I think anyone with an ounce of intelligence realises that the seductive glamour of modelling is largely an illusion. We may envy these girl’s figures, their salaries, their social lives, their wardrobes, but I don’t think many envy the put-downs, the scrutiny, the long work hours and the precarious nature of their careers.
I remember coming across an interview a year of so back with British models Victoria Keon-Cohen and Dunja Knezevic. The pair had campaigned for actor’s union Equity to represent models rights, including the rights to holiday and sickness pay, better working conditions and protection in case of injury. They recalled jobs where the models had been spray-painted head to toe with gold car paint, had severe alergic reactions to products or been injured during shoots, such as one where a model was required to jump on a trampoline wearing stilettos. The list goes on.
That was two years ago. They succeeded in persuading Equity to back them.
But, a new film by model Sara Ziff now goes a step further in revealing the exploitation that can occur. In an interview with The Guardian, Ziff, now a full-time student at Cornell University tells the paper how she and her then boyfriend Ole Schell first started recording the documentary as a sort of video diary of the crazy industry they had found themselves in and the rise of Ziff’s career.
Called Picture Me, the film chronicles life backstage at the glitzy shows of Paris, New York and Milan and shoots with celebrated photographers. It starts light hearted and provides an insight into the industry with interviews and recordings by numerous models. However it evolves into something darker as stories of sexual abuse and career-threatening sexual encounters with leading figures in the industry are discussed.
We may be a couple of years down the line from when the modelling industry became truly open and vocal about the way they are sometimes treated at work, but Picture Me shows that the problems still persist.
For more information on the film, visit Picture Me’s myspace page.