Mariel Hemingway, Mira Sorvino, Heidi Mount & 500+ Join Model Alliance to Demand Labor Protections
Signers Include Supermodels Amber Valletta, Beverly Johnson, Karen Alexander, Kara Young, Hannelore Knuts, Milla Jovovich, Paulina Porizkova, Karen Elson, Tatjana Patitz, Jason Boyce, Matrix-Star Carrie Ann Moss + Fashion Media Powerhouse Cindi Leive
NEW YORK, NY (09/20/2021) (readMedia)-- During Fashion Month, the Model Alliance released a petition calling for systemic changes in the modeling industry. As London Fashion Week wraps up, the petition has garnered over 500 signatures and counting, including new signers: supermodel Hannelore Knuts, Mariel Hemingway, Heidi Mount, Kara Young, Mira Sorvino, Philp Bloch, make-up artist Mary Greenwell and Evelyn Yang. The petition has also been signed by supermodels Amber Valletta, Beverly Johnson, Karen Alexander, Milla Jovovich, Paulina Porizkova, Karen Elson, Tatjana Patitz, Jason Boyce, Matrix-Star Carrie Ann Moss and fashion media powerhouse Cindi Leive.
Earlier this month, supermodel and survivor Carré Otis testified in Paris against her abuser - former President of Elite Europe Gérald Marie - to French law enforcement. Carré and the five other survivors who testified last week are all outside of the criminal statute of limitations in France, and the industry that permitted their abuse 30 years ago is largely unchanged. Supermodel and former First Lady of France Carla Bruni, and others spoke out last week in support of Carré and the survivors testifying, as the New York Times reported.
The petition calls for companies and agencies -- including Marie's former agency Elite, now owned by Netflix star Julia Haart's Elite World Group -- to sign onto the RESPECT Program. The petition also calls for New York State lawmakers to pass the Adult Survivors Act, which would provide time-barred survivors who were over the age of 18 with a one-year lookback window to sue their abuser -- or the institution that protected them -- in civil court.
"We're gaining incredible momentum with over 500 models, lawmakers and allies calling on the Fashion industry to commit to legally-binding worker protections laid out in the Model Alliance's RESPECT Program," said Sara Ziff, Founder and Executive Director of the Model Alliance. "Voluntary codes of conduct aren't good enough for a trillion dollar industry that profits handily off the labor of the models it refuses to protect. We're urging leaders -- especially Julia Haart and Elite World Group -- to join us now and help reshape a workplace still plagued by sexual misconduct and abuse despite the #MeToo movement."
"The industry that enabled my abuse 30 years ago is still largely the same trillion dollar industry that profits off the bodies of young women and children," said Carré Otis, survivor, supermodel and longtime Model Alliance Leadership Council Member. "My goal in coming forward is to create desperately needed change for this new generation of models, and that includes signing onto the RESPECT Program. I'm so grateful for the support of my friends and colleagues in amplifying this cause. We need industry regulations to prevent abuse, and statute of limitation reform so that survivors can have a pathway to justice for the abuse that's already happened."
"The effects of childhood abuse are long lasting, and I'm so proud of my friend Carré for standing up to her abuser 30 years later," said Mariel Hemingway. "It's incredibly brave, and the fashion industry must respond with real, legally-binding commitments to the young women and girls it profits off."
"Gérald Marie is emerging as the Harvey Weinstein of the fashion world, yet is sadly one of many ruthless predators in that arena. The #MeToo movement has yet to fully reach this trillion-dollar industry which profits off the bodies of young women without offering them meaningful workplace protections," said Mira Sorvino. "I'm standing with Carré and the Model Alliance as they fight for justice, for those who have suffered harm, and regulatory reforms to ensure a safe and dignified workplace for the next generation of models."
"I am proud of Carré for fighting back. It's important this behavior is exposed so it's no longer continued. That's precisely why I spoke out about Harvey Weinstein. By coming forward, we're hopefully succeeding in preventing Gérald Marie from causing further harm," said Kara Young, model.
"I'm proud to stand behind Carré and the other survivors of Gérald Marie as they fight for justice, accountability and a safer industry," said Hannelore Knuts, model. "Abuse -- both physically, mentally and even micro-aggressions -- have been so normalized in the modeling industry, which is overdue for its #MeToo moment. We need industry leaders to commit to enforceable worker protections now."
"I've spent half my life in the modeling industry, and I'm proud to lend my voice in support of Carré and all the survivors of Gérald Marie," said Heidi Mount, model. "The industry that permitted their abuse is still largely the same industry, and we need leaders to commit to legally-binding protections for workers."
"Sexual abuse was and continues to be widespread in the fashion industry," said Mary Greenwell, makeup artist. "In reality, the industry that permitted Carré's abuse hasn't changed all that much in the last 30 years. I'm so proud of Carré and the other survivors for coming forward to make a change in the industry. I'm joining her in pushing the industry to sign onto the Model Alliance's RESPECT Program and adopt worker protections to make sure models have a safe workplace free of abuse."
"In the 30 years since Carré and I began our careers, there's been little progress made in protecting models from abuse and harassment," said Karen Alexander, model. "That's why I'm supporting Carré, Lesa Amoore and all the other survivors of Gérald Marie in their fight for accountability and healing. I'm joining them in calling on industry leaders to do right by them and change the industry for good by signing onto the worker protections laid out in the Model Alliance's RESPECT Program."
