I can’t imagine what her family is going through. I only hope that it turns out she was really stressed and went on an unannounced vacation, as I always hope whenever something terrible like this happens.

I’m extremely glad so many large news sources have picked up the story–it’s good to have people aware of her appearance, as well as to be on the look out for anything suspicious, in the event that she is in some sort of danger. However, the way that these news sites have titled all their articles is often obnoxious and insensitive.

The Daily Mail, for example, reads “Fears for 19-year-old lingerie model who vanished on her way to work,” complete with a photo of her in underwear. Meanwhile, Huffington Post titled theirs, “Kara Nichols, Lingerie Model, Missing In Colorado.” Others have included simply the “model” portion, but the message is still there: somehow, the fact that she models lingerie has something to do with her disappearance, or should at least be relevant to readers’ interests.

But why? Would we see headlines for a missing person that read, “Gas Station Clerk, 54, Disappeared After Work” or “31-year-old Law Clerk Missing”? While I fully understand that one person’s job may be more risky than another’s–for example, cab drivers face significantly more violent crime than most other professions–it nevertheless gives a certain connotation that somehow, this teenager’s foray into lingerie modeling is significant to her disappearance.

Obviously, most websites do not rely on donations, so they need ads and pageviews. Getting people to click on your headlines is important, but is there a certain level of responsibility that should be upheld? Placing that into a headline can make people jump to conclusions, and not keeping an open mind to all possibilities is a dangerous choice when it comes to a missing person. Plus, it brings out the shitty side of the Internet, which I guarantee will have loads of people blaming Nichols if anything should happen to her (which, of course, we should all hope it has not and will not). This not only disturbs the investigation, but also can hurt the family’s feelings in a time when their stress level is already incredible. In fact, Nichols’ family already released this statement on Facebook:

Sadly, some of the media we trusted chose to exploit our daughter more than they chose to help us find her. We ask you to please disregard any blogging sites or media sites that choose to depict our daughter in a light that may only reflect a teen finding her way – like with many other teens, pictures on the web may be to boost ones “likes” and friends or may even find a job in modeling, but rest assured that is not the daughter we know. Even the police have been quoted as saying, “we are unsure at this time if Kara’s job has anything to do with her disappearance.”

During the coverage of my childhood friend’s disappearance, I remember that throughout the entire event the media called her the “missing dancer.” Over and over again, they would recite that detail about her as though she weren’t a person, just a profession. I can’t explain exactly what about this was so upsetting. It just bothered me that the media seemingly forgot her name and just wished to shape her into an identification title, like Octomom or something.

Classifying Nichols as a “lingerie model,” despite the articles even quoting her Model Mayhem in which she admits that she’s just starting to get into modeling and wants to keep an open mind to all kinds of photography, is not the right way to bring attention to the situation. At least, not the right kind of attention. Instead, it brings those who behave judgmentally towards women who take off their clothes, as though those women are somehow less deserving of being safe and sound.

For more information on this case, or to find out how you can help, check out Help Us Find Kara Nichols on Facebook.

Photo via Facebook.

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    • JennyWren

      The HuffPo comments are so depressing- already there are so many people saying things along the lines of “this is what happens when you put it out there for all to see…” It’s pretty sick that they’re providing people with multiple modelling images…”Roll Up and Drool Over Missing Teenager” would have been a more honest headline.

      • http://www.facebook.com/sameurysm Samantha Escobar

        I don’t read almost any comments (besides here, o’course) for most articles, since they usually are filled with malice and discontent conveyed in the most verbally cruel ways possible. Guh.

      • Amanda Chatel

        Agreed. Every piece I’ve ever done for HuffPo results 100′s of vile spewing comments — that’s just how those people roll over there. I don’t even know who those people are, where they live or what point they’re trying to make, but they don’t live in the same world I do.

    • disqus_mmkS7OeTZ8

      As someone who knows Kara personally I really appreciate you writing this. Because the fact is, Kara is so much more than a lingerie model, just as your friend was so much more than a dancer. It sickens me the way the media chooses to cheapen Kara and others like her. Regardless of her work, regardless of how beautiful she is, Kara is still a missing person. The number one concern should be finding her and bringing her home, not posting photos of her in her underwear. If she is recognized by someone I assume it will be by her face, not her body. Thank you for reminding people that Kara is a person, not an object.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1172672066 DIna Wood

      Thank you for writing this. I was Kara’s teacher in high school and the Kara I know is a funny,intelligent, and,yes, beautiful young woman. The stereotypes perpetuated by the “model” headlines do no good toward finding her or relieving her family’s anxiety.