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10-Year-Old Model: Too Sexy Too Soon?

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Veronika Loubry woke up in her home in the South of France Aug. 4 to a shocking discovery: Her 10-year-old daughter Thylane Blondeau, a model, was at the center of a media maelstrom in the U.S. A photo-driven feature in French Vogue’s December/January 2011 issue showcased Thylane and two other girls covered in glamorous couture, glossy makeup and million-dollar gems. “These were little girls playing dress-up,” says Thylane’s agent Julie Degrenne. “There was a great deal of humor at the session.” Sadly the joke was lost on critics, who cried foul over the content. “It’s not just the makeup, it’s not just the dress,” says family therapist and child specialist Dr. Marilyn Wedge of Westlake Village, Calif. “It’s the sexually provocative poses.”

For Loubry, a former TV personality, the negative attention has been devastating. “I’m completely distressed for my daughter Thylane, who was asked to play dress-up with her friends,” Loubry tells PEOPLE. “This was a photo shoot at which there was no discomfort, no controversy, no ulterior motive. It’s a terrible thing to take this photo out of its context and attack my daughter.” Since the uproar Loubry shut down Thylane’s Facebook page and has holed up in the family’s home, where she raises her daughter and son Aryton, 4. (Dad is retired soccer star Patrick Blondeau, 43.) “Veronika has been anguished,” says a family friend. “She is doing everything to protect her child.”

That’s been the goal since Thylane started modeling at age 4. She has since walked the runway for Jean Paul Gaultier, but “she never misses school for work,” says the family friend. “She’s an ordinary little girl. She studies ballet. She plays with Barbies.” As for her modeling career? “Her parents will decide whether to slow down or even stop her career in light of what’s happened. They want to do what is right for their daughter.”