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Model and Columbia Grad Sara Ziff Forms Model Alliance

On February 9, model and Columbia grad Sara Ziff is launching the Model Alliance, a nonprofit that will advocate for models’ rights. Actors have SAG; models, who are often much younger than the general labor force, have no union and no place to turn if their agent screws them out of money, if they need health insurance, if they want to report unprofessional behavior (Ziff cites an example of a photographer who demanded a hand job in return for booking a model).

Sara Ziff

I can vouch for the fact that agents and clients often stiff models financially; the accountants at my agencies often made models grovel for their paychecks, sometimes stalling for weeks, and shrugging their shoulders when a client went bankrupt and a job went unpaid. I can’t say I have experience with providing a stiffy in return for work, though. No one ever asked me for more than a comp card. Considering a Model Alliance survey found that 28% of models were pressured to have sex with someone at work, I’m wondering if I should feel offended. No photographer ever hit on me, not even in Milan.

A New York agency owner once hit on me, though—at his apartment where I was staying, not at work—does that count? He had the worst line in history, “C’mon, it will be really quick.” I laughed at him and retired to the pullout couch in the living room, shared with a 14-year-old from Canada (I was 24). I left the agency and the apartment, which does beg the question, Did he hit on her the next night? To a teenage girl, the situation may not have seemed so laughable. She wouldn’t have had a Model Alliance to turn to for help back then.

Kudos, Sara.

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