Issues & Solutions

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I modelled internationally successfully for 10 years until I started promoting the documentary Girl Model and speaking out about the main issue going on in the industry: child models working as adult models. For top models and those who struggle to work alike, all models travel and the labour conditions in fashion are often poor. Adult modelling is NOT a place for children, yet most models start their adult career around 15years old. From the United Nation Convention on The Right of the Child articles 1, 32.1 and 34(c), a law banning children, under 18years old, working as adult models needs to be created and enforced. This law needs to be created alongside a law banning work visas granted to child models because of the risks of child labour, sexualisation and trafficking. The negative impacts that children with skinny, prepubescent bodies representing “ideal adults” in the media has on women and men globally cannot be ignored.

At the moment, across North America, Europe & beyond, child models are regularly being pressure into being sexualised, in photo shoots and fashion shows, while representing adults. What would be considered a criminal violation in front of the law, in fashion is called “art”. The way in which some fashion images are produced is far from art and such forced behavior is unacceptable for children.

As consumers, even though we might be aware of the negative impacts that the images of many skinny, prepubescent models and a strict standard of female beauty has on our health, it is hard for the mind to compete with the subliminal messages we receive from the 1500 to 2500 advertisements we encounter on a daily basis.

By only having models over the age of 18 years old representing adults in the media we would encourage future models to finish their basic education, to be in full awareness of their rights and the impacts fashion images can have out of context -on all consumers. If models start working as adults, once their bodies have fully developed, it would force designers to create bigger sample sizes and models would not be pushed into eating disorders, that are so common now in order to compete for work with children.

Another issue encounter by having child models working as adult is that, while the major work force of models are minors, it becomes very difficult for any type of unionizing from happening. Child actors are protected because the majority of working actors are adults who understand the importance of having their rights protected, while having put in place extra regulations regarding child actors.

I disagree with children participating into New York Women’s Fashion Week and into images in which they are meant to represent adults, but  I believe regulations needs to be put in place and respected for all child models.  The Model Alliance & Girl Model (the movie) have done great work into pushing for child models (under 18s) working in NY to have the same protection than all other child performer in NY. It is an amazing step forward but let’s not forget there are still a lot of work to be done internationally to protect children and all consumers from the issues stated above.

 Rachel Blais

 Model, Advocate & Public Speaker