Underage Models May Finally Receive Federal Protection
The internet was abuzz this July when model Sofia Mechetner opened the Dior show at age fourteen, and a sixteen year-old Lily-Rose Depp was announced to be the face of Chanel’s new eyewear campaign. While undoubtedly career milestones (and major dreams-come-true) for these girls, these stories drew public attention to an ongoing trend in the fashion world. Brands everywhere are employing younger and younger models, and questions are again being raised about the ethics involved in this.
Now, New York Representative Grace Meng is taking the conversation to the Capitol, the first time that a bill concerning models has hit the US federal government in decades. She has just introduced a bill that will protect models under the age of sixteen from being treated unfairly. It’s called the 2015 Child Performers Protection Act, and it will essentially extend workplace safety regulations to young performers, who are often exempt from labor laws that are already in place.
The new act aims to establish specific working hours, salary, and saving requirements for underage models and actors, as well as a private resource for them to report and deal with sexual harassment. The law won’t forbid people under sixteen from modeling, only impose measures that make sure they are not exploited or mistreated. Seems pretty fundamental, right? Well, it’s not as if this is the first time this issue is being addressed.
While Meng’s law will be the first to put legal regulations in place nation wide, there are actually some very similar laws already in place in states like New York and California. On top of that, organizations like Model Alliance have been very active in the fight for improved labor standards for models. The Alliance in particular has helped pass state legislature on models’ rights, and is now working closely with Representative Meng to solidify these rights on a federal level.
While this bill will protect all young performers, including super successful ones—like Karlie Kloss, who walked her first runway show at fifteen—we need to recognize how important this is for those who get less work. “Most models aren’t supermodels,” as the Model Alliance’s Sarah Ziff told the New York Times. “Most begin their careers as children, and work in debt to their modeling agencies…. Without adequate safeguards, child models often stand to be exploited by adults who do not have their best interests in mind. A unified national floor of standards would protect child performers wherever they engage in work across the country.”
Nothing is set in stone yet—it’s not definite whether or not this measure will even make it to a vote. Meng concedes that it might be a very long discussion before anything happens, but part of the victory lies in that the discussion is happening at all.
Images via Chanel and the Washington Post