Child Models Protected Under New York Labor Law

We are thrilled to have supported Model Alliance in the recent NY law change and to see that legal change is possible!  See Model Alliance statement below.


Child Models Protected Under New York Labor Law

It’s official – the New York State Senate and Assembly unanimously passed legislation on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, to finally afford child models the protections they deserve as workers in the State of New York.  The bill, proposed by Senate Co-Leader Jeff Klein and State Senate Labor Committee Chairwoman Diane Savino, is the culmination, in part, of the Model Alliance’s efforts to improve the working conditions within the modeling industry.

This legislation recognizes models under the age of eighteen as child performers – a definition in which print and runway models were notably absent prior to today.  Child models will now legally be afforded the same protections as child actors, dancers and musicians working in New York.  These regulations not only include provisions for mandatory financial trusts and the presence of chaperones and tutors on set, amongst others, but they are overseen by the Department of Labor, which possesses far greater resources to enforce regulations than the Department of Education (the agency which previously was tasked with overseeing regulations pertaining to the employment and education of child models in New York).

New York City is hailed as the fashion capital of the world, and with many models beginning their careers in their early teens, this legislation is vital to ensuring these young workers are protected under the law.  We are thrilled by the support this legislation has received and we look forward to continuing our efforts to improve the industry as a whole.

In solidarity,
Sara Ziff

Proposed Legislation to Protect Fashion Models Under 18

We are excited to have partnered with the Model Alliance on the petition and are seeing some tangible results!  Senator Jeffrey Klein, the Co-Leader of the New York State Senate, and Senator Diane Savino, Chair of the State Labor Committee, have agreed to propose legislation which will finally afford print and runway models under the age of 18 who work in the State of New York the same protections and benefits afforded to all other child performers.

Read more about it here and here.  Stay tuned for upcoming developments.

Tune in 3/24 & Sign On!

Get ready! Girl Model will broadcast this Sunday, 3/24 at 10pm on POV. Check your local PBS listings here. Join us on screen or online and help us make a difference!

Working with our partners, super models Sara Ziff, Carre Otis, and Rachel Blais of the Model Alliance, and the Fordham Fashion Law Institute we’ve created a petition to ask that child models be afforded the same rights and protections as all other child performers.

We want to close this dangerous loop hole in New York State and make sure that the child models who are working in NY State are working in regulated, safe and non-hazardous environments. We urge you to sign the petition and help us spread the word.

Here are a few ways you can help:

Send out these tweets:

@GirlModelMovie: The truth behind the allure of the modeling industry. @povdocs presents, 3/24

Protect child models. To help: watch @GirlModelMovie premiere 3/24 on @povdocs & share this petition:

Post on Facebook:

Tune in this Sunday to PBS to watch the premiere of Girl Model, a documentary that exposes abuses and labor violations for child models:

Protect child models. To help watch Girl Model documentary premiere on 3/24 on POV and share this petition:

If you want other ways to take action, visit our take action page and get involved. It’s not too late to host a screening party! PBS website has tool kits, educational materials and all you need to host a party for your community, your dorm and more. If you’re wild about animated GIFS or know someone addicted to Tumblr, check out our #askagirlmodel blog.


Two weeks to Broadcast

We’re less than two weeks away from our broadcast premiere on PBS!  Girl Model will hit living rooms across the nation on March 24 at 10pm.  Make sure you tune in–an consider hosting a premiere party!  POV’s website has everything you need to screen and talk about this film with your friends, family, after school group, or students.

To gear up for the premiere, we’ll be joining the Women’s Media Center (@womensmediacntr) and the Model Alliance (@ModelAllianceNY) for a special edition of #sheparty, WMC’s weekly tweet-up. Join us on Twitter Wednesday March 20th from 3pm-5pm easter to #askagirlmodel about her experiences, and to chat with activists, models, educators, and lawyers about labor rights violations in the fashion industry. Just follow the #sheparty hashtag and tag your own posts to join the conversation!

Want to really help girl models?  In partnership with the Model Alliance, we are launching a petition on March 20th to ask that child models get the same protection as child performers. Will you sign it and spread the word? Check out our website, Tumblr, Facebook, or Twitter for when we launch.

Also join us on March 14th for a screening of Girl Model at the Brooklyn Museum!  The 7pm screening will be followed by a Q&A with working models, activists, and lawyers. Can’t make it?  We’ll be covering the event live on @girlmodelmovie.



Brand new educational discussion guide

We’re happy to announce that the educational discussion guide is available for download online.  Lots of great discussion prompts, resources, and taking action points.  Check it out here!


The Production of Hypersexualized Images

Latest blog post by Rachel Blais (@rachelblais1 ). For the french version click here to read on the RQASF website.

