CNN Money Exposes How the Modeling Industry Exploits Young and Vulnerable Workers

CNN Money exposes the realities of the fashion modeling industry and fashion models in an explosive investigative journalistic work. Many of the revelations CNN uncovers are, however, not new.

Indeed as an ex-fashion model I witnessed and experienced some of these issues. As a fashion lawyer, I have advocated for change in the industry and continue to. It is indeed very good, nonetheless, that these discussions are coming to the forefront again.

Read a few excerpts from the explosive piece:

“Stolen pay. Sexual harassment. Months without a paycheck. Outrageous fees and expenses that eat away at earnings. And no one to turn to for help.

Models allege that labor abuses like these run rampant in the modeling industry — leaving many workers feeling more like indentured servants than the glamorous high fashion icons young girls around the world dream of becoming.

While the industry often comes under fire for eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse and unwanted sexual advances, its problems go far beyond that.

From an analysis of pay stubs and financial statements, interviews with dozens of current and former models, attorneys, labor experts and even a former agency executive, a CNNMoney investigation has found that the fashion world often treats its models in ways that would be unheard of in many other industries. And due to a significant lack of regulation, these abuses can be completely legal.

“It’s not an easy industry, you’re not going to have a nice lush lifestyle,” said Emily Fox, who started out as a model at age 16 and has appeared in Italian Vogue and walked on runways all over the world.
Now 25 years old and still working in the industry, Fox says that most years she earns less than $20,000 before taxes. “You’re going to really struggle and you’ll be really poor.” Model Emily Fox says most years she earns less than $20,000 — before taxes.Of course, as in any creative and competitive industry, not everyone is going to make it. But models argue that industry practices are a big part of what keeps them from finding success — especially financially.”

“‘A toxic power dynamic’
The industry’s labor issues often stem from the fact that even though models say agencies control much of their lives (down to their eating habits and the pay they receive), they typically aren’t considered employees. Clients don’t typically claim them as employees either. Instead, models are left as contract workers in an industry with little oversight — making it very difficult for them to challenge everything from wage theft to sexual harassment.”

“There is this culture that comes from the agency that you are disposable and you are so lucky to be here,” said former model Meredith Hattam. “It’s a toxic power dynamic and it starts from the top.”

CNN Money has the full story.

-Ms. Uduak

Photocredit: CNN Money