In researching to set up the Alliance–a two year process–Ziff talked to tons of models. She sent out surveys. And what she found over and over were two main concerns: the pressure to start working extremely young (at age 14 and 15) and sexual harassment. “There’s an emphasis on extreme youth that I think is a disservice to those young girls and I think it’s a disservice to models who are adults in the business who can’t possibly have a 15 year old body naturally and I think it’s a disservice to women who are the consumers of the images these models create,” Ziff said. And if we’ve heard the rumors about the sexual harassment that goes on in the modeling industry (like those accusations against Terry Richardson) then Ziff has witnessed it and heard about it first hand, again and again.
The Times slammed Ziff’s doc as “worthless as social commentary and clueless as a film,” and she admits her film was less compelling because she took out some of the stories about sexual harassment after models requested as much. “When someone is telling a story of being exploited the last thing you want to do is further that exploitation, right?” Ziff said. “When you’re working in an industry that is unregulated, you desperately want to be liked and it’s very competitive and you just want to be easy to work with and seem cool and it’s not so easy to handle those situations when you’re young and new to the business and you’re alone,” Ziff explains. And that makes for a lot of uncomfortable situations.
Fortunately, the Model Alliance is now officially open for business. They’re accepting members and charging just $50 a year (because most models don’t rake in millions like Gisele). They’ve got a working bill of rights and a mission statement, both of which can be found on their website–which also hosts a forum for models to post about the issues they face (racism, sexual harassment, feeling pressured to drop out of school, financial transparency).