Underage models may soon gain increased protection in the United States, after it was announced that new legislation is to be considered which will give child performers federal rights.
The Child Performers Protection Act of 2015, brought in by New York Democratic Representative Grace Meng, will seek to “limit the number of hours that children may be employed as actors, performers, and models,” to nine hours per day – along with other key stipulations. Child performers and models are not currently protected by any federal law in the US; their protections vary from state to state.
The possibility of such a law will likely not come as a surprise to fashion insiders. After all, the much-debated topic of underage models has been in conversation since 15-year-old Brooke Shields appeared in a series of provocative ads for Calvin Klein over 30 years ago. And at the age of just 16, supermodel icon Kate Moss ran across a beach nude in what is deemed a now “iconic” shoot.
Fast-forward to 2015, and many young models still are working for major fashion houses: Israeli model Sofia Mechetner made headlines walking for Dior at age 14, Cindy Crawford’s daughter, Kaia Jordan Gerber, posed for Versace at 10, and 16-year-old Lily-Rose Depp is the face of Chanel eyewear.
According to the New York Times, the bill would require each child model to hold a blocked trust account where at least 15 percent of their earnings would be deposited before they were able to accept work, and would prevent the account from being accessed by either the model whilst they were under 18, or by the child’s parents. Payment in “trade” – or clothes in the case of the fashion industry – instead of money would be banned. There would also be increased federal protection for models against sexual harassment.
Meng added that it should become a “national issue” to fully protect the rights of those under 18 working in the industry: “Working as a child model or actor can be an incredible opportunity and lead to success for a lifetime. However, the work can come with many risks,” she said.
The possibility of this coming to pass has garnered a positive reaction, and for good reason. Though starting out in your teen (or perhaps earlier) years can lead to great things, much has been reported of the difficulties younger models often face in the industry; fly-on-the-wall documentaries such as Chasing Beauty gives an insight into models as young as 13 working away from home for months, often earning little more than the minimum wage. Moss also admitted her 16-year-old self “cried alone in the toilet” when she was asked to pose nude, and Johnny-Depp said he was “quite worried” about his daughter’s blossoming career on the runway.
It is worth noting however, that two organisations: The Council of Fashion Designers of America and the British Fashion Council have both tried regulating the use of underage models previously, but all self-imposed rules, such as on educating about eating disorders, not allowing models under 16 walk in runway shows and supplying fitness education, for example, are currently viewed as guidelines, rather than mandatory.
The bill is currently being reviewed. Should it pass, it will be the first of its kind to set these standards for US-based, underage performers. Though we are a while away from knowing what long-term implications this will have (should it pass), this can certainly be deemed a positive step for the fashion industry and its young models.
Via New York Times