"Models' Rights Law" signed by Cuomo

Coco Rocha, a longtime model, speaks at a press conference last Tuesday

Coco Rocha, a longtime model, speaks at a press conference last Tuesday

The past week provided a huge step forward for young women working in the modeling industry, which is often volatile, hostile, and, at times, downright predatory. A new law, announced at a press conference with veteran model Coco Rocha on Tuesday, gives underage models legal status as employees in the state of New York. Previously, models regardless of age were considered “independent contractors” as opposed to employees of specific modeling agencies. The law, signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, also provides models with minimum wage and access to workers’ compensation should they be injured on the job.

This law comes at a pivotal time in the fashion industry; models’  rights are finally coming to the forefront, especially in the area of sexual harassment, which is a plight suffered by so many but largely disregarded. According to a study conducted by The Model Alliance, approximately 1 in 3 girls have experienced “inappropriate touching” while on the job, and 28% reported having been “pressured to engage in sex at work”.

The law also sets regulations on the number of hours young models can work and how late they can be used.

Lily Goodman, 13, has been modeling since she was 3 years old.

Lily Goodman, 13, has been modeling since she was 3 years old.

“A child should never have to choose between modeling and education. Missing out on education can hurt you in the long run,” said 13-year-old model Lily Goodman, in a statement. “This legislation will affect my future modeling career.”

Harassment and assault statistics come at an incredibly relevant time considering acclaimed fashion photographer Terry Richardson has found himself at the forefront of a Change.org anti-sexual harassment petition. The movement was started by a London-based model name Alice Louise who states that Richardson is “negatively influencing the media with his exploitation and abuse of certain models.” Allegations against Richardson have included claims that he “strongly suggested [a model] touch his terrifying penis.” Nevertheless, pop culture seems enamored with Terry Richardson, who often explores avenues of sexual adventurousness in his work. He has either directed or photographed Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, James Franco, Woody Allen, The Rolling Stones, and President Barack Obama, thus solidifying his place in the cultural zeitgeist. Despite what many in the fashion world would like to believe, this doesn’t negate the fact that the man has more sexual assault and harassment allegations than you could shake a stick at, which is exactly what Alice Louise’s petition is fighting against.

In conjunction with New York’s models’ rights law, the petition against Richardson, which has over 11,000 signatures, is providing both protection and a voice for some of America’s most overlooked laborers.

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