For as long as the modeling industry has boomed, there has been tales of abuse exacted upon fashion models. In some ways, it comes with the territory: it’s a business that banks upon barely nubile girls, frequently but not always sourced from poverty-stricken backgrounds in foreign countries, valued solely for their competency as human clothes hangers. It takes a rare voice to come forward and express the severity of the mistreatment and exploitation, sexual and otherwise, in a production that values above all other things being seen and not heard.
After several years of conception, the Model Alliance became a reality earlier this month. Spearheaded by model, activist, and Columbia graduate Sara Ziff, the group is a nonprofit organization that dedicates itself to allowing models a long overdue voice in the American fashion scene. The group has opened up a forum for models and former models to come forward with their stories, which only several years ago would have been swept under the rug.
Case in point: Carré Otis, the ’90s model who notoriously struggled with eating disorders, drug dependency, and Mickey Rourke, has become vocal about the corruption she was subjected to behind the scenes of the seemingly glamorous profession. “The modeling industry is rife with tales of minors fending off the sexual advances of employers, photographers, and agents … In my early career,” she says, “sexual harassment was something most girls I worked with simply endured.” With the establishment of the Model Alliance, which Otis now backs, supporters strive to create a safe environment for models, one with “fair and ethical labor standards” and a respite from the “uniquely vulnerable” situations they once faced. [Model Alliance]