The world of professional modeling is often seen as shiny, alluring, and glamorous to those on the outside and the idea of strutting the runway for a couture Parisian fashion house during fashion week has a strong pull on many young women. What the beauty covers on magazines do not show is the rampant issues plaguing the modeling industry and the toll it takes on the models themselves.
The Model Alliance conducted a survey of 241 working fashion models based in New York and Los Angeles, 85 responded and their average age was 26 indicated more experienced models. All the models were women and have worked in over a dozen countries, and several high profile supermodels completed the survey.
The Model Alliance found that most models begin their careers very young, most start before the age of 16. Almost 55%. Even though the labor force is so young, most models who are under 18 are not supervised by a parent or guardian. With 53% of the respondents polling “never” and “rarely.” This may be due in part to the fact that those models not born and raised in New York or Los Angeles, starting a career means picking up and moving and their families may not have the financial means to accompany them.
The section on model’s health, although not surprising, was eye opening nonetheless. Over 68% responded that they suffer from some level of anxiety and/or depression about their work. Large percentages of the models stated being exposed to use of drugs and/or alcohol and hard drugs like cocaine. Almost 30% lacked health insurance because they are considered independent contractors rather than employees and it is safe to say that the numbers of uninsured is higher for younger models.
The most startling findings of the survey concerned sexual harassment in the workplace. Of the 30% of models who have been sexually harassed at work, 2/3 reported that their agents didn’t see the problem and most models elected to tell no one.
The pretty facade of modeling is just that, a farce. A lie. The industry is as cutthroat as Wall Street and when models grow too old or their features aren’t in demand or their bodies change, they are cast out in favor of that newer, younger face. With almost 70% reporting that they have been asked to loose weight by their agency, this is not a healthy industry for young and impressionable women. Let’s start by being honest about what goes on behind those beauty shoots.