Even something as basic as signing a contract with an agency is fraught with problems. Blais told me that many models are given contracts in languages they cannot understand, and that, being 13, uneducated on legal contracts and goaded by agents, they sign them without really reading them.
Another problem with employing 13-and-14-year-old models is that agents cannot be sure how the girl’s body will develop. If her body doesn’t develop the way it is expected to, it can lead to drastic measures on the part of the agency and the model. “A lot of girls have boob jobs, nose job when they’re not even 18 years old…Agencies will actually advance [money for the surgeries], but then the models are even more in debt and there’s even more pressure for them to keep up a certain physical appearance,” Blais told us, adding that she was asked to get liposuction when she was just 18.
Most shocking, however, is Blais’ belief that young models are at risk for becoming prostitutes. “It happens for sure that young models fall prey to prostitution, whether it’s by their own will or being forced into it.”
“Through having these young girls traveling the world unsupervised and getting visas easily, you’re putting them in danger and there is of course going to be some bad people who will take advantage of that,” she said.
Because of everything she’s seen, Blais firmly believes that the minimum age a model should begin working internationally should be 18–not 16. “As long as it’s going to be 16 you’re still going to get a lot of girls starting to work at 13 and then going overseas at 16,” she said. “We need to give them a chance to finish school, and so that models who choose to go to university don’t have to feel like grandmas when they decide to start their career at 21.”