Modelling is often considered to be a dream career. However, any model will tell you it’s not as glamorous as it seems, but in some cases, it’s a whole lot worse than just unglamorous.
If you’ve followed high profile minority models in the last few years, you’ll likely have noticed a trend of girls standing up for themselves. I’ve seen a lot of the same complaints, such as being discriminated against or treated as a mannequin and not a human. More recently though, the Instagram account @shitmodelmgmt has used their platform built from sharing relatable ‘everything sucks’ memes to talk about more important issues. Now, shitmodelmgmt has a blacklist of photographers, agents and industry professionals that have received repeated accusations of sexual assault from models in her DMs.
If you do a quick search on YouTube, you’ll be able to find videos of models speaking out about sketchy situations they have been put in at work. Unfortunately, on many of these occasions, the agency themselves put the model in these precarious positions. Alexandria Morgan, a model in New York, spoke on her channel about being sent to a different country under the belief that she was there for a photoshoot and it turned out to be more of an escort situation. Agencies effectively pimping out their models is not uncommon. Male and female models have spoken about being encouraged to sleep with certain people in the industry to keep their careers or book a job. There are very few other industries in which this could happen and be brushed off as an expectation of the job.
In the last week, the conversation has turned to the more spoken about industry issue of eating disorders and models being encouraged to maintain an unhealthily low weight. Unsurprisingly, models told their stories of being encouraged to lose a lot of weight and times they were measured or weighed daily. One confession spoke of being given a contract where she would agree to have her wages docked if her weight fluctuated by 1lb. An absolutely insane clause, for anyone, particularly young girls going through hormonal fluctuations that have nothing to do with their diet and exercise routine. A more recent extension of this issue is Curve models being encouraged to gain weight to fit the ‘Curve’ ideals proving that even the diversity in the industry is not all that progressive.
In any other industry, businesses would be required to prove that the health and safety needs of their employees were being met. So who exactly gets to become a model agent?
The answer is literally anyone. In the UK anyone working with children in a professional capacity is required to pass a DBS check to certify they are not a threat to children and vulnerable people. This requirement doesn’t extend to agencies. To appear on the BFMA list of approved agencies, the BFMA requires all staff that have direct dealings with minors at said agencies to have had a DBS check. However, this is not a government regulation and anyone can form and act as an agency without being approved.
Even with a DBS check requirement, this does nothing to prevent models from being put in questionable and sexually exploitative situations or being forced to lose or gain an unhealthy amount of weight. No job in the world is worth risking your health and safety for. Agencies behave the way they do because they know models can’t always recognise when they are being exploited and in some cases don’t know how to leave.
Shitmodelmgmt is doing a great job of calling out the worst offenders in the industry but until actual government guidelines are enforced it is unlikely that anything will change.