Model Behavior

Do you or your child have fashion model aspirations? If you're not already wary of seedy manipulation and exploitation, you should be! That doesn't mean you shouldn't pursue your dream, but you should be armed with information. Don't miss this empowering advice from an industry insider!

Model exploitation

Plenty of nude or otherwise risque photos have come up out of the woodwork to claim the careers and credibility of Hollywood starlets. But the blame is not always theirs. Last month, several models came forward claiming photographer Terry Richardson acted inappropriately on set, even soliciting them to have sex with him and photograph him naked.

Fashion editors and fellow photogs say exploitation of underage models is no surprise -- it's a known, but quietly guarded, reality. Here, Cyan Banister, industry insider and CEO of, gives moms, aspiring models and fashion-lovers some much-needed advice.

A young girl's dream

At some point, every girl has thoughts of being a model. All women may not grow up to be "supermodels" one day, but in the age of the Internet, it's quite easy to give it a shot.

There is nothing wrong with this. Women should feel proud to celebrate their beauty, their elegance and love for fashion. And as parents, we all want to support our kids' ambitions.

quotation mark open Every time I see one of Terry's images, I cringe and wonder what was asked of the model after that photo was taken. quotation mark close

The problem is the allure of the "modeling industry" can often be blinding. Who isn't attracted by the glam? Limousines, free Louboutins, fancy dinners, wads of cash, fame, exclusive parties, and glossy editorial spreads.

But as someone who has been in the entertainment business for a long time, in countless capacities, (model, photographer, producer, investor and more), there still exists a widespread problem few are willing to talk about: Girls are routinely deceived into posing for compromising sets.


The simple truth is, too often, young women are put in compromising positions by people with incredible influence. They are told that in order to "make it big," they must do things that are beyond their comfort. Supermodel Rie Rasmussen and writer Jamie Peck recently revealed that famous photographer, Terry Richardson -- who has shot iconic figures such as President Obama -- pressured his models to perform sexual favors during photos shoots.

I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I first read the news, and it hasn't left. Every time I see one of Terry's images, I cringe and wonder what was asked of the model after that photo was taken. What images of that model will appear later in books that she didn't realize would be used?

When parents are the problem...

Regrettably, however, sometimes parents are the problem -- not just the photographers.

Take Miley Cyrus and the Annie Leibovitz debacle, for example. As a person who has met Annie and is intimately familiar with her work and professionalism, I can attest to the fact that Miley wasn't a victim of a photographer in this case, but rather her own father. Everything was cleared with Miley and her father and he was present during the entire shoot. He saw everything and did nothing until the pictures appeared in print and were heavily criticized by the public. Billy Ray Cyrus used that scenario to help elevate his daughter's career as she approached womanhood, and he willingly drew more attention to it, not less.

But whether the result of a manipulative photographer, ambitious parent, or naïve young model – there is a simple way we could end these exploitative practices.

the model holds all the power

This is true if it's your first set or you thousandth set. Here's why:

A model has the power to pick and choose who they work with and to walk away from any uncomfortable scenario. They also hold the power over a very important element of any modeling shoot – the release. The release is a contract between you and your photographer or the agency/publication hiring the photographer. This release tells you, the model, what they can and can't do with your photographs. It is your one chance to define in writing, what you are and are not comfortable doing.

The fact of the matter is, it is often too difficult in the moment of a shoot to be able to judge if a pose is compromising or uncomfortable. Just ask Jessica Biel, Cameron Diaz and Audrina Patridge, all of whom claimed to have been naïve and overwhelmed during a shoot, leading to compromising photos.

If it can happen to the best and most successful in the business, it can happen to anyone. Don't let it be you!

More on Modeling:

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Models' beauty tips


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Comments on "Models: Take charge of your career!"

Kim June 29, 2010 | 5:59 PM

^IA with Samantha. Models are pretty much the bottom of the totem pole and the most "dispensable" of all fashion industry workers. They definitely don't have much power. Many of them are naive, foreign teenagers who speak little english and have no support system when they travel abroad. Many of them are trying to support their families as well. I think articles like this somewhat play into victim blaming stereotypes society likes to put on women. The focus should be on changing the sleazy photographers and agents, not innocent girls who have done nothing wrong.

Samantha May 12, 2010 | 9:58 AM

The section "The model holds all the power" grossly oversimplifies and overestimates the power the vast majority of models hold over their own careers. Only the top models - the smallest fraction of working models - can refuse to work with certain people and walk off of jobs, and expect to work again. Agencies will drop you in a heartbeat if you're deemed "difficult" because there are dozens of other girls lined up to take your place, any of whom are more than happy to do whatever it was you refused. Girls have to be strong enough in their convictions that they are willing to walk away from their careers - and the possibility of boatloads of cash - if they feel their value set is being compromised. If Harvard MBA business magnates are not strong enough to hold to a code of ethics, how can we expect a 16-year-old girl to do so? (I speak from almost two decades of experience both in front of and behind the camera.)

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