Rachel Khona Asks: Are models truly ever victims?

Written by NY Press on . Posted in NY Press Exclusive.


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Models are victims. At least that’s what we’ve been told. We’ve all heard the stories of young innocent 14-year-old girls plucked from their native Eastern European countries and traded like chattel to model agencies around the world. Picked apart for not being skinny enough at 5’10 and 125 lbs, by a world of evil model scouts. Scouts who live to torture young innocent victims just to make a buck.

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In the new documentary, “Girl Model”, the filmmaker follows around a scout and her discovery Nadya Vall, a 13-year-old from . In it, Nadya is depicted as being lonely, sad, and homesick, living in a tiny model apartment in Tokyo. She is soon sent home with only one job under her belt and a few thousand dollars in debt. To be fair, I haven’t seen the movie as it’s not on and frankly I’m lazy. And also because as someone who has worked as a booker and scout, I already know how the industry works.

The media picked up on the documentary coming down on the modeling industry with disgust and horror, while completely disregarding the fact that the girls (and guys for that matter) are choosing to work as models.

In my entire time working in the industry, I have never met a prospect who didn’t want to be a model. I’ve seen girls and guys practically beg and cry to be models, whether it’s at a modeling convention or a scouting trip. I’ve had plenty of models ask me why they aren’t working more or why they aren’t making more money. I’ve seen models who are 35 and still desperate to work as models even though their prime has passed. Why wouldn’t they just secure a regular 9-5 job with a steady paycheck? Because they want to be models. They cannot live with the thought of not being models.

The younger ones get wine and dined for free, getting into clubs without waiting in line so the club owners can seem trendy. Girls whose parents don’t have two dimes to rub together are able to buy houses and cars for their parents. How many industries do you get paid $2,000 to the sky’s the limit for a day of work without being required to have any skills, expertise, or talent? No one is holding a gun to their heads forcing them to wear couture and get the red carpet rolled for them. If a girl would rather stay in her native town and live in poverty, she certainly has the prerogative to do that.

When blogged about her experience working as a model for for nothing but free clothes (which is common during fashion week), the media pounced on the story as if she was some modern day slave trapped in designer duds. Her response? She enjoyed working for Marc Jacobs. The reality is walking in a top show is imperative in advancing a model’s career and landing lucrative campaigns and contracts down the road. Any model would kill to walk in a show like Marc Jacobs. Even Coco Rocha, who accused agents of asking her to lose weight, never left the industry. In fact, she is still going strong as one of the top supermodels in the world.

In the words of Marc Jacobs, (via Twitter of course) “If [the models] don’t want to work with us, they don’t have to.”

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