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Debbie Gibson: Today's teen stars way sexier, way sooner

  • selena gomez album bieber split reuters.jpg

    Selena Gomez just turned 20, but she's had several sexy CD covers, and posed in this provocative dress with Justin Bieber when she was 17. (Reuters)

  • debbie gibson album covers 660.jpg

    Debbie Gibson posed with a stuffed animal on her first album cover (right)..

  • debbie gibson selena gomez 660 reuters.jpg

    Debbie Gibson (left) was 36 before she showed some skin on the red carpet. Gomez (right) is 19 in this photo. (Reuters)

Two decades ago, child stars and teen idols still looked and dressed pretty much like normal kids. They had braces, frizzy hair, freckles that weren’t airbrushed over, and clothes they bought at the mall.

“Full House” star Candace Cameron-Bure, now 37, recently posted a picture from the old days to her Instagram account, featuring her young self alongside co-star Andrea Garber (Kimmy Gibbler), “Family Matters” star Jaleel White, and Jeremy Miller of “Growing Pains” fame.

“Young Hollywood 1990’s. No stylist or high heels. Instead: baggie clothes, pimples & healthy weight,” she wrote alongside it. 

80s pop star Debbie Gibson agrees.

“I didn’t put on a pair of heels until I was 21. And that was for a Matthew Rolston-directed video. These days, the couture image and sexier vibe happens way earlier. I had a way more accessible and affordable style,” Gibson told FOX411's Pop Tarts column. “They (current young stars) care way more now about not being fashion policed than I did. In fact, I still don’t!” 

A quick look at recent red carpets seems to bear Gibson out.

AnnaSophia Robb, 19, channeled a look far beyond her years in a monochrome short dress at the New York premiere of “Way, Way Back” a few weeks ago, while her 18-year-old co-star, Zoe Levin, too looked far beyond her years in a little black ensemble and red lipstick.

Teen magazines continue that theme.

Seventeen magazine, aimed at girls 12 to 19, almost always shows flawless-skinned, pimple-free, porcelain teeth perfected photographs on the likes of Victoria Justice, and Nina Dobrev on its covers, with its reigning cover girl – Nickelodeon sensation Ariana Grande – resembling an immaculate doll. Her “purse raid” shows she keeps pricey designer Chanel lipgloss on-hand too. This presents a sharp contrast to 1978’s simple plain-faced Brooke Shields cover, or Alicia Silverstone in 1995 or even a somewhat awkward Kelly Clarkson in 2002.

Over at Teen Vogue, the current Emma Watson spread is almost as high-fashion as its parent publication.

Gibson told us when she co-hosted the American Music Awards at age 19 in 1989, she bought her own dress from a local boutique in her native Long Island, New York partly because she wanted to look like a regular girl with access to fancy frocks, and partly because she really had no idea what “Dolce & Gabbana” even meant.

It’s a far cry from the designer dress hoopla that reigns supreme today. At last year’s ceremony, teen favorite Taylor Swift did her thing in a nude sparkly Zuhair Murad dress, while “Pretty Little Liars” sensation stepped out in a black satin Elizabeth and James ensemble. At the recent Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards, Belle Thorne opted for a Bec & Bridge number with pink Alice + Olivia pumps while Victoria Justice wore a designer Pia Pauro dress.

According to Emmy-winning stylist David Zyla, the biggest shift from no-name to big-name fashion happened about five years ago when it was discovered how influential the tween market was, and how impactful they were on what their parents purchased.

“Every business in every category of the world took note. This of course included the business of fashion. Sensing tremendous opportunity for product exposure, these young stars were now offered very adult-style clothing and the result was a production of a very different image from what we expected a child prior to this period to look like,” he explained.

When Roger Neal first started in the entertainment industry as a publicist and image consultant to a range of young stars, he said they did indeed act and dress their age.

“Today teen stars have grown up quickly, every career move is calculated, and it really does not let the teen just be a teen,” he noted. “There is no room for error.”

According to Gibson, the seemingly “perfect” perception and unattainable image we see in young stars today can have some negative ramifications for their fans.

“What kid in Middle America has a trainer and a stylist?! Kids need role models who teach them how to be healthy,” she said. “Young stars have so much power.”

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