"As the #MeToo movement, and the French counterpart #BalanceTonPorc, have both shown, no industry is immune from sexual abuse," said Carla Bruni, a model and the former First Lady of France. "I am proud of my friend Carré for taking a stand against her abuser and those who allowed the abuse to happen by filing a case in New York. There is so much work to do in France and around the world to ensure that women are protected from sexual violence on the job and they feel empowered to come forward if they are targeted. Enough is enough -- I stand with Carré and the other survivors of Gérald Marie as they come to Paris to testify against their abuser."
"As a model and a mother with a daughter coming up in this industry, I've seen how institutions and enablers protect abusers and insulate them from the consequences of their actions. I'm proud that Carré is taking such an important step to fight for accountability not only for herself but other survivors who cannot come forward. The abuse has gone on long enough -- I want a safe industry, free of abuse for my daughter to excel in as she advances in her career. I stand with Carré," said Milla Jovovich.
"I'm glad that these brave women were able to find each other through the Model Alliance and come together to get accountability, justice and healing. I stand with them all the way," said Helena Christensen.
"Sexual abuse isn't about one particular industry, but those that center on the bodies of young women and children are more prone to exploitation and abuse," said Karen Elson. "I stand with the survivors of Gérald Marie as they travel to Paris from around the world to fight for justice and accountability within the industry. I urge companies to sign onto the Model Alliance's RESPECT program and commit themselves to enforceable measures to protect workers from abuse."
"I'm proud to support my friend Carré and the other survivors who were abused by Gérald Marie as they take this incredibly brave journey to Paris," said Tatjana Patitz. "The fact they are only being listened to 30 years later is so reflective of an industry and justice system that have not changed. We need stronger regulations to protect models now, and we need to give all survivors an opportunity for justice and closure."
"Abuse and exploitation in the modeling industry is so incredibly pervasive: It's time for real change in the form of regulations and companies being held to account by joining the Model Alliance's RESPECT program," said Shannon Bavaro Getty. "As someone who experienced retaliation for not acquiescing to Gerald Marie's sexual assault, I'm standing with these women as they bravely confront their abuser and the industry that let this happen. This trip is so meaningful, not just in their journey to heal but on behalf of all the other survivors who haven't yet been able to come forward."
"When we were starting out, we were taught to view sexual harassment as a compliment. As models, we weren't paid for our talents; we were renting our body and face - your body wasn't your own," said Paulina Porizkova. "I'm standing with Carré and the others as they make this trip and relive some painful memories and stand up for a better industry and the women who haven't been able to come forward."
Sexual abuse remains rampant in the modeling industry which has been largely untouched by the #MeToo movement or any regulatory framework for working models. In response the Model Alliance -- a labor rights collective that aims to promote fair treatment, equal opportunity, and more sustainable practices in the fashion industry -- designed the RESPECT Program. The program uses legally-binding agreements to create enforceable standards and hold bad actors and enabling institutions accountable in the fashion industry. Proper oversight and regulation would significantly reduce the incidence of sexual misconduct, but in their absence, statute of limitation reform is necessary to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
While many companies have created voluntary programs with a code of conduct, the Model Alliance support line hears daily from models at the highest levels of the industry who are unable to report abuse to their agency under these types of programs for a multitude of reasons. Voluntary programs do more to protect brands' reputations, rather than meaningfully improving labor conditions for workers, because companies can opt out of it and continue business as usual with no consequences. This is not a meaningful or legally-binding step towards a labor rights framework.
New York would become the second state after New Jersey to open a civil lookback window to survivors of adult sex abuse. The State Senate passed the Adult Survivors Act in June, but the Assembly has yet to do so. The petition has also been signed by Senator Alessandra Biaggi, Chair of the Senate Ethics Committee, and Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou.
The petition is available to sign here.
About Carré Otis
Supermodel Carré Otis was 17 when she was scouted and then sent from New York to Paris to live with Marie, where she was repeatedly raped by him. Marie's behavior was known throughout Elite when she was sent to France. She has standing to sue in New York, where lawmakers, recognizing the science of trauma, passed legislation known as the Child Victims Act two years ago, which provided a multi-year lookback window for survivors of child sex abuse to file a civil case against their abusers, even if they are outside of the statute of limitations. Carré filed a civil case last month against her former agent Trudi Tapscott and Marie before the window closed. Carré, a member of the Model Alliance's Leadership Council, still models and is represented by Iconic Focus Models, an all women-owned agency.
About the RESPECT Program
Born of the direct experience and unique understanding that models have of the industry, the RESPECT Program is the first-of-its-kind initiative, designed to enable a working environment in which creative collaboration and self-expression flourish, and everyone can work without fear of harassment, abuse, discrimination or violence. Unlike other industry programs that rely on voluntary self-regulation, the RESPECT Program uses legally-binding agreements to create enforceable standards and hold bad actors and enabling institutions accountable.
Hailed by the United Nations and Harvard Business Review, the worker-driven social responsibility approach used by the RESPECT Program requires the following from participating companies, brands and agencies:
- Implement a rigorous Code of Conduct to protect models from harassment and abuse.
- Train models, staff, and other contractors to ensure that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities under the Program, including how to bring complaints if they experience abuse.
- Sign a legally-binding agreement with the Model Alliance to ensure compliance with the Program's standards. Serious repeated violations will result in companies terminating their business relationships with the offending individual.
- Ensure all models are paid for their work in a timely manner, without unreasonable fees and with transparency concerning any and all wage deductions
The Program includes an independent, transparent enforcement body to monitor the workplace and address complaints of harassment, as well as a safe, confidential and accessible complaint mechanism, which models can use without fear of retaliation.