For teens and early adults with good looks as well as high self-confidence, the fashion industry offers a life of celebrity, wealth, and glamour. But for most prospects, the start of a modelling career looks like this:
Dasha Alexander, a 15-year-old rookie model, said, during her first test shoot, a photographer held a camera in one hand and “penetrated” her with the other hand, digitally. The photographer explained that the move would make the images more “sensual” and “raw.”
When a 16-year old aspiring model, Coco Rocha refused to get naked in one of her first photo shoots, she said the photographer decided to replace her with a much younger girl who is willing to get naked in front of the camera. After a few months, a known photographer simulated an orgasm while taking Rocha’s photos.
Another model, Lenka Chubuklieva, a 17-year old model, said that her agent repeatedly groped her. She was also thrown on a bed and kissed by a photographer, and another photographer himself in front of her and threatened to ruin her and her family’s life if she told anyone about the incident.
If people know and understood what is happening behind the scene and behind the glitz and glamour of the fashion industry, they would be horrified and mortified. Due to the #MeToo movement, a lot of models are encouraged to speak about their experiences.
To know more about the #MeToo movement, you can visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me_Too_movement.
At least 50 models spoke to the Globe Spotlight Team about the sexual misconducts that are happening in the fashion industry, from verbal assault to inappropriate touching, to physical assaults. A lot of models are planning to expose the serial predators and people who turn a blind eye on what they are doing or worst enables these sexual predators.
Some of the models are demanding legal protections and new laws and calling for a change in the youth-obsessed industry, a lot of them are being exploited, treated like a worthless piece of meat at a young age. Some models are even “pimped out” by their managers, agents, or even their agency.
As a group, these models, mostly women, made credible allegations of verbal assault, physical abuse, and sexual misconduct against photographers, stylists, agents, casting directors, and other people related in the fashion industry. Spotlight reporters have verified these claims and investigated accounts and examined records like CCTV footages, mobile phone camera videos, and e-mails.
Most of the alleged victims are willing to talk, tell their experiences, but some of them are only willing to spill the beans on a condition that their identity will remain anonymous because they are still working in the fashion industry and afraid of any consequences.
Some of the people being accused of sexual misconduct are well-known photographers, agents, even powerbrokers in the fashion industry and often named by multiple complainants for alleged sexual abused. All of the accused denied the allegations against them, and most of them complained that they couldn’t defend themselves if the identities of the alleged victims of sexual abuse are being protected or remained anonymous.
One of the accused photographers, insisted that some of the encounters were not sexual in nature and they are consensual, another said that the models may have misunderstood the positioning and the touching are part of their job. Both the complainants say these statements are merely justifications for their abuses that have been part of the fashion industry for many years.
The fashion industry, according to most experts, is overflowing with physical abuse and sexual misconduct because it is built into the business. A lot of abused models are minors ageing 14 to 17 years old when they entered the industry, a sexualized world with no job protection and minimal supervision.
Most Hollywood actors and actresses that supported the #MeToo movement have the option to join or start a union. Not only that, being a model involves marketing the products and the brand of the clients using seduction. There is a saying in the marketing world, “Sex Sells.”
At times, most of the models are asked to dramatize or exaggerate sexual behaviors and conduct that they may not yet experience in real life. Models regularly undressed in front of their colleagues and often wears skimpy clothing, and sometimes, no clothes at all, to market and sell the brands they are hired to model in, from hair and skin products, watches, to luxury clothes and lingerie.
It is an industry where financial, sexual and physical exploitation of teens is almost a regular thing, At least 60% of the models said that they had been sexually abused verbally or physically in the workplace, ranging from unconsented kissing to rape.
But for many years, the victims of sexual abuse in the fashion industry have struggled to be taken seriously or heard. Modelling may be a profession that accentuates the beauty and the sensuality of both men and women, but for models, it still works that provide food to the table for them and their families.
It is a job, and just because you see pictures of models in underwear or skimpy clothes, it does not mean that it is an invitation to come to their bedroom or you have their permission to abuse them sexually. For example, you see a sexy model in websites like modelinggrandrapids.com; it does not mean that you the model can be abused verbally or physically just because she posed in websites or magazines wearing nothing but her underwear.
People should understand that the life of the model outside their job is different from their life on the job. If they happily wear skimpy clothes during the photo shoots, it does not mean that’s who they are in real life. But most models say they seldom complain since doing this can get them in trouble and get them labeled as a model challenging to work with and can derail their plans to be a successful supermodel.
Still, encouraged by the increasing calls to stop sexual harassment in the workplace, more models are starting to speak out in the hope that people can see what is happening behind the glamour and glitz of the fashion world and change will finally arrive in the industry.
Because of the public uproar and pressure, brands and designers pledged to impose more protections against sexual abuse in the days leading up to one of the biggest fashion events of the year, the New York Fashion Week. But the safeguards put into place like private changing rooms for the models so that they don’t have to change or get naked in front of everyone, only proves that the models are vulnerable to any form of abuse, whether it is verbally, physically, sexually, or emotionally.