The seedy side of the modeling business

The Naked Truth About Modeling


A 16-year-old girl is on her first modeling shoot in Paris. She is unchaperoned and inexperienced. She takes a break for a cup of coffee, and a photographer follows her down the hall. She stops, and he fiddles with her clothes. Then he reaches in between her legs and gropes her. Stunned, the model says nothing. He says nothing. They walk back into the room and finish the shoot.

It's stories like these that stood out as Sara Ziff, a successful runway model, and her boyfriend, filmmaker Ole Schell, began shooting behind the scenes at Ziff's shows. For five years, they recorded parties, castings, inside hotel rooms, and backstage behind the runway as Ziff became the face of campaigns from Calvin Klein to Dolce & Gabbana. What emerged was a portrait of the dark side of the modeling world, one that most people never see: young girls, often half a world away from home, unprepared to handle the sexual objectification and frequent harassment that Ziff says is an all-too-common part of their jobs.


I started modeling at 14, after being scouted on the street walking home from school. One of my first castings was in a photographer's apartment downtown. I got there, and there was a line of models waiting at the door. I went in and he asked me to show him my book. I did, and then he said, "Well, this is a bathing-suit story, and it's a little hard for me to picture you in a bathing suit. Could you take your shirt off?" And I thought, "Well, that makes sense," so I did. And then he said, "Can you take your pants off?" And this continued to the point where I'm standing there [topless,] basically totally naked. I was 14. And in hindsight, it's crazy that I was put in that position, but I just didn't know any better.

Comment: Sick!

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