The modeling industry is largely unregulated: Models are independent contractors without basic employment rights like workplace protection and minimum age and wage requirements.
That’s why the Model Alliance, established to improve models’ working conditions as well as provide a safe space for models to communicate with one another about their rights, created one of the first surveys we’ve seen to offer an analysis of models’ experiences.
“When Sara [Ziff, the founder of the Model Alliance] and I were just starting to think about ways we could organize models, and how we might go about working for fairer labor standards in the industry, we realized we first needed to know how models viewed their working conditions, and where models themselves saw room for improvement,” Jenna Sauers, who sits on the board of the Model Alliance, said. “We did the survey because we wanted a map, basically.”
Granted, the sample size is pretty small (the Alliance sent an anonymous online survey to 241 working models, and only 85 responded) but still, it offers a little window into what life is like as a working model. Some of the results aren’t that surprising (most models begin working at age 13-19, most of them have been told to lose weight by their agencies), but others are downright horrifying.
“I admit I was not surprised by many of the responses, although I was of course saddened to learn certain things,” Sauers said. “For instance, that roughly a third of the models we surveyed had had eating disorders — that was sobering. I was surprised by a few responses. Our respondents ranked anxiety and depression as their number one health concern.”
Roughly 68% of models surveyed answered that they suffered from depression and anxiety, and nearly 50% say they’ve even been exposed to cocaine while working, which, considering the fact that many of these models are under the age of 18, is pretty scary.
Most shocking, though, is that nearly 30% of models’ surveyed say they’ve been touched inappropriately on shoots and 28% say they’ve been pressured to have sex with someone at work.
Those numbers make plain that this is a workforce in need of an outlet to anonymously report abuse. So the Model Alliance set it up. “This data from our survey is useful because it helps us identify common areas of concern in qualitative, quantifiable terms that can help us bring about change,” Sara Ziff, founder of the Model Alliance said. “[T]he fact that a third of models who’ve experienced sexual harassment at work felt that the could not tell their agencies, and that most elected to tell no-one, suggested to us that models needed an independent, confidential grievance service — and that’s precisely what’s we’ve done. With the AGMA and Actors’ Equity, we’ve established Model Alliance Support, a reporting service for our members who are dealing with sexual harassment or any kind of abuse.”
Sauers says the Model Alliance will continue to periodically survey working models so they can be responsive to their concerns. Here’s hoping that with the good work the Model Alliance has started, surveys will start to come in with more heartening results.
Click through to see the results.