Despite what is portrayed in the media, being a model has been proven to be a job that is not so lucrative – if you’re not a star celebrity. In an investigative series, “Runway Injustice,” CNN Money researched the cost that goes into becoming a model and the returns that the model receives.
Modelling agencies have a 20% commission rate so the paychecks that the models received are reduced by a large chunk.
One male model showed CNN Money a statement where a $500 catalog shoot turned into a $15 check and a young female model saw her $74,000 earnings shrink to less than $30,000.
They’re considered as independent contractors, so this means that there’s no guarantee for receiving minimum wage, overtime, lunch breaks or prompt paychecks. Also, the agencies take 20% or more as their commission and model will have to pay for their own business expenses including plane tickets, headshots, portfolios and websites.
The agencies, after charging 20% commission on the models will also charge the model’s client a similar amount. A $5000 job would mean that $2000 goes towards the agency, which ends up being more than what the model receives.
One model showed how a $30,000 payday shrunk to $6475 after the 20% commission and tax. This excludes expenses. As models get picked for jobs sporadically, this paycheck would last them a few months before the next job.
CNN Money says, “To charge these high commissions, some attorneys argue that companies based in New York, the heart of the modeling industry, are masquerading as “management companies” instead of employment agencies.”
Jamaican model Alexia Palmer was discovered in a Caribbean model competition and was brought to the United States by Trump Model Management. Her financial records included a lawsuit she filed against the agency and her expenses accrued to $12,000 in three years.
Her test shots cost $2000, walking lessons were $75 each, a dermatology visit (recommended by her agency) cost $200 and a promo video was $250. She was also charged $900 for a “show package” which is to showcase herself to land jobs at runway shows. Courier fees of her portfolio were $100 and transportation costs were $400. “Vague adminstrative fees” were $4000.
She also had to take out cash advances from the agency as models can’ wait for paychecks to materialize. It’s said that they are charged 5% interest for these charges.
In over three years, Palmer’s take-home pay was less than $5000.
Advances are common industry practice. Canadian model Ty States said, “Advances were the only way you could actually afford to get anything. They are still making money off of you, but it’s like I need to eat and pay my bills.”
“[Cash advances] kept the models in a perpetual state of dependence,” attorneys at Quinn Emanuel wrote in court filings. “This practice is particularly insidious because the models only needed the advances in the first place because of defendants’ unlawful practice of not paying a model his or her wages until many months after the work had been performed (if ever).”