From body positivity to pushing for more diversity, models have been more comfortable having a voice and tapping into activism thanks to social media. While it seems like the industry has become more inclusive, however, it’s a big risk to be outspoken–models can face losing jobs and important relationships. That’s one reason why terrible treatment that happens to models behind closed doors still gets swept under the rug. Just last Paris Fashion Week, prominent casting director James Scully called out “serial abuser” casting directors, Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes, for making 150 girls wait in a stairwell for three hours in the dark during the Balenciaga casting, and claimed that Lanvin did not want to see black models.
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In light of recent headlines, Models.com decided to survey models with a simple question: “How do you, the model, want to be treated?” Here are some of the more infuriating issues they faced:
Fernanda Ly revealed that she had been sexually assaulted on a job. “There are too many who take advantage of a model’s young age and use this to their self satisfaction. A regular, normal minded human should not be attempting to prey on a girl who is there to work and is afraid of speaking up (as being someone ‘hard to work with’ may cost you a job),” she writes. She then explains that while shooting a lookbook, a stylist kept feeling up her body “more than necessary” and to this day she “can remember the disgusting feel of this man’s hands tracing my body.”
“This is a physically demanding job and also very mentally draining,” she says.
One anonymous model claimed she got an A-list show during her first season in Paris, however, “When [the designer] found out I was transgender, something no one knows about to this day, they cancelled my booking,” she writes. “They somehow considered it a risk–that it would draw too much attention, something they thought would affect the brand negatively.” She adds that she was “unknown” at the time and that should not have been a concern.
Lack of Financial Transparency
“Imagine, you are working for some big company and your job requires traveling and staying in hotels in different cities. If your boss were to tell you several months later, ‘You know, you have to cover it all yourself.'” This is the comparison model Ekaterina Ozhiganov draws when talking about how, in her experience in the European market, models have to pay for their own promotion, travel, accomodation, and other fees. “It is not OK to get into debt in order to work,” she says.
Poor Compensation for Diverse Models
Cailin Hill Araki, an ex-model and the voice behind @modelburnbook, says she’s happy to see more “street castings,” that is, models not from agencies. “But, I can’t help but think brands are profiting off these new crop of models unfairly,” she says. These models, new to the industry, “don’t know their own value,” and accept flimsy pay: a job that’d give an agency model $1500, for example, gives a street cast model no more than $150 and “exposure” after a 12-18 hour day.
She continues, “I see it as an exploitation of these diverse new faces. We say we want fashion to be more inclusive, but hitting up a kid on Instagram and offering a couple sweatshirts instead of payment is fucking BS.”
Read the full survey results here.