New proposed legislation will protect underage models in New York

At the urging to The Model Alliance, New York State senators Diane Savino and Jeff Klein have agreed to introduce new legislation that will apply child labour laws to models under the age of 18.

It's about time.

The majority of models enter the business between the ages of 13 and 16, yet they aren't currently protected by the child labour laws enforced by the Department of Labour for other performers like actors and dancers.

The not-for-profit advocacy organization Model Alliance is petitioning to have young models, who currently fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Education, protected under the same laws as other underage performers.

Because of the lack of legislation, young models often work long hours for no pay, attend shoots unchaperoned, face nudity and dieting pressures and even drop out of school to pursue their modelling careers.

"While New York may set the trends when it comes to fashion, we are falling short when it comes to setting fair labour standards for young people who are trying to break into the industry," Klein says 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."

Also see: British Vogue signs 10-point 'model protection code'

At a press conference following the announcement of the proposed bill, model Coco Rocha shared her experiences with modelling as a teen.

"I was scouted at the ripe old age of 14. By the time I was 16 I was living and working alone here in New York City. During my 10 years as a model I’m fortunate enough to have realized many of my professional goals, though not without feeling enormous pressure to agree to demands and make certain choices that no young person should ever have to deal with."

According to fashion-law professor Susan Scafidi, the new bill would demand permits from both the model and the employer.

"Not only would minor models require a permit, but their employers would be required to apply for a general certificate of eligibility to employ child performers and then notify the state of specific dates/times/places beforehand," she tells The Cut.

"Child models' hours are already restricted by law, depending on their exact ages and whether or not school is in session, but few people who work with models are aware of the exact details. Limits under the new law would be complex but actually more flexible, though they require breaks, including meals. And no sending the models home after midnight on a school night — or asking them to return to work less than 12 hours after they've left."

Other requirements will include providing a tutor if a model misses more than three days of school and mandating that children under the age of 16 be chaperoned — yes, even at New York Fashion Week.

Famous faces in the industry are supporting the new bill.

Also see: Former editor exposes fashion's dark side

"The fact is that very few models ‘make it,’ and so many young women sacrifice education and wellbeing for misdirected hopes about what modelling might someday bring. I believe education should come first," says model Carre Otis.

Canadian model Shalom Harlow also shares her story.

"I started working as a model at the age of 15. I know first-hand the acute vulnerability of being a child working in an unregulated adult industry. It was not uncommon to be put in situations where I was asked to do things by adults in positions of authority to whom an answer 'NO' would put my job at risk," she says.

"For instance, during show seasons, there were many times I slept on a fitting room floor until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, waiting to fit a dress, with an 18-hour work day ahead of me. At the time, I had no recourse available to protect my basic needs for food and sleep. It seems obvious to me that children should be protected in any work environment they participate in, and child models are no exception."

Read other models' stories of underage modelling — and why they believe young models need labour-law protection — here.

"The bill could pass as early as next week, posing complications for modeling agencies," The Cut reports. "Alternatively, they could just cast models over 18, which really wouldn't be so bad."

Earlier this year, British Vogue signed a 10-point "model protection code," which included the pledge to not allow models younger than 16 to represent adult models.