I’ve been following the drama that is Uncle Terry and his scandalous (allegedly) behaviour, and after reading Tavi’s post, I can’t help but respond. I’ve never met the man, and won’t accuse him of anything I don’t personally have experience with, but what I do know are my own experiences in modeling. The models we see in editorials and on the runways are but a tip of the iceberg of a mountain of models desperately trying to make it underneath. In fashion Meccas, the imported girls flock, mostly underage, and mostly completely unaware of what they’re getting themselves into. The eastern European girls, eyes bubbling with promises of a better life, generally go alone, without the luxury of a guardian or parent, and without the “luxury” of speaking the language, they grow up fast while under-age.
If it wasn’t tough enough trying to keep the body of a 14 year old at the age of 18, if it wasn’t tough enough battling cut throat competition, trying to overcome eating disorders (no, your vegan, one salad a day plan does not count as nutritious and yes that is an eating disorder, if I may be so bold to say), you also have to battle (some) photographers and (some) designers. I don’t want to paint them all with the same brush, there are a LOT of ethical, respectful and professional people in the industry, and it is the few rotten apples that ruin their reputation. So why do we stick up for the rotten apples?
I went to New York, and I was considered “old” at the time (twenty, to be exact). I met with some agencies and we decided to update my book. I was alone but met my boyfriend there afterwards. I was lucky enough to speak the language and thought I was ready for it all, but I wasn’t. The agency I met with is a large and internationally known one. They sent me to one of their photographers. I checked out his site and work, and he’d contributed to major magazines and ad campaigns. I was incredibly excited! After years of trying to make it work, I was finally in NY, I was FINALLY shooting with the prestigious “artist” and agencies are expressing interest! Life couldn’t have had more promise.
I got to the photo shoot. There was no crew. I brought my “assistant” (boyfriend) with me, and the photographer said “Absolutely not, we must shoot alone”. Upon meeting him, I got the gay vibe, he seemed totally friendly, harmless, a kitten, really. So my “assistant” left, and I told him I’d call him when I was done. The shoot was supposed to be fashion. (To me that means, um… clothes?). When I asked about the wardrobe, he tossed me a bathrobe and told me to come out with it undone. Still not understanding, I went and changed, and came out with a bathing suit on underneath, thinking, “Ok, I guess its swimwear??”. He saw me and chuckled, and said, “No, I mean I want to see your whole body”. I got on the phone with my agency, (my agent was busy with something and didn’t pick up), and explained to him, there’s no way I’m getting naked. He wasn’t impressed, and told me to put on some lotion. Seeing nothing the matter, I did, and then it got weird. As I’m putting on lotion, he takes some too and starts applying it to my legs. I immediately freak out, and tell him to stop. He at this point, tries to lean in for a kiss, or something, and I push him away, grab my things in the bathroom, change and tell him to forget it. He says I’m making a huge mistake (don’t they all say that?). I left and my agency found it hard to find work for me as I was branded “difficult”. I never did make it, and I’m ok with that. But I keep thinking about all these young girls in big cities. I was twenty, confident and knew the difference between a creep and someone who does their work with dignity and integrity. If I was 15 or 16 or even 17, in NY, spoke little English, I would have been intimidated as hell. Who wouldn’t? Models don’t have glamorous lives, especially before they actually make it. More needs to be done on an international level to help these young women.
Weight issues are being spoken out against, but this, this issue which to me, rings so close to sexual trafficking (young girl being brought into a new country, that doesn’t speak the language, is harassed and intimidated sexually? I definitely see similarities).
Models are too young to begin with. Maybe there needs to be a rule that if you’re under 18, you NEED a parent or guardian to accompany you to all shoots (technically, I think you do, but how well is this monitored? Not at all, methinks). I don’t know, would that help? Agencies need to take responsibility for the girls, especially the underage ones, they’re signing. And the industry cannot stand behind the men that prey on them. I don’t know if Terry did what he did, but if models like Rie Rasmussen are calling him out, without fear of what it’d do to their career, I doubt his shoots are all that innocent and fun as he claims.
I’m not saying this experience is shared by all who try and make it as a model in fashion, but enough is enough. One victim is too many. And the sickening part is instead of finding out if Terry is the pervert he’s being accused of, the industry is more concerned with “hurting his feelings” than seeking justice for the victims. (Like this guy, here). Sigh.
I’ve said my piece, you should say yours too.