Monumental Bill Protecting Underage Models Becomes New York Law


New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a MAJOR law this week which is going to see the protection of underage models in the fashion capital of the world. This is a big step toward forcing the fashion industry to portray healthier models on the runways and in magazines, as it will become a lot harder to employ underage girls and boys.

It is monumental because this is the first time a law of this type has ever existed for models. There are labor laws to protect actors, dancers, and other types of entertainers, but not models. Baffling! Especially in an industry where there are countless stories of young girls being exploited by photographers or creepy people. High profile models such as Kate Moss and Coco Rocha have even spoken publicly about the times they were taken advantage of, but with no one there to protect them or a law to regulate the industry, they had no choice but to comply.

Coco Rocha, 25, became a member of The Model Alliance, a first-of-its-kind non profit which seeks to eventually become the very first official model union. It was started by former model Sara Ziff in February 2012 and today has a roster of members that reads like a VIP front row at Fashion Week.

TMA helped draft the original bill which was passed by the New York Senate earlier in  2013, and now that Governor Cuomo has signed the legislation, it officially becomes New York State law!

Supermodel Coco Rocha spoke at the event which took place at the Nicole Miller store in Soho on October 22, and couldn’t help but be overcome with emotions at the significance of this law.


“For the large army of minor models in New York, we are changing so many lives today,'” she said while choking back tears from the podium.

“Having once been a child model myself, I know all too well that, until now, underage models have worked with very few legal protections in New York,’ said Ms Rocha. ‘The fashion industry’s attempts at self-regulation have not been enough to ensure a safe working environment across the board for its minor models.”

Rocha, and Ziff who calls herself a “good Christian girl” in an interview with Elle Magazine received recognition at the event for their hard work in getting this law to the forefront of New York legislation. “By making this legislation the law in New York, we have brought an end to the rampant exploitation and sexual abuse of child models by giving child models the critical protections they’ve been denied for too long.” said Senate Labor Committee Chairwoman Diane Savino, who was part of the bill.

The bill includes clauses about health, safety, chaperones, education, meals, hours worked and financial protection. Every model under the age of 18 will require a chaperone on set, which will most likely reduce the amount of exploitation that goes on. They will only be allowed to work for a certain amount of hours, will be fed throughout the day, and a tutor will also be on set with them.

A financial trust must be established by a parent or guardian and at least 15% of the underage model’s earnings must be deposited into that account. Aside from the protection for young models, there is extra paperwork an employer must fill out, meaning this could possibly deter many in the industry from using underage girls and boys in their campaigns.

This will mean a huge difference in the way consumers look at images and dissect them. A 30 year old woman looking at a high fashion campaign not knowing the model could be 12 years old is the cause of many self esteem and body image issues, which could easily be prevented, thanks to this new law.


Ziff says the impact of this law will have a far-reaching effect.  “In addition to safeguarding young models, it will influence the images the industry creates, which could help promote a healthier ideal of beauty.”

She told Elle Magazine in an interview that while they aren’t opposed to having underage models work, they should be allowed to finish school. If a prepubescent model is hired for a big campaign, there is often pressure to maintain that unrealistic body shape long term.

“I think it’ll be better for all women—why do we have 15 year-olds representing the physical ideal anyway?” she added.

James Scully, casting director for some of the world’s biggest designers, like Tom Ford and Carolina Herrera, agreed. “The passage of this bill will significantly curb the influx of underage models into the industry, which has unfortunately become the norm,” he said.

“The next generation of models will now be treated as individuals and not as a disposable workforce, allowing them the time and protection it takes to pursue long, successful careers.”

Let’s hope this new law will continue to get more and more coverage in the media and fashion industry, and force other fashion hubs around the world to think about implementing this law into their legislature. Vogue UK ran a story on this new law, and we hope bigger influential people and platforms will continue to speak out for the rights of these young people.



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