The New York Department of Labor has proposed new regulations for child performers. While child models who engage in “television broadcast or performance” are included in the definition of “child performer,” those who do runway, editorial and advertising work have been conspicuously left out. You can view the full text of the proposed regulations for child performers online here.
Under New York Arts and Cultural Affairs law, models under 18 have modest protections regarding working hours and rest breaks, but these regulations are often violated. The Department of Education, not the Department of Labor, regulates child models and lack of enforcement has been a longstanding problem. For your reference, we have outlined the existing laws governing child models on our website here.
The Department of Labor will be receiving comments on the proposed regulations for child performers before they are adopted. Such comments must be received before October 22nd, 2012. If you wish, you are welcome to join us at a public hearing on September 20th, 2012, from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm in New York City. Details on submitting written comments, and on the public hearing, are available on the Department of Labor’s website at this page.
We asked several models for their reactions to child models being excluded from the proposed regulations for child performers. Here are their responses:
"Child models desperately need to be included in these new regulations. Many children model as adults in New York and there is ostensibly no regulation of our industry. It is imperative that we give these kids legal protection, not leaving it up to an agent who might not have their best interest at heart or a parent who isn't familiar with the business. Speaking as a former child model myself, I sincerely hope that the Department of Labor will consider including all child models in the new proposed regulations governing child performers." - Amy Lemons
"As a model whose career spanned nearly 25 years, and now a mother of two daughters, I have a strong and certainly personal viewpoint on some of the serious dangers and often overlooked pressures within the modeling industry. While the CFDA and Vogue’s new minimum age guideline of 16 is a step in the right direction, even at 16 models are entering an adult world with adult expectations and adult problems. The fact is that very few models actually “make it,” and so many young women sacrifice education and wellbeing for the misdirected hopes about what modeling might someday bring. I believe education should come first." - Carre Otis
"I started modeling and travelling full time at 17-years-old. A lot of harmful behaviors around modeling are normalized to the insiders and hidden from the others. Models’ stories of sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuses are real and widespread. They happen to adults, but particularly to children. It seems basic that child models who do print and runway work should have the same legal protections as any other child performer, and maybe even more. No child model should be working without a legal guardian’s presence until they are adults (18-years-old). Children should also only be depicted as children and not as adults in the media. It is important to protect these kids, especially in a celebrity-obsessed era when too many children are ready to forfeit their compulsory education and compromise themselves in order to try to achieve fame." - Rachel Blais
"I started working as a model at the age of 15. I know first-hand the acute vulnerability of being a child working in an unregulated adult industry. It was not uncommon to be put in situations where I was asked to do things by adults in positions of authority to whom an answer “NO” would put my job at risk. For instance, during show seasons, there were many times I slept on a fitting room floor until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, waiting to fit a dress, with an 18 hour work day ahead of me. At the time, I had no recourse available to protect my basic needs for food and sleep. It seems obvious to me that children should be protected in any work environment they participate in, and child models are no exception." - Shalom Harlow
"When I started modeling at 15, there were no provisions for tutors on set and so I dropped out of school. By the time I was 16, I was living in Milan and had been put in some very compromising situations. At that point I wanted to quit the industry, go back to school, and then on to university. However I was thousands of dollars in debt and two years behind in my studies. I was forced to continue in hopes of making some money to get myself out of the predicament I was in. I was lucky to go onto be successful, but as a child I should never have been put in the situation where I had to make that choice. I would never let my teenage son model with the lack of child labor laws that exist today in the modeling industry. Thousands of young girls and boys aspire to be models. Whether successful or not, many of them will sacrifice their education and be put in very adult situations that are unregulated." - Trish Goff