Model Alliance Urges Julia Haart + Elite World Group to Commit to Labor Regs on Eve of Met Gala
Amber Valetta, Milla Jovovich, Paulina Porizkova, Karen Elson, Tatjana Patitz, Cindi Leive & 450+ Sign on Petition on Fashion's Biggest Night
NEW YORK, NY (09/13/2021) (readMedia)-- During New York Fashion Week (Sept. 6-12), the Model Alliance released a petition calling for systemic changes in the modeling industry. Now, as celebrities, designers, and industry leaders prepare for tonight's long-awaited Met Gala -- "fashion's biggest night" -- the petition has garnered over 450 signatures and counting, including from supermodels Beverly Johnson, Karen Alexander, Paulina Porizkova, Amber Valetta, Tatjana Patitz, Karen Elson, Milla Jovovich, Matrix-star Carrie Ann Moss, Cindi Leive and others.
It comes on the heels of last week's testimony from supermodel and survivor Carré Otis 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.
"As fashion's biggest night returns, more than 450 models, New York State legislators and allies have joined our petition to call for the 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 Julia Haart to join us now, and use her tremendous platform to reshape a workplace still plagued by sexual misconduct and abuse despite the #MeToo movement."
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, instead of meaningfully improving labor conditions for workers, because companies can opt out of it and continue business as usual with no consequences. 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.