“States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, States Parties shall in particular take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent: The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.” – United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 34 (c)

The United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child defines children as all people under 18 years of age.

If famous and respected celebrities pose on magazine covers in a sexualized manner, can we expect an underage model to say she is not comfortable posing in this way? We can also better understand this phenomenon: young girls publish pictures of themselves (e.g. on social networks like Facebook), publicly imitating the hypersexualized images with which many celebrities and models are depicted, and which they implicitly and tacitly endorse.


Most people don’t know what goes on at fashion photoshoots, where hypersexualised images are created and captured. It is important to acknowledge what has become normalized: that is, many models find it very common to be photographed in their underwear or with very transparent clothing because from a very young age they have been encouraged to do so, and these days models are even pressured into this. I say ‘these days’ because 10 years ago fashion models were not expected to shoot in any manner other than fully clothed.

This has drastically changed over the past several years and it is now plain to see in magazines, on billboards, and, of course, the internet. This might not be obvious to all consumers, but it has become evident to many parents, and experts agree on the negative consequences these images have on everyone. For models, too, this has become evident in the stories exchanged amongst ourselves. Girls have told me of agents being angry at them for refusing to pose in swimwear or topless. Throughout my career I have always felt more protected than many of the girls I was surrounded by. But this kind of pressure was nothing like as prevalent in the first part of the last decade. Another factor that perpetuates the hypersexualisation is the setting of a precedent, whether or not the model desires it. Once a girl has taken a picture topless, even if she was forced or uncomfortable, agents and clients take it for granted that she will always be willing to portray this kind of image.

My earliest memory of a photographer’s strange request was at 17 years old in Milan. I was too young at the time to understand the sexual connotation of his request, but I do remember a moment of awareness and sensing something odd about the way the photographer told me to pose.  “Place your hand near your mouth as if it were a kitten’s paw, and pretend you were about to clean it.” These words are far from the worst or most explicit I’ve heard directed at me, and I know not only of sexual language but also of disturbing experiences that many girls have suffered. All models have good and bad stories about the industry.  But for the luckiest of us, we all gather that we lived on a dangerous edge and have simply been more fortunate than others.

Girls who manage to stand up for themselves need to be strong, but also quick-witted and canny. It is not easy to avoid explicit and demeaning images, given the subtle pressures which do not respect the model’s right to choose. An agent might say, “You’re okay with doing topless, right?” A client might say, “And now you can take your shirt off.” These are commonly heard on shoots. Out of context these sentences might seem easy to dismiss, and one could say that anyone should be able to say no to such requests, but it isn’t the case in any way. These statements are often said in manipulative or condescending ways which victimise the model, who is often in a state of shock at the unfair demand that arrogates her dignity and choice. Too often she will execute the request under pressure and the pretense that she is being asked to do nothing unusual or remarkable, but all the while her mind is telling her not to. Or maybe this happens because models know that, if they refuse to do anything on a shoot or if they complain, they will simply stop getting work and they don’t know where to turn to when in need.*

Some top models have spoken out on the problem of shoots and child model nudity over the years, and particularly over the last months with Kate Moss and Heidi Klum. I believe it is wonderful they are sending out warnings since they are seen as role models by many (or even idolized). But I should hope they would also address the issues to agencies and government agencies.

It is disappointing that many members of the fashion industry don’t take into consideration the desire of women to be represented by their peers and not pre-pubescent looking girls. And how do men perceive women in real life when they are surrounded by so many distorted images of women?

“States Parties recognize the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.” – United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 32.1

*All models in need of help in NYC can turn to The Model Alliance and to Equity in the UK. These organisations are still not promoted to models by their agencies.

Website makeover and #askagirlmodel tumblr launches

Girl Model has a whole new look just in time for the 3/24 Broadcast on POV! Take a look at the new website for ways to get involved, host a screening party, engage with our partners and bring the film to your community. Check the screenings page for the screenings near you!

OMG – we’re on Tumblr! Check out our spanking new animated GIF heavy tumblr blog: The quesitons we’re asking about girl models are taken directly from the experiences of Nadya & Madlen in the film: How is she? Do her parents know where she is? Does she trust the photographer? Did she get paid for that shoot?

Follow along! Share posts, ask questions, and learn from teenage girls by reading the comments and questions–we’re using the tag #askagirlmodel both on Tumblr and Twitter. On March 20, we’ll be hosting a tweet-up with our partners and models in the field, with more planned in the future. Stay tuned for the exact dates.

Available on Home DVD & Itunes in the US

Girl Model is available today on DVD and Itunes in the US. Check it!

Hypersexualizing Models

by Rachel Blais for RQASF.  Click here for the blog post in French.

