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The models are not sufficiently protected at work

A bill in New York is trying to do something about it

The models are not sufficiently protected at work A bill in New York is trying to do something about it

When an average person thinks of models, they imagine them as beautiful, aloof and hungry, all busy with wild parties, private jets, dream clothes, and generally luxuries beyond our understanding. We think these girls, who have had the luck and privilege of being born beautiful, tall, and very thin, live perfect lives filled with glamour. Unfortunately for them, this is not the case. The life of a young emerging model - so we are not talking about Kendall Jenner or Gigi Hadid - is very tough, characterized by exhausting work schedules, shared apartments with unknown colleagues in foreign cities, hours and hours of casting, low wages, and feet battered by sample size shoes. As if that weren't enough, young models have almost no rights over their image, are subject to harassment and power imbalances, and are not protected against the agencies themselves.

Emily Ratajkowski's case

Emily Ratajkowski told us about it in an essay for The Cut. A photographer, Jonathan Leder, molested her when she was just 20 years old during a photo shoot and then continued to use the Polaroids taken on that occasion in galleries and publications without her permission or consent. According to the model, writer, and entrepreneur's lawyers, Leder went further by forging her agent's signature on the release form to protect himself. She is not the only one. Social media is full of horror stories experienced during castings, fittings, and shoots, and the list goes on.

A law to protect models from exploitation

The New York State Assembly has approved a law aimed at granting greater rights to models and protecting them from exploitation. It is called the Fashion Workers Act and will provide workplace protections, imposing strict rules on management agencies, prohibiting them from charging high and unclear fees to models to avoid leaving them in debt. Furthermore, it will cap management commissions and create regulatory frameworks specifically addressing digital image rights, which are becoming increasingly central in public discourse due to the rise of generative artificial intelligence.

Sara Ziff, executive director of the Model Alliance, an organization that has worked to support the measure, stated: "Today, New York — one of the fashion capitals of the world — has unequivocally declared that the status quo is unacceptable. It is a major victory for our workforce, overwhelmingly composed of girls and young women." Now, the bill will go to New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who must sign it into law.