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I am a crusader for the rights of fashion models.
When I dated one of the busiest national models, and was friends with another one, I saw how the models, often 16-years old and from another country barely speaking English, were paid three to six months after a job. I saw how they were put up in crappy apartments in Alphabet City with six or more girls crammed into a one-bedroom. I saw how their agencies took fee after fee from them. I saw many of the biggest models turning to prostitution to pay the bills. In short, I saw exploitation by sleazy modeling agencies.
Also, I used to get press passes to Fashion Week, and from what I saw, the clothing designers are sleazebags too. They mistreat the models once they hire them. I have been backstage to those fashion shows. Manikins and the clothes are treated better than the human models. I no longer have any desire to participate in press events for Fashion Week. You couldn’t pay me to go to one (the after-parties are the only good thing about Fashion Week).
But none of the models can speak up because it’s an industry where they can easily be blacklisted.
Now, a credible lawsuit has been filed by a group of models that complains about all of this.
The Post reports, “Each of the nine girls in that apartment paid equal rent, bringing the monthly total MC2 collected to $16,650. The lawsuit alleges that two-bedroom pads in the same building currently go for about $2,900, suggesting that MC2 was profiting at least $13,750 a month.
Modeling agencies are infamous for picking up extra cash wherever they can.
While agencies typically pocket a 20 percent commission from the model and a 20 percent commission from the client for each job, models are still billed for any related costs: whether it be plane tickets to travel to gigs or having their books delivered to potential clients.
According to Grecia Palomares, Wilhelmina — her agency from 2004 to 2009 — even charged models a $215 yearly “Internet fee” to have their photos on the agency’s Web site. “[With] 1,000 models, they’re making $215,000 a year!” says Palomares, 40.
She recounts how Curvexpo, an annual lingerie and swimwear expo, paid $1,000 to reuse her image for an event. But Palomares only received a check for $300 from Wilhelmina. The agency had deducted $700 for “expenses” with no supporting documentation.
“Nothing’s transparent,” says Louisa Raske, 34, who is suing Next Model Management (which represented her from 2000 to 2001), Wilhelmina (2001 to 2005) and Major (2005 to 2006).”