I have been in the fashion industry for twenty years. I come from the generation of Naomi, Cindy, Christy, Veronica, Kara, Linda and so many more...not about name-dropping, I know 'em all. It's fair to say that I've also seen it all.
I recently heard a story from one of the biggest models in the world, a situation that happened to her when she just turned 18. She flew 16 hours for a gig and the client came to her room the night before the shoot and threatened her to "perform" or else. Luckily, the photographer for the shoot was courageous enough and said that if she walked, he would walk with her. She told me that she felt very thankful for the gesture of the photographer, but the behavior of the client was an eye-opener and an intro to many other clients and photographers she would encounter. It didn't stop until she became a big star and even now, it happens on occasion.
My office has been located on 7th Avenue, aka Fashion Avenue, in New York City for 20 years, and after everyday seeing this new generation of young girls who come to this city dreaming of living the glamorous life of a "supermodel," I write this piece for them. I write this blog not to tell the industry something that they don't already know, but to give them a moral compass to guide them and a warning to stop their sometimes indecent behavior.
Many of these young girls are in New York for their first time and are terrified to speak up after going through such a horrible experience. Many are harassed, threatened and even sometimes sexually assaulted. Some photographers prefer to shoot girls who just turned 18, producing photographs that border on child pornography. Stories run throughout agencies about certain photographers or clients. They know who they are. A lot of the bookers get phone calls from girls, crying hysterically after a shoot, and they know exactly what that call means. While I know that this is going to continue to happen, this should not be acceptable behavior. The agent's first concern should not be to calm the girl down. The agent's first concern should be to defend her.
I've heard horror story after horror story from many new models in New York, that it's gotten to a point where I have to say something. No one has been able to speak up loud enough to create a change, mostly in fear of retribution. For many models, the only option is to quit the industry and give up on their dreams. And that should not be the case. I hope this gets passed around the fashion industry and puts everyone on notice, that enough is enough.
For those who are guilty of this on-going abuse, do you realize that there could be a tell-all book on the shelves tomorrow or even worse, a movie, and you can be the star! Do you realize that some of the girls that you sexually harassed or even abused, these girls keep diaries. And at some point, the one who really wanted to be a writer, will find catharsis in publishing her memoir and your name could be in the title. You have been warned...