Sarah Thomas is leaving school to model. Good move?

In her autumn half-term, 16-year-old Sarah Thomas earned pounds 6,500 a day on the New York catwalks. Her intention was merely to dabble in modelling as a way of earning money in the school holidays. Some dabbling. Thomas quickly found herself being offered the new Cover Girl cosmetics campaign, a post previously filled by the Danish/Peruvian supermodel, Helena Christensen. Despite a rumoured six-figure sum, the girl from Norwich turned it down, determined that nothing should interfere with her school work.

But now, a year on, she has relented. Sarah Thomas's A-levels are no more. Her father who, unusually, had encouraged her to leave school in the first place, says: "It was quite a big decision. In the end she couldn't do both her A-levels and her modelling."

Sarah Thomas had consistently claimed that no modelling assignment would give her as much satisfaction as passing her A-levels. She tried to stick it out at school, it didn't work for her and she had the guts to get out while she could. Like every other 16-year-old girl, she was programmed to believe that education is the only way. What she presumably realised in the past few months is that higher education is there largely because figuring out what you want to do is the most difficult part of growing up. Once you know what you want, getting it is comparatively easy.

If Sarah Thomas had taken the time out to complete her education, she might have gone the route of Jodie Foster, who put stardom on hold to study English at Yale and is now one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Or she might have ended up like Brooke Shields, who, dubbed "the most beautiful woman In the world" at the age of 11, quit modelling and went to Princeton to study French literature. Her dedication to her studies meant that she turned down the Audrey Hepburn role in the remake of Roman Holiday. Instead, the cheesy, soft-porn Blue Lagoon will go down as her movie high point. Shields is now attempting to make a come-back via her sitcom, Suddenly Susan, which is uncommonly poor. As punishment, she must marry Andre Agassi.

Unless she really, truly adored her studies, Sarah Thomas's initial rejection of modelling was probably down to trepidation. To go running back to normal life when you have had a taste of the New York catwalks is not an inspiration but an insult to 16-year-old girls across the land. And foolish. You cannot expect to be beautiful your whole life.

Nowadays, it is becoming easier and easier to take your A-levels whenever you feel like it and to go to university as a mature student. Aside from the money, Thomas will have been won over by the realisation that, if you want to model, you have really got to do it when you're 16: A-levels, unlike modelling, you can go back to when you are 25.

Emma Forrest

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