This past week I watched the Picture Me documentary byOle Schell and model, Sarah Ziff. This documentary gives an inside look into modeling in the early 2000’s, and begs the question, has anything changed since then? The opening scenes start with Ziff as a new model landing her first job and receiving her first pay check, but as time goes on she experiences the ups and downs of the industry.
The first major con of being a model was the lack of sleep. For two months out of every year, models have four weeks straight of fashion shows in four different cities. We see Ziff eventually break down crying due to the lack of sleep and constant work. When this occurred I did not feel sorry for her at all, I mean that is just what comes with that job and most jobs for that matter, you can get very exhausted with constant deadlines. Recently, I read about a young model in China who passed away from being overworked. She was only 14 years old, shining light on another problem in the industry with increasingly younger models being hired. However, as the documentary progressed we learned about the sexual harassment that takes place in the industry, especially back stage at fashion shows while models are trying to change outfits. When Ziff and other models shared their stories of being photographed naked backstage without their permission I really felt sad for them. No one, no matter who they are or what their job is, should be taken advantage of in this way.
At the end of the documentary we see Ziff get accepted into Columbia. Since then she has launched Model Alliance which has the mission to, “promote fair treatment, equal opportunity, and sustainable practices in the fashion industry, from the runway to the factory floor.” On Oct. 23 of this year, the Models’ Harassment Protection Act was introduced to help give models some rights that they don’t have as free lancers.
The topic of sexual harassment has been in the news a lot recently especially with the news about Harvey Weinstein sexually assaulting many girls he worked with. In the fashion realm we have also learned of Terry Richards sexually assaulting models. Learning about both of these predators who work in the industry I am now a part of as a fashion student and intern is heartbreaking. Sadly, this is probably a part of most industries, but thankfully some brave women are starting to speak out about it. When Sarah Ziff created her documentary she really paved the way and made it okay for other models to speak about their bad experiences. Watching her documentary was truly an eye opener into a very sad reality facing our industry right now. I’m glad people are now starting to speak about these issues and hopefully with the work model alliance is doing we will see good changes in the future.