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These Stories of Model Mistreatment Will Stun You

Fernanda Ly on the Christian Dior Fall 2017 runway.

Fernanda Ly on the Christian Dior Fall 2017 runway; Image: Imaxtree

This season, Paris Fashion Week opened on a sour note, with prominent casting director and longtime diversity advocate James Scully publicly shaming Balenciaga’s casting directors for mistreating models at the brands’ go-see. Scully’s Instagram post made headlines, resulted in the firing of Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes, and reminded the public that, for all the progress the modeling industry has made in the past few years, it’s still in dire need of regulation.

Yesterday, published a striking survey that further underlines this fact. In it, 22 working models respond to the prompt: “How do you, the model, want to be treated?” Their submissions reveal the extent to which models still face discrimination, body shaming, sexual harassment and poor working conditions, even when they’re landing major gigs.

Many of the models chose to stay off the record, presumably out of fear of being blacklisted. (Unsurprisingly, theirs were some of the more damning anecdotes.) Others, including Fernanda Ly, Jay Wright, Emily Butcher, Ekaterina Ozhiganova, Margherita Tondelli, Cailin Hill Araki, Sidney Gaston, Petra Zatkova and Wyomi, attached their names to their stories. Read some of the more jarring accounts below.

“During London Fashion Week 2016, I felt dizzy and sick at a 90-minute static presentation: I went off the stage and told the casting director that I can’t keep going because otherwise I might faint while another model was throwing up three feet away from me. She told me I have to go on-stage otherwise I’m not getting paid. I wasn’t paid anyway.” — Sidney Gaston

“I was once shooting a lookbook where the stylist, helping me dress, used this chance to feel my body up much more than necessary and continued to do so throughout the entire shoot. Countless times have I had to undress in undesirable public situations, but even now I can remember the disgusting feel of this man’s hands tracing my body.” — Fernanda Ly

“I got a semi-exclusive for an A-list show with an opening guarantee during my first season in Paris. When [the designer] found out I was transgender, something no one knows about to this day, they cancelled my booking; they somehow considered it a risk—that it would draw too much attention, something they thought would affect the brand negatively: A very doubtful decision, especially considering that I was [then] an unknown new face.” — Anonymous

“The agency said that they loved me but wanted me to lose a little weight, and they gave me a month to do it and then resend digitals. And so I lost a lot of weight in a short time and just got obsessed with it after that. I became anorexic and was extremely underweight, passing out in rehearsals. After the month they never got back to me and my mother agent. Since then, my weight has fluctuated so much because of how poorly I treated my body.” — Anonymous

Of course, these models are not the first to speak out. Barbie Ferreira, Joan Smalls, Charli Howard, Clémentine Desseaux and countless others have also come forward with tales of mistreatment. At the end of the day, modeling, for all its glitz and glam, is a real job for real people who are often subject to unsafe, denigrating working conditions, and something needs to change.

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