The Model Alliance is the product of years of thinking, working, writing, and organizing, and the advice of many invaluable people in various fields. But when our organization started to become a concrete reality, there was one group of key stakeholders we most wanted to talk to: models.
So we asked the models who have been there with us from the very beginning, when they were most needed, to sit for individual portraits with photographer Peter Ash Lee, and to talk about why they support the Model Alliance.
Their responses were enlightening, eloquent, and sometimes surprising.
The images are not airbrushed, and the words are the models’ own. We hope you enjoy reading them.
We are the Model Alliance.
“I support the Model Alliance because for too long, models have lacked basic workplace protections. I see this as a new frontier for women’s rights. And workers’ rights. And I think that giving the faces of this business a voice can only be a good thing for the fashion industry as a whole.”
— Sara Ziff, founder of the Model Alliance
“I support the Model Alliance because I feel it’s important to help new girls who are coming into the industry to understand what they’re getting into. And to be part of the solution. I support the Model Alliance because I love the fashion industry and I want to see it get better.”
— Marcia Mitchell, a model originally from Lee, Massachusetts
“I support the Model Alliance because I know that there are things in the industry that should change. I know that there are things that need to happen to make it a better industry to work in, and Sara’s making a good start.”
— Lisa Cant, a model in New York and a contributor to the Model Alliance Forum
Irish-born Caitriona Balfe modeled internationally for years. She often worked with her friend Sara Ziff, and appears in Sara’s documentary, Picture Me. She now lives in Los Angeles and works as an actress. Caitriona supports the Model Alliance.
“I’ve been a model for 14 years of my life. I started when I was 16 years old. And as I have gotten older, I’ve gained a lot of perspective, and it’s become obvious that there are these very young girls who are thrust into an industry, and into a world, where nobody is looking out for them. The people around them are looking out for their own interests. And these young girls are placed into scenarios with predatory types of people, and are made to work for very long hours without somebody asking if they need water, or food, or if they need to take a break. And there’s nowhere to go to report any of these injustices — and sometimes actually illegal things — that are happening. And I don’t think that it’s right. I think that being an older model who’s gone through it, I want to start to make it right. And I think that possibility is there. At the end of the day, everybody wants to do what’s right. It just takes getting people behind it, and standing up, and actually speaking up about it.”
— Lisa Davies, a model, nurse, and contributor to the Model Alliance Forum
“Why do I support the Model Alliance? A million different reasons. Because I believe we deserve rights, just like everyone else. We deserve a safe and healthy working environment, just like any other working American.”
— Brittany Mason, who hails from Indiana, works as a model in New York City
In 1995, Donna Eller founded the Models Guild, a labor union that represented American models. She worked tirelessly to improve conditions in the industry and fight modeling scams throughout her 20-year career. She now lives in Los Angeles and works in real estate. Donna supports the Model Alliance.
“For the young girls — for all girls, but especially the young ones who come into this industry as teenagers and who don’t know how to look after themselves — there need to be some changes made for their safety and benefit. And for the benefit of all women as well. There’s that great quote by Ashley Mears, when she wrote that ‘Taking models seriously is a way of taking women seriously.’ I think that is something that’s really important to consider.”
— Dana Drori, originally from Montreal, models in New York City
“I support the Model Alliance because I know that fashion models have a very precarious working situation. As it is, they’re freelancers, so they’re not offered a lot of the same protections that you’d expect in a modern working environment. And I want to work to change that. We can make fashion a safer, and more fun, and just generally, all-around better environment for everyone who’s lucky enough to work in this great industry. But especially for the really young girls — and boys — who start out in this job in their early teens.”
— Model Alliance board member Jenna Sauers worked as a model internationally, and in her native New Zealand
Jenna Sauers and Sara Ziff, December, 2011, at Sara’s home.