We naturally think of models when we think of the fashion industry. Many people consider modeling as glamourous and low-stress jobs. The truth is that models often get used.
Take Kate Upton as a recent example. She modeled for Victoria’s Secret in 2011, before rocketing to stardom (partly thanks to her dougie and cat daddy). Soon after such popularity, Upton was turned down by VS to model in the retailer’s annual fashion show. Women’s Wear Daily reported that Upton was described by a VS casting agent as “too obvious” and “too blonde” for VS. Her more than one year old images, however, were later used on VS catalogues. So, although VS snubbed Upton as an angel, they later took advantage of her fame.
Although VS likely owns full rights to the 2011 images, such unexpected (delayed) use of images from an old shoot is more common than people realize. New models are sometimes so eager to get work that they are willing to sign over all rights to images. Without a lawyer, models may run into issues such as agreeing to allow the employer unlimited rights along with right to alter and license the images to other companies. These overextended rights could lead to a model’s image being sold to a company with which the model would not want to be associated and could ruin a model’s career before (or after) it takes off.
We can demystify glamorized ideas of the modeling world by uncovering many of the legal issues at play.
Public thought: Models are lucky that they get to work independently instead of getting stuck as employees.
Truth: Being classified as independent contractors instead of employees has negative consequences for models. As independent contractors models do not qualify for common employee benefits such as health insurance. Given that models are independent contractors, they have not been able to unionize. As such, models have a difficult time advocating for rights and change in their profession. Lack of a union voice has kept many issues hidden since a squeaky wheel in this profession is replaced rather than oiled. Some industry issues are lack of financial transparency, adequate rest or meal breaks, and sexual harassment.
Public thought: Pre-teen and teen models benefit more than adults in this industry.
Truth: Instead of being treated like young actors who are regulated by rules concerning their schooling, education and child labor laws have often been ignored in this industry. On Wednesday, New York passed a labor law bill aimed at protecting children models. This legislation stretched the protections that have been available to child performers to cover models under the age of 18.
Truth: Unless contracted otherwise, (which is usually unavailable in early careers), models have their travel fees deducted from their pay. Also, seemingly relaxing beach scenes may be taken in freezing waters. Lastly, visa issues are a problem. Going into another country with hopes of doing business there means the model should get a work visa. A model may be left to her own devices to travel to the employee without knowledge of the foreign language or the (lacking) requirements to be legally in the country.
Should it remain legal for a modeling contract to call for daily weigh-ins and measurements as well as termination if a couple of centimeters are gained?
Check out the following links if you’re interested in learning more about modeling-world issues:
- Girl Model, a documentary that is very telling of the modeling industry
- CFDA Health Initiative Guidelines
- Model’s Advocacy Group, The Model Alliance, launched by The Fashion Law institute at Fordham
- WWD: Policies on Models can Lead to Weighty Legal Issues
- NY Times: Ignoring Diversity, Runways Fade to White
- Child Models will be Protected Under Legislature-approved Bill