Sexual Harassment in the Modeling Industry? “No More!” Says New Labor Group

Sexual harassment, child abuse, immoral booking agencies, and eating disorders all can make life as a fashion model quite uncomfortable. As former model Sara Ziff recently told the Wall Street Journal, the industry often treats models as commodities: “like choosing a gallon of milk at the deli.”

After working for big names like Banana Republic and Tommy Hilfiger, the 29-year-old Ziff founded The Model Alliance, a labor group supported by the Council of Fashion Designers of America as well as by many famous working models. The Alliance marks the second time that fashion models have tried to organize. In 1995, activists founded a group called The Models Guild. That group collapsed due to lack of support from industry professionals.

To end model sexual harassment, wage and hour violations, privacy concerns, and physical turmoil (models often labor without sleeping or eating enough) Ziff and her colleagues drafted the Models’ Bill of Rights. According to a Wall Street Journal report, this Bill of Rights “demands that all jobs and castings involving nudity be subject to informed consent, and that no model under 17 be asked to pose nude or semi-nude.” Ziff also wants to prohibit how and when photographers can access models; and she wants more financial transparency in the industry.

Many models start out in the business in their early teens or younger. These young people enter a very adult business. They can be easy targets for harassment and mistreatment. Modeling is also an extremely competitive field. The young women (or men) lucky enough to land regular work that pays well might be tempted to keep quiet if/when mistreatment occurs.

Will the Alliance succeed in changing industry practices and protecting young women and men who need help? Or will it go the way of The Models Guild–a good idea that failed due to lack of support?

Fortunately, resources abound for models and others who have experienced problems like sexual harassment, age discrimination, and wage and hour violations. The well-known and widely respected team at Joseph & Kirschenbaum can provide a free, confidential consultation about your situation. We can help protect your rights and demand justice. Learn more at, or call us at (212) 688-5640.

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