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

4 Responses to Reactions to Proposed Regulations for Child Performers in New York

  1. Tanya says:

    I would like to know what the NY laws are regarding allowing parents in studio for photo shoots? My 6 month old son just had his first booking today and they would not allow me in the studio. I had to hand my baby off to a stranger while I wondered how the shoot was going. Is this common practice???? I’m not at all comfortable with it

  2. Sheree says:

    In my career I have spent some years working in child protection in Australia. I am continuously shocked by the inertia of adults who work in the modelling/fashion industry when it comes to standing up for the rights of children. I would urge anyone working in this industry who is witness to situations of child exploitation/ child abuse to report this to their local police. This is the only way to end this culture of child abuse & paedophilia in the modelling /fashion industry. Without appropriate and EFFECTIVE regulation of children’s work environment in modelling/fashion this widespread culture of child abuse will continue unabated. It is up to each & every adult who works in modelling/fashion to stand up & report these criminal activities to the appropriate people ie: the police. Nothing… Your career, reputation or friends are worth protecting if it means turning a blind eye to child abuse in the self serving hope that someone else will deal with it. There are no excuses for adults who allow children to suffer exploitation & abuse when we live in times where we know the long term damage that victims of child abuse suffer. Those good people in the Fashion/Modelling Industry who are sickened, appalled, upset etc etc etc by what they have seen need to step up to the plate, act like an adult and report what they have witnessed to the police. There’s no other way to change this horrific environment of child exploitation and child sex abuse.

  3. There’s definately a great deal to find out about this topic. I love all of the points you’ve made.

  4. I wish I had an easy answer to WHY child models have been excluded from the NY Labor Dept. Regulations, but it is ridiculous! It has to start at the TOP of the industry’s “foodchain” and trickle down. They even have the reach to clearly set International Standards if they truly wanted to. Regardless, I can’t even believe that anyone would have to convince ANY state’s labor department in the United States! They are being irresponsible by not setting a standard of protective and fair guidelines for child models, as well as adult models. It seems to me like the NY Labor Department has been pressured “NOT” to get involved with the modeling industry. It just doesn’t make sense, does it? The industry is so paranoid that any change would be “bad” for their financial bottom line, and others don’t want to be told what to do as artists, but they are directly contributing to violating the child’s human rights…even if it is not a law. Models are afraid that they won’t work anymore if they complain, plus child models listen to adults that they think they should trust…they don’t want to appear to be immature because they are told to be “professional”. It’s a viscious cycle. No one in power wants to be accountable. Many may not see the comparison, but I’ve seen more industry individuals publicly standing up “united” for same sex marriage as a “human right”, but they selectively think that the rights of child & adult models are disposable and not the same. Food for thought. Thank you for sharing your updates…if anyone can bring attention to this problem…you all can!

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