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The Modeling Industry’s “Dirty Little Secret”

Firm Partner Jack Tuckner Interviewed by CNN for The ‘model apartment’ Trap

Being a model is not all glamorous, particularly for young models who are starting out.  While they get to dress in expensive clothes on the runway, often they are forced to share tiny apartments packed with bunk beds with other models and (in many cases) cockroaches and other bugs.

CNN broke this dark story here. The model trap works like this:

  • The vast majority of models, especially those starting out, have little savings and their earnings are relatively small. Models hope to one day “make it big,” but in the beginning, their paychecks are far less than those earned by the super models.
  • The models must live in expensive places like New York City, at least during their shows. Ideally, they need temporary housing.  However, since they typically have no money and are earning low wages, their options are limited.  They may not yet be 18, and they may also be from outside the US.  Their circumstances thus make it extremely hard to find affordable housing.
  • Realizing this, modeling agencies rent apartments, furnish the apartments with the bare necessities, add as many bunk beds as are allowed, and then rent these apartments to models at hugely inflated prices. Since the models are unable to rent apartments of their own on a short-term basis, they often have nowhere else to turn other than these “agency apartments.”

How much do the agencies make?

Speculation is that agencies rent these apartments for at least five times what they are worth.  One model interviewed said that she paid her agency $60/night for a one room studio with as many as seven other models at a time.  The apartment was hardly luxurious, unless of course luxury includes bed bugs, mice, and a non-functioning door lock.

The Vicious Debt Cycle – How Models Become Indebted to Agencies

Models become indebted to agencies due to the combination of the high rents charged and the low wages they earn.  In some cases, models are “paid” in the form of the clothing that they wear during shows, which typically has very little resale value.  As a result, at the end of a month the models often owe their agency more than they have earned, particularly after basic expenses are included.

In order to get out of debt, models often continue this practice, hoping to one day make the supermodel fees.  Unfortunately, very few will reach this status. Far more will struggle to get by for a few years, and many more will quit (often, still being in debt to their agencies).

CNN Interviews Jack Tuckner to Learn about the Sexual Harassment and Abuse Suffered by Models

These scams are not limited to just victimizing models financially.  Models in these situations are sometimes sexually harassed or abused by those in charge of their housing situations and/or modeling assignments.  These people prey upon the dreams of young girls, who are often as young as 17 and are typically both vulnerable and naïve.

To learn more about this victimization, CNN interviewed firm partner Jack Tuckner, who has represented models subjected to these scams and abuse.  In describing the conditions that the models were forced to endure, Mr. Tuckner noted that:

“They (were) exposed along the way to a lot of severe restrictions on their diet, sexual abuse, not to mention they were paying rent on top of other fees.  The whole thing is a scam, aided and abetted by the desire of these young women.”

To see the ongoing story and video, please click here.

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