Protecting Yourself in the Modelling Industry

The glitz, glamour, and bright lights of the modeling industry can be misleading. Behind the scenes, models are often objectified and exploited.

It is important for models to be mindful of their environment and protect themselves from scammers. Be sure to always research any agency, photographer, or client before giving them your information.

1. Know Your Rights

The glamour of modelling can be attractive, especially for individuals with aspirations to pursue their passions and make their mark in the world. However, just like any other industry, there are predators who prey on those naive enough to fall victim to their schemes. Modeling agencies often lack transparency and impose unreasonably high fees on their models, leaving them vulnerable to abuse.

The issue is widespread across the fashion industry and affects models of all shapes and sizes. In the US alone, a survey by the Model Alliance found that 30% of models experienced some form of sexual harassment or unwanted touching during work. The organisation also claims that women of colour face higher rates of discrimination and unfair treatment in the industry, and many suffer from physical and emotional abuse.

In addition to sexual harassment, models must deal with a number of other issues such as the lack of basic labour protections, poverty wages, opaque accounting practices by modeling agencies, and physically impossible beauty standards. The Model Alliance was established to give models a voice in the industry and provide legal support and advocacy for them. Its members have shared their experiences of being “always seen, never heard,” including stories of being ignored by agencies, eating tissue and cotton balls to survive hunger, invasive backstage shootings, and not having any privacy when changing clothes.

The organization has teamed up with models Ambra Gutierrez, Carre Otis, and TikTok influencer Barrett Pall to create a PSA about the issue. Currently, most agencies in the US evade licensing and regulations by calling themselves “management agencies,” which allows them to impose much larger commissions than traditional agents. Some even earn interest on their models’ earnings by holding onto money for months and years, which can be a huge financial burden to young models.

2. Know Your Value

Modeling requires a lot of time, which often results in travel and time away from friends and family. It is important to manage your time wisely and find a balance between work and personal life.

Being punctual for appointments, castings and shoots reflects professionalism and is an essential component to modeling success. It is also important to be respectful of the people you interact with. If you are rude to a photographer, makeup artist or agency, it may reflect negatively on you and hurt your future opportunities.

Be wary of shady agencies that ask for upfront fees to represent models. Legitimate talent agents earn money by taking a commission from the work they book for their clients, and do not require large upfront payments. Do your research by reading reviews, consulting industry publications and seeking recommendations from other models.

Many new models can become easily attached to their agency representation, so much so that they are reluctant to question them or speak up about issues with their contracts. As a result, some agencies take advantage of their “star struck” models and use their contract as a way to prevent them from finding other representation if they aren’t getting enough work.

Be sure to read your contract carefully and understand that you are an independent contractor in the modeling industry. Agencies shouldn’t be able to prevent you from working elsewhere if they aren’t giving you the jobs you want. Be proactive by adding an “out clause” to your contract that gives you the right to seek representation with other agencies if needed. It’s also a good idea to always bring your phone with you and to turn on Location Sharing with a trusted friend, in case you ever need help or have to leave a shoot early.

3. Know the Rules

Modeling has become a big part of 21st-century culture. Flashing lights, runways, and young girls in designer dresses and skimpy outfits are a common sight in movies, TV shows, and fashion magazines. But, while modeling may seem glamorous to outsiders, it can often be very difficult for models. Many models find themselves in a vicious cycle of objectification, eating disorders, drug addiction, and sexual abuse.

To help you avoid falling victim to these scams, it’s important to know the rules of the industry. For example, always check out the agency before signing with them. Reputable agencies should be able to provide you with references and proof of their work, and they should never ask for upfront fees. They should also be able to answer any questions you have about their services.

Another important rule is to never be afraid to say no. If you are uncomfortable posing nude or feel that something is inappropriate, don’t be afraid to speak up. This is especially important if you’re new to modeling and are being pressured to do so by an agency or client.

It’s also important to learn how to deal with rejection. While it can be hard to hear, rejection isn’t a reflection of your worth as a person. It’s more likely that it has to do with specific requirements or tastes of the client.

Finally, if you’re ever unsure about something in your contract, don’t hesitate to get legal advice. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

4. Know the People

Scams can be a big problem for models and can lead to loss of money, time and emotional distress. Some of the most common scams involve fake modeling agencies that promise aspiring models the moon and stars in exchange for upfront fees. To protect yourself, never pay an agency or school upfront and always research the company thoroughly before engaging with them. Look for online reviews, testimonials and news articles on the agency or school. Legitimate agencies earn their income through commissions on the jobs they book for their models, so they should not require any upfront payments.

Another important tip is to only work with people you trust. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe during a shoot, speak up! It’s not okay to be subjected to sexual harassment or unwanted physical contact. This is especially true for younger models. It’s not uncommon for young girls to be hired for a nude photo shoot, only to find out later that the photographer has been convicted of child abuse or sexual assault. This can be a devastating discovery that can have long term negative effects on their mental health and life.

Always be vigilant and do your homework on new clients, designers or photographers. Do not meet with anyone alone or in private and be sure to tell trusted friends where you will be going. If you have to meet a new client at a location that is not public, ask for a chaperone or have someone accompany you. This simple step can prevent you from becoming a victim of a scam and it will also give you the courage to say no if you feel like you’re being ganged up on!

5. Know Yourself

If you are going to take yourself seriously in the modeling industry, you have to know yourself. You must assess your strengths, weaknesses, and physical characteristics, as well as your character and personality. This is particularly important for a career in modeling, where you may be subject to high levels of criticism and judgement on your appearance. Prioritize self-love and body positivity, and remember that your worth is not defined by a job booking or the opinion of others. It is also essential that you have a strong support system and healthy lifestyle to help you navigate the rough waters of this industry.

When you have a good handle on these key things, you are ready to move forward and start your modeling career!