But who’s to blame for Nadya’s botched experience? Was it Nadya herself, for not asking enough questions? Her parents, for not taking umbrage for their daughter’s shady contract? Or Ashley, for perpetuating her own cycle of misery on naive girls? According to the panel discussion following the screening, it’s a problem with the whole system–a problem, well, many problems–that the Model Alliance aims to abolish.
Led by Sabin, Redmon, Model Alliance directors Sara Ziff and Jenna Sauers, model Rachel Blais (who appears in the film), and Harvard psychologist Brianna Goodale, the panel used Nadya’s story as a jumping off point to discuss the career-destroying stigmas attached to ‘whistle blowing’ in the fashion world–Blaise, for instance, admitted that she’s been dropped by several agencies since the film’s release.
Regarding the appropriate age to start modeling, everyone seemed to agree that 16 (Vogue‘s new magic number) is still too young for girls to enter the business. Another hot topic was the lack of structured payment plans for models, particularly for the younger, more naive girls. “I think Marc Jacobs can afford to pay his models…” blurted Ziff, which drew major applause.
After the panel, we caught up with Ziff and Sauers to discuss what the Model Alliance is doing to help models like Nadya. The two directors could relate to her story: Both women began their careers as teen models and Ziff was once in so much debt, she had to sell her house to make payments. She told us that, while the NYC-based MA is still in its infancy, she hopes to help the many models who come through the city for fashion weeks and other gigs. An anonymous help-line has been put in place for those ‘whistle blowers’ who aren’t quite ready to retire from the still largely-unregulated world of modeling–models who utilize the service can receive free legal counseling and professional advice without compromising their careers.
Another component that’s lacked regulation in in the modeling industry is payment: More often than it should, payments get lost somewhere between clients, agencies, and models–an issue that’s touched upon in Girl Model. Ziff and Sauers recently made the trek to Albany to lobby for the Freelancer Payment Protection Act, a law which would guarantee payment to both freelancing models and writers. “We met with four Senators, it was very exciting,” Jenna told us. “We’re feeling really good about it.”
For the sake of every young girl like Nadya, here’s hoping the Model Alliance continues to make strides to give models the rights they deserve as workers.