Recently I found myself engaged in a passionate conversation with Sara Ziff, fellow model, founder and director of the Model Alliance. With great relief and enthusiasm, I learned that the Model Alliance was organizing and working against the sexual harassment and abuse I’ve been trying to expose. For decades the industry seemed silent and deeply guarded about what goes on behind the camera and during my crusade of educating others, I was often met with disbelief that models might receive anything but “star” treatment. The outside perception was that most models lived a glamorous, protected life.

Looking back through my own career I recognize there was pattern of suppression. I was a young model traveling across the world from booking to booking and it was a challenge just to keep my head above water. Drug use, and sexual exploitation were (and still are!) unfortunately all too common. Many of us were underage, often times thousands of miles away from home, disconnected from parents or a safe chaperone. The demands were exhausting, and the consequences of not meeting those demands could threaten a fledgling career.

“The modeling industry is rife with tales of minors fending off the sexual advances of employers, photographers and agents.”

The simple fact is I was “hired” because someone approved of my face and body. When I went to work, I was rarely asked how I was that day, how I felt or what was going on underneath my skin that was for hire. This alone was a hard concept for me to fathom. To be so young, in desperate need of approval and to be constantly praised or rejected because of my body was a bitter and isolating pill to swallow. Early on in my career I realized that I wasn’t there for my intellect, my well-being or any other non-physical thing that made me who I am.

I was also hired for jobs that I was not necessarily comfortable with and typical as it is for many young models, I didn’t voice my concerns. The jobs were more often than not age-inappropriate and as was the norm photo shoots for some of the most impressive publications were often shot semi nude. I was well aware that if I did not comply with industry standards I was at risk of losing the job. I was constantly reminded that there was a surplus of beautiful young women who could replace me.

The modeling industry is rife with tales of minors fending off the sexual advances of employers, photographers and agents. The blurry line between adults and children still seems hard for many to decipher. In my early career sexual harassment was something most girls I worked with simply endured. If someone had told me then it was not something I had to comply with, I would have listened.

“For too long, models have been uniquely vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse. I can’t imagine how different my life and career might have been if Model Alliance Support had been in place when I was starting out.”

By providing industry professionals a confidential grievance reporting system, the Model Alliance is taking a much-needed step to give models a support system their workplace deserves. There should be a culture of zero tolerance for sexual abuse, as well as a safe and anonymous haven where misconduct can be documented and reported. Young models need to be educated, empowered and encouraged to speak up. Employees in every other industry, especially teens, are protected by strict health and safety regulations. For too long, models have been uniquely vulnerable. I can’t imagine how different my life and career might have been if this had been in place when I was starting out.

I fully support the Model Alliance and their efforts to create fair and ethical labor standards for models as it is afforded to employees in other industries.

4 Responses to A Voice Long Overdue

  1. Brook Cens says:

    Hi Carre,

    I’ve watched “Picture Me” and I am on the bring of watching Girl Model and I have purchased your book

    I’ve always been a strong advocate of women and children rights especially those exploited in child labor, sexual/physical abuse and human trafficking. I’ve worked in war thorn countries such as Afghanistan and never phantom that what I hated the most was linked by something I loved the most -Fashion exposed in beautiful glossy magazines.

    As I understand and I will purchase your book, that you have been taking advantage by the industry, but what I cannot understand is why there is such a conspiracy of silence surrounding these illicit acts. Defrauding young girls for money and important goals in life such as finishing school is incredible to me, but more disturbing is that no one names the names of these ass holes except maybe you and a select few. Why is it so hard to point fingers and sue those monsters? How many attacks has there been on Gerald Marie yet he’s still protected and employed by Elite Management. I wonder how much power they hold on these girls and even women who have came and left the industry who never speak up, like Linda Evangelista who was married with Marie and other models like Tyra Banks who have shows immersing them in that business while they are fully aware of the abuse.

    I wonder why it is that I read a few times about a certain photographer who undresses in the photo shoot and has his assistant take pictures of him with the girls and models like Cena are too scared to reveal his name.

    Why is it that you where able to come forward and expose some and others are not? Karen Mulder did but they called her crazy…

    There are so little hard incriminating evidence of abuse of these freaks and is it because of how powerful the other side is or is it because they are so young and easily manipulated that these girls are silence into this oblivion of depravity.

    I am so confused by he evasiveness and opaqueness of this industry where maleficent are ruling human trafficking and child labor in a glamorous way.

    I also wonder how easy it is to drop school before the age of 16 years old in the US, I thought laws where stricter and protected children from not completing their education. I also thought there where laws stipulating legal working age in the US and Canada.

  2. Madeline Hunt says:

    Hi Carre,

    I am a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of Journalism and I am currently working on my master’s thesis about labor rights for models. I am extremely interested in interviewing you to get a model’s perspective on the issue and learn how models are taking a stand and fighting for a more equal workspace inside the fashion industry. I think your knowledge and extensive experience in the industry could greatly contribute to the objective of my thesis.

    Are you available for a quick interview sometime this week?

    Looking forward to hearing from you!

    Sincerely,

    Madeline Hunt

    Madeline Marie Hunt
    Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, M.S. 2013
    e: mmh2202@columbia.edu | c: 805.453.1480

  3. Carre says:

    Lisa,
    Thank you for sharing as well as your support. Its about time we all spoke up! And there IS headway being made. The very fact that our ‘wants’ from way back when (that were laughed at) have been organized to create the beginnings of a movement are greatly encouraging. Its long over due and still greatly needed.
    Stay tuned in! And thanks again!

  4. I remember saying years ago that there should be a model union.It was laughed off as something silly and useless.
    Sexual abuse was rampant when I modeled and we were in fear to out the creeps that would sexually harass us. I am gobsmacked that someone like Terry Richardson is even in this business in this ‘enlightened’ day and age.
    Carrie’s book Beauty Disrupted shows what a lot of girls had to endure in the business in Paris. The sleazy agents and the ogling casting directrice at the major fashion magazine is not a lie. They existed and probably still exist to this day.
    I hope that Model Alliance takes a true stance against this horrific part of the modeling business, because it is a reality.

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