• A new law in Israel will ban the use of “underweight” models in local ads and publications. Models will have to show health records no more than 3-months old to prove that their BMI is greater than 18.5, the Word Health Organization’s indication of malnourishment. The law will also make companies disclose if digital retouching tools were used to make models appear skinnier than they actually are.
The law in Israel marks the first attempt by a government to enforce a weight-influenced regulation on the fashion industry. While other countries have set guidelines to avoid the size-zero ideal, they have not introduced legislation.
The law has met some criticism. Israeli model Adi Neumman disagrees with using BMI as a fair measure of health and correctly points out that some models with a BMI of under-18.5 can be perfectly healthy, herself included. Meanwhile Dr. David Herzog, founder of the Harris Center for Eating Disorders Research, said, “I’m not pushing for federal legislation. I’m pushing for more information.” Dr. Herzog works closely with the CFDA and Vogue. [CBSNews, HuffPo]
• Three aspiring models have sued agency owner Aristeo Tengco of Emmanuel New York Models for allegedly groping them and withholding their paychecks. Nineteen-year-old Hayden Holt filed the lawsuit in March, and was joined by her roommates, 17-year-olds Kayla Hill and Jessica Lee. The models moved into Tengco’s Upper East Side home last Fall and claim he forced them to live under “relentless and severe and pervasive sex-based hostility and fear.” In the suit, the models say that Tengco encouraged them to work with him by emphasizing his strong Christian values. He booked jobs for them, but they claim they never saw a dime of their earnings and that he groped them during prayer sessions. Tengco, whose Facebook page pictures him posing with industry heavyweights like Donna Karan and B. Michael, is refusing to comment. His lawyer has called the models’ claims “an extortion plot” and called the lawsuit “frivolous.” Tengco has been hosting models at his apartment for over nine years.
It’s worth noting that Holt’s lawsuit argues that Emmanuel was the models’ employer. Models are typically classified as independent contractors, not employees, and their agencies consider themselves to be merely management companies. And, yet, certain aspects of the model-agency relationship do resemble that of an employee-employer. For example, while independent contractors are normally free to work for whoever they want, models’ exclusive contracts with agencies prohibit them from accepting work that doesn’t come through their agency. If Holt’s lawyers could successfully make the case that Holt, Lee, and Hill were Tengco’s employees, they would be entitled to a significantly greater level of protection from sexual harassment, wage theft, and other abuses. Bible-thumping creepiness aside, it will be interesting to see how this case plays out. [The Cut, HuffPo, Jezebel]