For all the steps forward the modeling industry has taken in terms of representation in the past few years, being a model is hardly the dream career you might expect. Models still face mistreatment, sexual harassment, and poor working conditions, even when they’re booking big-name jobs. (Just look at the furor over two casting directors’ alleged mistreatment of models during Paris Fashion Week, as reported by industry whistle-blower James Scully.)
Today, Models.com published a revelatory survey with submissions from working models about how they’re treated in the industry. A few went on the record, like Jay Wright, who said, “some [clients] just have a huge ego and they treat me like I am replaceable, the least important in the fashion chain.” Ekaterina Ozhiganova pointed out that models are often unfairly asked to cover costs up front, while Fernanda Ly shared a story of being inappropriately groped by a stylist during a fitting. The anonymous stories, however, are perhaps the most damning — here are some of them.
I got a semi-exclusive for an A-list show with an opening guarantee during my first season in Paris. When [the designer] found out I was transgender, something no one knows about to this day, they cancelled my booking; they somehow considered it a risk — that it would draw too much attention, something they thought would affect the brand negatively: A very doubtful decision, especially considering that I was [then] an unknown new face.
I was at that Balenciaga casting that has brought up the recent conversations, and it definitely wasn’t nice, but I didn’t think it was that exceptionally bad because it’s a fact that it’s pretty normal to wait for a very long time for bigger brands. For the first big show I walked, I waited about 17 hours for the fitting.
As a black woman with curly hair, [it] isn’t easy at all … Sometimes, because I have a walk that exudes attitude or because I represent the diversity the industry needs, that in itself gets me declined jobs and should frankly be the opposite.
The agency said that they loved me but wanted me to lose a little weight, and they gave me a month to do it and then resend digitals. And so I lost a lot of weight in a short time and just got obsessed with it after that. I became anorexic and was extremely underweight, passing out in rehearsals. After the month they never got back to me and my mother agent. Since then, my weight has fluctuated so much because of how poorly I treated my body.
During London Fashion Week 2016, I felt dizzy and sick at a 90-minute static presentation: I went off the stage and told the casting director that I can’t keep going because otherwise I might faint while another model was throwing up three feet away from me. She told me I have to go on-stage otherwise I’m not getting paid. I wasn’t paid anyway.