This week was formed the Model Alliance, a nonprofit organization which aims to improve models’ working conditions and to establish ethical standards on the fashion industry. The alliance was formed by former model Sara Ziff and Coco Rocha and Amy Lemons are members in the board. No, they are not complaining for none of the following: marring prince charming, wearing high end designer clothes, travelling all over the world, having incredible bodies, being envied by the rest of 99% of the women in the world, having awesome careers and social lives, etc.
Apparently if they are not Giselle or Coco or Natalia their lives aren’t that glittery as they seem and they have some serious problems despite our projections. And if you look closer at their problems, the spectacular factor is no longer valid. Take for example a 13-14 years old (54.7% of the girls start their modeling careers between 13 and 16) who works far from home and earning less money then we can even imagine and of course which is very vulnerable – and we are talking here about sexual harassment, unacceptable working and payment conditions imposed by the booking agencies, demands to alter their bodies and encouraging eating disorders.
Lack of financial transparency is a significant problem. Last year, three models brought a lawsuit against their New York agency Next for allegedly stealing $750,000 of their earnings. Like the plaintiffs, I also left an agency after becoming increasingly wary of their opaque bookkeeping, and I was paid the outstanding earnings owed to me by that agency only after I consulted a lawyer and threatened legal action.
While the majority of people working in fashion act professionally, sexual abuse is also a problem. Consider just the last few years: in 2008, fashion designer Anand Jon was found guilty of rape and multiple counts assault of aspiring models, who ranged from 14 to 21 years old. Last year, models began to speak out in numbers against the photographer Terry Richardson for his practice of putting models on the spot to disrobe on castings, soliciting sex from them, and documenting these exploits. (Sara Ziff)
This alliance should be a platform for young girls, a place where they meet and speak up their professional problems. When you know you are a young girl and you are highly replaceable (cause there are million of other girls dreaming on becoming models) you often don’t speak out the industry’s inappropriate behavior. Moreover, they produced a draft bill of rights so that young models know their rights, can and should handle their problems.
Models have won the genetic lottery. They are tall, they are beautiful, they get paid for walking. But they are human beings, they are not coat hangers.
(Susan Scafidi, director of the Fashion Law Institute at New York’s Fordham University and an alliance board member).