A friend of mine emailed me a few days ago after she couldn’t help but notice how many of this month’s magazine covers on the newsstand were hyper sexualized.

I started looking up the images and more and more I began to wonder, how much more sexualized is a Playboy cover?! Well, the answer makes me even more sadly aware of the extent of the normalization of hyper sexualized imagery in popular culture. It is really how we want to see women depicted?

  • Is this what we want young girls to aspire to become? And how we want boys to view women?
  • Does being a successful woman have any link with getting undressed for magazine covers?
  • Is this supposed to be “girl power”? Or is it what marketing has made of it?
  • Is it really necessary to bombard consumers with so many sexualized images?
  • If these famous and respected celebrities pose on covers in this way, can we expect a young model to say she is not comfortable posing in sexualized manners?
  • And if she feels okay with it, shouldn’t she be left to discover her sexuality with peers of her own age and not in front of a camera at work?

This girl was no more than 16 years old when this picture was taken.


An Image is Worth a Thousand Words…or a Thousand Aches?

by Rachel Blais for RQASF. Click here for the blog post in French.

I was in New York during last fashion week from September 6th to 13th. From what I’ve seen, the diversity of ages and body shapes of models was very similar to what we’ve seen in the previous seasons, and by that I mean a quasi-total absence diversity. In the few cases designers made the choice to promote even the slightest diversity, it was mentioned so much that it could make anyone wonder if it is a good marketing scheme to make some people believe the industry has changed, when in reality it is far from being the case.

I was in New York to attend some events, but especially for the theatrical opening of Girl Model at the IFC Center. The date had been planned to concord with the start of New York Fashion Week, which is also the beginning of the world fashion weeks capitals circuit: New York, London (or Madrid), Milan and Paris.

These intense fashion weeks are difficult to go through physically and emotionally for anyone involve in a way or another in the fashion industry. So imagine for teenagers… The work of models on a daily basis at those times of the year consists of doing up to twenty castings a day: which involve getting to different addresses criss-crossing the city and always arriving promptly. Following are the “call backs” (2nd castings sometimes needed), then the fittings and the shows for the ones who get work. Hundreds of fashion shows happen during the bi-annual month-long fashion circuit, but very few girls trying end up being chosen: the great majority of them will leave with debts or at least without a penny, after having done days or weeks of castings without ever getting any money.

In fact, it is those models who have to pay or pay back advances of all living and travel expenses and often abusive charges for business cards, on-line videos, website updating, print copies, etc. The lucky ones that are getting more work for their part see their sleep hours diminish to nil; accumulating easily up to 18 hours of work a day.

And even for the minority of adolescents who manage to make a good living during these weeks, how can we not question the fact they are working instead of being at school, even finishing school?

Another side of these fashion weeks, more worrying than the ones mentioned above: how come are we sending children, alone, to castings happening at strangers places, strangers that often agents have never even met. And what about the castings happening with fashion celebrities who are renowned within the industry to have had inappropriate behaviours or even criminal ones? Some of them are still being glorified by too many in the industry.

The first major change that needs to happen, the one that would make all changes needed be easier thereafter, is to stop recruiting young girls under 18 years old to represent adults in advertisements and all media. For some people, 16 years old is a totally reasonable age to have a career as adults in this business. In fact, Vogue magazine has congratulated itself, last May, on its decision to only hire girls over 16 for their fashion shoots. The downside to this: about three-quarters of their publications are advertisements, and Vogue doesn’t require their clients to join into their new practice. So, no real changes on the horizon… Young girls continue to be exploited…

The Girl Model theatrical opening got a lot of attention from the media around the extreme youth of models. The New York Times even produced a short, Scouted, by the directors of Girl Model and published a debate on models’ age. Carré Otis (model and author) and Sara Ziff (model and director of The Model Alliance, a non-profit protecting models’ rights) are supporting the main cause I’m defending: models shouldn’t work as adults in the fashion and advertisement businesses before they are 18 years old (legal adults). I am profoundly convinced that this is very important, not only because adolescents shouldn’t represent women but also because too many of these young people are in a position where they can’t require basic human rights to be respected while working as a model.

Considering the risks involved in speaking out from within the industry (contracts and visas cancelled, work becoming rarer…), how can we expect models to stand up for the cause? I write this in full knowledge of the situation, but without any regrets. For me, saying the truth on the important subject of the physical and psychological health of children, in this case of young models, is more important than an international modelling career. The fight is also one for consumers, women and men, for them to have models that resemble them more, and for the images that are over saturating our youth’s visual environment to be more appropriate and positive.

An image is worth a thousand words. But certainly not worth a thousand aches…