The budding modeling career of a 17-year-old Belgium fan who scored a deal with L'Oreal after being photographed in the stands at World Cup matches seems to have ended just as quickly as it began.
Pictures of Axelle Despiegelaere cheering on Belgium at two group-stage matches in Brazil were used on websites and in newspapers around the world, sparking international interest in the teenager. She capitalized on this by booking TV appearances in her native Belgium, starting a Facebook fan page that quickly amassed thousands of followers and agreeing to appear in a promotional video for cosmetics company L'Oreal. But as news of her sudden fame spread, the controversy surrounding a photo she posted on Facebook of herself hunting the Oryx gazelle in Africa has also grown, leading her to shut down her Facebook page as L'Oreal now says its dealings with her have already been completed.
A spokesperson for the cosmetics giant told The Independent: "L’Oreal Professionnel Belgium collaborated with her on an ad hoc basis to produce a video for social media use in Belgium. The contract has now been completed." The spokesperson then added that L'Oreal "no longer tests on animals, anywhere in the world, and does not delegate this task to others." Even though that wasn't the question at hand.
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Despiegelaere posted the photo on July 1 — the day that Belgium played the U.S. in the round of 16 and before she signed on with L'Oreal. She captioned it by saying, "Hunting is not a matter of life or death. It's much more important than that..this was about 1 year ago...ready to hunt Americans today." The backlash from the public was instant, but she tried to squash it by saying, "Hi, I don't mean to offend anyone...it was just a joke."
It seems likely that Despiegelaere's deal was just for the one video and wasn't really affected by the hunting controversy, which was already bubbling before she announced her involvement with the company. Aside from releasing the video on YouTube, the company made no mention of a having a deal with her until issuing this statement about her contract being completed. The greater impact seems to have been on Axelle Despiegelaere herself, given the fact that she's retreated from her recently established social media prominence.
The situation is a bit reminiscent of the backlash 19-year-old Texas cheerleader Kendall Jones faced after posting photos of her own hunting experiences in Africa on Facebook prompting widespread outrage and death threats.
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