But the Fayetteville native, raised in Lumberton and Johnston County, is receiving backlash alongside a fashion photographer and French magazine.
A spread in the magazine Numéro's March issue features Hardin in what appears to be blackface with the title "African Queen."
Critics question why anyone would use a blond-haired, blue-eyed model, paint her dark and use that title.
In an interview with Good Morning America, former model Cynthia Bailey, who is black, said she thought the model was simply bronzed until she read the title of the editorial.
"That's when I questioned, is this a black girl? Or is this a white girl? Once they decided to make the concept of the story 'African Queen' there are so many beautiful African-American models or African models that they could have used for the story," said Bailey, who runs the Bailey Agency School of Fashion in Atlanta.
The photographer involved has offered an apology saying the spread was an artistic vision - that he was not intending to portray a black woman - and he didn't know the magazine would use the African Queen title.
Meanwhile, Hardin's family in Lumberton says she was simply doing her job and had no idea of the spread's title.
And as for the concept of blackface, they're not convinced the 16-year-old is aware of the sensitivity surrounding it.
"It is not even something that comes to light in our world. Therefore, she has no way of creating an issue because she's never had any training for that. It's never been a part of her lifestyle. Never been a part of her. I'm out of words," said her grandfather Wayne Stuckey.
Stuckey says he's trying to see the positive.
"Maybe this could be a good thing - don't have to be a bad thing - and say 'Hey people, why are we looking at such a drama thing here that's not there?' You know, why are trying to create drama that simply doesn't exist?" he said.
The magazine issued a statement to the media in which it apologized for any offense but strongly denied any allegations of racism or racial insensitivity. It calls the spread an "artistic statement" of the photographer which pushes a melting pot and mix of cultures, "the exact opposite of any skin color based discrimination," the statement said.