by Julia Rubin
Courtesy of Delphine Achard
"We're definitely changing fashion history right now."
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This is how Coco Rocha characterizes the landmark announcement, made today, that New York's labor laws will now protect underage models. No hyberbole here-this is a very big deal.
Coco has been a longtime champion of models' rights, and her work with model-turned-activist Sara Ziff's Model Alliance has helped make this legislation a reality. (Speaking of Sara, her documentary Picture Me is really worth a watch.)
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"When you think of models, you think of a glamorous lifestyle," Coco explains. "You think these girls can take whatever jobs they want and get paid lots of money. But no, it's usually a girl under the age of 18 who was given the ultimatum of going to school or being a model. She's not being paid, she's doesn't have proper chaperones, and she's being mistreated."
While actors, singers, and dancers under the age of 18 have legal rights and protections, models do not. That is, not until now. The new law will take effect in 30 days and will mandate how much underage girls (and boys) can work, not to mention when (example: school nights are out of the question). It's also expected that there will be provisions about on-set tutors and backstage supervisors. Basically, things are going to get a whole lot better for these young professionals.
Not only that, but there's sure to be a ripple effect across the industry. "This will only further these girl's careers," says Coco. "Models working at ages 18, 19, and above who are supposedly 'too old' might in fact get to work longer because of these laws. Girls will also get taken care of in a way when they're younger that will prepare them for better careers when they're older."
And Coco would know, having started modeling at age 15. Without any protective measures put in place, she was exposed to working conditions that will no longer be allowed going forward. "We're not saying you can't work with girls between the ages of 14 and 18," she emphasizes. "We're saying that when you do, there are laws, as well as consequences if you don't abide by them. When there are consequences, people sit up and pay attention."
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by Julia Rubin