NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York state lawmakers joined former child models Sunday to release a report detailing the lack of labor protections for children who work as models.
State Senate co-leader Jeff Klein (D-The Bronx/Westchester) and Diane Savino (D-Brooklyn/Staten Island) appeared with model Coco Rocha and several former child models Sunday on the steps of Lincoln Center to discuss the ways child models have been exploited and abused.
“While New York may set the trends when it comes to fashion, we are falling short when it comes to setting fair labor standards for young people who are trying to break into the industry,” Klein said in a news release. “That’s why Senator Savino and I are taking action to push for legislation that would extend the educational and financial protections currently afforded to all other child performers.”
The report on the crisis by the Independent Democratic Conference said runway and print models have few protections compared with other children who work in the entertainment field, such as actors, dancers and musicians.
The conference also found that child models are often mistreated and even sexually abused.
“Most models begin their career around the age of 13, sacrificing their education, health and financial security to model without the basic protections they deserve under New York’s current law,” Savino said in the release. “Today, we are bringing attention to the rampant exploitation and sexual abuse of child models and announcing legislation that will give child models these critical protections they have gone without for too long.”
Specifically, child models are denied protections such as the requirement of a responsible person to serve as a safety monitor, a nurse with pediatric experience, teachers and dedicated space for education, safety-based instruction to performers and parents, and a trust fund into which employers must deposit at least 15 percent of a child model’s earnings.
In fact, the report said, child models often are not paid at all. They instead receive designer clothing as their only compensation.
The lack of these protections has contributed to the prevalence of financial, as well as sexual, abuse in the child modeling industry, the lawmakers said.
Model Alliance executive director Sara Ziff said the treatment of child models at the hands of nefarious employers cannot continue.
“Most fashion models begin their careers in their early teens, and the choices they make as kids may have long-lasting repercussions,” she said in the release. “During these critical years, models often experience pressures, including nudity, sexual demands, starvation dieting, working long hours for no pay, and foregoing education, that would not be tolerated in any other work environment.”
Rocha added she has experienced the dangers of child modeling firsthand.
“Having once been a teenage model, living and working in New York, I know all too well the difficulties that face underage models,” she said in the release. “Little to no workplace standards at times made my profession a very dangerous one for a minor.”
Savino has released legislation that would require child print and runway models to be included in the definition of “cultural and artistic services” that is currently protected under state labor law – a change that would provide the models with the full protections afforded to other child performers.
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