The Model Alliance launched last night at New York’s Standard Hotel to an unsurprisingly model-studded crowd. TheGloss came along for three reasons: 1) we are unapologetic modelizers and wanted to gawk at attendees like Crystal Renn, Victoria’s Secret Angel Doutzen Kroes and host Coco Rocha, 2) we care very much about the Alliance’s mission/think they’re doing something important, and 3) it’s run in part by our friend Jenna Sauers, Jezebel’s amazingly talented fashion editor (for the full team, visit their site).
Spearheaded by model Sara Ziff–face of Moschino, D&G, H&M–the Model Alliance is a nonprofit organization that seeks to provide security and representation for all models. While the lives of famous mannequins may seem charmed, their industry is quite treacherous… especially when models are expected to navigate it alone, at a young age, often in foreign countries far away from home.
In the weeks surrounding the group’s launch, we’ve been disappointed but not surprised to see a certain strain of antipathy for the organization, primarily from people who think models have it all and thus doesn’t deserve fair treatment. One particularly venomous commenter on NYMag, summed up the most ignorant objections succinctly, “Might Sara be part of the UES’s mega wealthy hedge fund and publishing clan the Ziffs? If so, it makes this heart warming story of a stunning Ivy Leaguer fighting for the rights of beautiful women who never pay for bottle service at One Oak even more poignant.”
It may seem easy to agree with this kind of bitterness, but the truth is the modeling industry needs substantial repair. Here’s 5 reasons you should care about the Model Alliance, why it needs to exist, why it deserves your support, and why you shouldn’t be jealous of all that free bottle service:
1. The industry blithely disregards child labor law
People are always saying models get younger and younger: much of the workforce is under 18, though model Garren Taylor famously hit her first catwalk at 12. …That doesn’t have an impact on the long hours they’re expected to work, often at the expense of health and education.
2. The industry lacks financial transparency
The definitive rundown on how much it costs to be a model was written by Jenna Sauers for Dis magazine. Read it if you have any doubts, but it’s alarming.
3. The industry encourages eating disorders
You’re 5’11 and 125 lbs but your agent insists you need to lose another 10… very few people can maintain that weight and be healthy, yet many models are expected to starve. For a more in depth look at a model’s struggle with anorexia, please read Crystal Renn‘s memoir Hungry.
4. The industry tolerates sexual abuse in the workplace
For many models, nudity is part of the job. But if you’re 15, in an unfamiliar environment and trying to make a living, you may be too frightened to speak up when someone crosses the line. While doing press for her documentary Picture Me, Sara Ziff told the Guardian about a 16-year-old model who complained to her agency when a 45-year-old photographer made a pass at her: “Her agency said she should have slept with him.” Further, supermodel Carre Otis recently named the man who raped her at 17: Gérald Marie, her then-agent and boss of the Elite modeling agency. For still more, read Jamie Peck‘s essay about her own experience working with Terry Richardson.
5. They are a work force like any other
The Model Alliance may address the unique needs of models, but models are still a work force and still deserve the same basic rights as any teacher, waiter, blogger, plumber… Unfortunately, models are often reluctant to speak out when confronted with inappropriate behavior or financial exploitation for a litany of reasons, not the least of which is a constant reminder of their own expendability. Why complain about sexual harassment if there’s someone even younger and thinner waiting to take your place?
Models are an exploited work force: exploited at the expense of their health, well-being, and wallets. Just because they photograph well doesn’t mean they should waive basic rights like a work environment free of sexual harassment. The Model Alliance believes that models deserve fair treatment in their workplace, and aims to “establish ethical standards that bring real and lasting change to the fashion industry as a whole.”
For further info on the group, here’s a brief video. If you’d like to learn more or help, please visit their website.
(Photo via Getty)