The Darkness Behind the Lights

From the outside, the modeling industry appears to be perfect, glamorous, and irresistible. The inside is a much different picture.

Caroline Lilleoer, Columnist

Models are not considered employees, but independent contractors. This means that they are not guaranteed minimum wage, lunch breaks, overtime pay, or other protections that usually are in a common work place. Also, before even starting to work in the industry, the models have to pay a list of fees and charges. These can include administrative fees, a show package, a promo video, dermatologist visit, and walking lessons. Sometimes the models even have to pay for business cards and website fees for the company. A model said that she even had to pay for the cards after her name was misspelled on them. Louisa Raske, another model, explained how she was charged for the flowers the agency bought on her birthday for her.

Finding an apartment can be hard for the models who have little income, if any at all. This problem is increased in cities like New York and Miami, where many of the model agencies are located. What often happens is that the agencies offer an apartment for the models to live in, but they have to pay a lot of money for it. A model said they lived with twelve girls in one small apartment and each girl payed $1,200 every month, even though the agency only paid $4,000 a month for the apartment. The conditions were terrible, she explained, with mice and bedbugs in their beds. Model Jessica Reedy said she was so desperate to live in the big city to pursue her dreams of becoming a successful model, that she had to accept the not-so-enjoyable situation in a small apartment owned by the agency owner. She also said he sexually harassed her and would become abusive towards her. She relied so much on the place that she could not move out, simply because she was broke and had nowhere else to go.

Sexual harassment is not only found in the apartments; it is also found during working hours. In a case with Gemase Simmons, he told the models to pose for the camera naked. He told them that, if they did this, they would make it into the industry. Afterwards, he blackmailed them with the photos and told them if they did not continue the naked sessions, he would publicize the pictures. Many of the girls are so desperate to make the industry, earn money, and start a successful career, that they often forgot the real cost of the decision they are making.

In Florida, “an agency” was looking for models for a photoshoot but turned out to be a complete setup. The “agency owner” would drug the girls and then drive them to another location, where they would use the girls in pornographic films and sell the movies online to websites. Fortunately, this was discovered by a policeman, and the men who were behind the actions were sentenced to a lifetime in prison.

The model industry is so much more than perfect models, creating an ideal for women. It is not all glamour and perfection. Many models do not succeed in the industry and, instead, face low payment and horrible working and living conditions.