A rapidly growing number of models are coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment or abuse by photographers, casting directors, and others in positions of power in the fashion industry. In conjunction with the Model Alliance, a group founded by model Sara Ziff in 2012 to help models fight for fair treatment in the industry, a number of models shared their experiences in a video for Harper’s Bazaar.
“The photographer’s assistant takes me several feet to the back of the studio and I’m changing into my next outfit when he decides that he’s just going to completely molest me within several feet of my mother,” one model recalled in the video.
“For years, I used to suppress the memories of what happened because it was so traumatizing and devastating,” added another model. “For a while, I was sexualy harassed by the agency’s owner and then sexually abused. I’m finally able to acknowledge that it happened. And I know that it wasn’t my fault. Shame on him, who did this to me.”
The number of stories about sexual assault in the modelling industry has exploded since the emergence of the #MeToo movement. Model Cameron Russell, among others, have helped other models to share their stories of assault anonymously by posting the stories on Instagram under the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse.
According to Ziff, people in the industry get away with harassment and abuse of models due to lack of legal protection and recourse available to models. Since models technically qualify as independent contractors, they risk being dropped by their agencies or blackballed if they dare to speak out against photographers or others. When she first starting modeling at the age of 14, she recalled, she was asked to pose topless by a photographer.
“I just assumed, here’s this adult in this position of authority who I’m supposed to be listening to, so I went along with every request,” she said.
With the support of New York State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, Ziff helped introduced potential legislative protection for models last month — the Model’s Harassment Protection Act. Speaking with Harper’s Bazaar, Ziff explained further the pressure faced by models, and the cruel reality faced by many who have spoken out in the past.
Watch the Model Alliance video for Harper’s Bazaar below.
Read the full story at Harper’s Bazaar.