Scantily clad women face all sport ban

AUSSIE models say it's just the pits that Formula One has given grid girls a red light, saying it shuts off a lucrative fast track into the glamour industry.

The shock move to dump the traditional role from Grand Prix worldwide, starting with next month's Melbourne race, prompted calls for other sports, including the NRL, to ban cheerleaders and other scantily clad women from the sidelines.

Becky Lamb, Tahan Lew-Fatt and Renee Winterbottom at the Grand Prix. Picture: Ian Currie.
Becky Lamb, Tahan Lew-Fatt and Renee Winterbottom at the Grand Prix. Picture: Ian Currie.

Formula One's new US owners announced yesterday that grid girls - who have posed as pre-race eye candy for decades - were "at odds with modern-day societal norms" and no longer welcome.

The role has launched many modelling careers, including those of former Australian Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins and Kyly Clarke.

Jennifer Hawkins at age 19
Jennifer Hawkins at age 19

Former Big Brother and grid girl star Tahan Lew-Fatt said women could earn up to $500 for as little as four hours and the sport was stripping them of their livelihoods.

Jennifer Hawkins now models for Myer.
Jennifer Hawkins now models for Myer.

"It's double standards. They say it's sexist but it's sexist to not include women in the sport," Ms Lew-Fatt told The Daily Telegraph.

Banned ... grid girls next to the pit lane.
Banned ... grid girls next to the pit lane.

"It's not meant to be sexual. I have never felt uncomfortable with the outfits and we were always given jackets if we ever did."

Bernie Ecclestone, who ran Formula One for decades until Liberty Media bought a controlling stake a year ago, said the move to ditch grid girls was "prudish''.

Replacing the models in Melbourne will be children aged 10-14 who will act as "brollie dollies'' holding umbrellas to shade drivers on the Albert Park starting grid.

V8 driver David Reynolds with his grid girl girlfriend Tahan Lew-Fatt.
V8 driver David Reynolds with his grid girl girlfriend Tahan Lew-Fatt.

Australian Grand Prix chief Andrew Westacott said he was "very comfortable" with the decision and said it should prompt other sports to rethink such roles.

"When a high profile organisation makes a change it is important for others to query their own approaches,'' he said.

Women Sport Australia spokeswoman Louise Evans welcomed the end of the "archaic practice".

"Women in sport should be celebrated as strong, skilled athletes, not as a titillating decoration,'' she said.

The grid girls at the track. Picture: Tim Hunter.
The grid girls at the track. Picture: Tim Hunter.

"It's time other sports scrapped ring girls, walk-on girls and podium girls."

In the NRL, the South Sydney Rabbitohs replaced their cheer squad with drummers in 2007, while the Canberra Raiders last year replaced their squad with local dance schools.

The NRL said yesterday such decisions were up to individual clubs.

Kyly Clarke now. Picture: Justin Lloyd
Kyly Clarke now. Picture: Justin Lloyd

A St George Illawarra Dragons spokeswoman yesterday confirmed the club "will have cheerleaders in 2018" but would not be drawn on the F1's decision. The Bulldogs and Cronulla Sharks did not respond to questions.

Kyly Clarke in 1999.
Kyly Clarke in 1999.

The UK's Professional Darts Corporation last week banned ring girls from its events but

other European groups have said they will maintain the practice.

It's understood there are no plans to abandon the use of ring girls at boxing and UFC bouts.

A Supercars spokesman confirmed the sport hasn't used grid girls for two years but still employs "promotional girls".

Cheerleaders could be banned. Picture: Toby Zerna
Cheerleaders could be banned. Picture: Toby Zerna

"Supercars is focused on being respectful and ensuring the sport is presented in a professional manner which reflects modern day societal standards," he said.

Managing director of Promotional Models Australia and former grid girl Jane Stewart said the agency was flooded with applications from aspiring grid girls.

"These girls, yes they are working on the track looking glamorous however the job for these girls is a lot more in-depth," she said.

"It's a shame because these girls choose to do it too. They're not arriving at a job with no idea of what's required of them."

UFC ring card girl Kristie McKeon.
UFC ring card girl Kristie McKeon.

Christine Feher, 23, worked as a grid girl at the Grand Prix in St Kilda last year. She said finding a replacement job would be difficult.

"Anything to do with events and sporting, nothing is going to take the cake and be similar to that," she said.

"It's pretty sad. It's one of the funnest (sic) jobs as well to be honest."

 

Still OK ... Boxing ring girl in Australia.
Still OK ... Boxing ring girl in Australia.


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