Sara Ziff hit Fashion Week exclusively for the Cut to cover the dark underbelly of the modeling world that many people don't know about. Opening in New York today is her film Picture Me, which includes more stories about the harsh reality of the modeling world, such as model Sena Cech's story about the time a photographer's assistant asked her to give the photographer a handjob on set. Cech spoke to Gawker about some of the other awful things she endured for her job.
I was working for Air France Magazine, and my agency calls me and says, "One of our girls had an allergic reaction midway through a shoot and had to go." They told me she'd gotten hair in her eyes while they were cutting her bangs. They said, "Get down there!" It was really weird when I got there. So they do my hair and makeup. Then the photographer was shooting, and he's using a UV flash, and it burned the first six layers of the whites of my eyes. Six cell layers. It even burned the assistant's arm.
After the shoot is finished, I'm rushed to the hospital and the other model was already there being treated for burns. For three hours, I worked on that shoot while the girl who went before me was being treated in the hospital. They knew what had happened to her, and they still had me work. I get there, they put ointment on, and taped my face shut. They asked me, "Do you have anybody you can call? The agency is closed. No one's coming for you."
My friend brings me home, I'm blind, and he had to feed me for two days. After taking the bandages off I had to wear dark glasses and carry an umbrella. It took two months to heal, so I ask, "Where's my worker's comp?" They said, "We don't sue each other in France."
Cech also explains how her agency would effectively act as an escort service:
At my agency, the new faces booker. He took care of the teenage models and worked nights as a club promoter. He'd say, "After work you should come out to dinner with me, we'll invite like 20 girls from the agency " And [the models would] all trust him. They'd get everything for free, and they'd get really drunk. 15-year-old girls.
I mean, my booker would book me for dinner with somebody influential from the industry just because he wanted to have dinner with a hot chick. The modeling agency would double as a dating agency. They'd say, "When you're out with him, you can show him your stuff." One time, this guy picks me up, and I'm starving. He says, "I just want to stop at this hotel and have some Champagne." So we drink like a bottle of Champagne. Then he says, "I need to go back and change," and we end up in his hotel room. Pretty soon he comes out in just his bathrobe, and I was like "Oh, shit." Then I couldn't find my shoes, because he had hidden them so I couldn't leave. I see one of my shoes that he had kicked under the bed. He hid my shoes! I grabbed one of them and just ran. My agency put me in these situations.