Should models have rights?,Is fashion debatable?By Rosalie Nelson, Fashion Model
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Politics and fashion don’t go hand in hand, and there’s never really been any public reasons for that to change. Until the #MeToo movement many of us were under the impression that Hollywood was all glitz and glam, but now it’s time for the fashion industry to be exposed for what it is. The fashion industry is always rapidly adapting to the ever-changing
demand of the consumer, and with this - the way models are treated has become increasingly worse, and I can only hope that things will change, fast.
A model career usually starts around the age of 16. To give an example - an aspiring model will visit a modelling agency, be advised to lose weight to fit the 'made up' criteria of the industry, never be assured of work or any income, but be expected to be readily available at any time of day, any day of the week, to travel abroad to countries where they don’t speak the local language or visit a photographer home late at night with no supervision. There are no questions on whether the model is physically or mentally fit to work, or if they’re comfortable with the places they’re being sent to.
I’ve worked in the fashion industry for almost a decade and during this time I’ve personally seen and experienced the way models aren’t treated like any other worker.
Before the age of 25 I had been published in Vogue, walked in London, Paris and Sydney Fashion Weeks, travelled internationally for countless photoshoots, been offered modelling contracts which others would die for (literally, die from malnutrition for), but at what expense? Before the age of 25 I had been told to lose weight to the extent that I was visibly malnourished, I was asked to “get down to the bone” by my agency, I had been forced to change clothes on the street in front of crowds of people, I had been away from home for months without any stable or secure income, staying in older men houses for ‘free’. I had been scratched, stabbed by pins, had my hair and scalp burnt and scarred, been touched inappropriately on photoshoots, and I’ve always been told “it’s part of the job”.
When I was asked to lose weight and “get done to the bone” I was not guaranteed work, I was not given a diet plan or exercise regime. I was expected to lose weight, any way possible, and then maybe I’d book a photoshoot. When I lived abroad in strangers’ homes, I was never asked if I felt comfortable, I was never asked about my mental health, I was never given any advice.These scenarios are ones that majority of models face.
I was once sent abroad to stay in an older man’s apartment for three months, the apartment was paid for up front by my modelling agency on the agreement that the work I did abroad would pay off the costs. I didn’t know this man, he was in his 30s or 40s, he was a photographer who often was out at bars until the early hours of the morning and would come home drunk with friends to continue partying. I told my agency I felt uncomfortable staying at this man’s house, and the only option I was offered was to pay for an absurdly expensive hotel for the remainder of my stay, then I would need to pay off the cost when I returned home. I was on a contract, which my agency told me I couldn’t break because I had my reputation on the line. I was stuck. If I decided to travel home and break my contract, I would be jeopardising my whole career.
As models we’re told if something makes us uncomfortable then it’s our job to keep quiet, we are on zero-hour contracts with no guaranteed work, we’re expected to always comply with the situations we’re in. We’re expected to maintain the physique of a teenager, with no regard to our health whatsoever, never step out of line or complain, but be treated like slaves, so we can churn out photos for fast-fashion and consumer goods. Our workplaces range from dimly lit photo-studios, the basement of abandoned buildings, the back alleys of random streets and sometimes the middles of the woods, hours away from the nearest town. We are put in many situations which would be considered unsafe and often dangerous, with no concern for our safety or wellbeing.
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