Fashion models expose sexual harassment

By Chi Chi Izundu
Victoria Derbyshire programme

  • Published

The fashion industry is failing to deal with the problem of sexual harassment, the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme has been told.

In the UK, professional agencies represent about 12,000 models.

The Association of Model Agents (AMA) said member agencies "do everything within their power to protect them".

Here are some of the models' stories.


"One example I can think of was for a jeans brand. I turned up at the shoot, got the clothes on, got my make-up done, and then the make-up artist then left and I was left with the photographer.

"And we did the shoot and I went to the bathroom for a break. I came back and the photographer was on his knees, where I was supposed to be standing, and I stepped in and he just grabbed me by the legs and wanted me to then perform an act on him.

"And I just froze. I think the trouble is that you just freeze in these situations as it came out of nowhere.

"I didn't tell anyone about it, I just went on the bus home, shaking.

"My first thought was 'Am I going to get paid for this now?' as he might go and tell my agent and then I wouldn't get paid for it, so I just kept quiet."

Anonymous model

"I was sexually assaulted by a stylist on a well known hair brand.

"He grabbed me by the throat, grabbed me in-between my legs, and he told me my body was disgusting.

"I couldn't get out, I didn't have keys, I didn't have a phone. I pushed him away when he tried to kiss me.

"He ended up masturbating lying next to me.

"I told his boss, but he didn't do anything because I hadn't gone to the police.

"He's still working now in the industry with female models, around models all day."

Other accounts from models who did not want to be identified:

  • "Some agents are being paid to pimp out models"
  • "The photographer kept squeezing my nipples to get a more 'sensual' shot. I had a shirt on"
  • "We call it the 'double swipe', where the stylist grabs your junk as they fix your look"
  • "On set with make-up artists, stylists, et cetera, the photographer shoved his hand between my legs. I was 16"
  • "I told my agent about my abuse, they told me to 'stay quiet, he's too important to lose as a client'"

The Association of Model Agents said member agencies had "a huge duty of care to their models and do everything within their power to protect them.

"We do not send them to meetings at hotels or private addresses with clients or photographers who we do not know.

"Further, we do our best to educate models on what is and is not appropriate, professional behaviour."

Joelle Hedgepeth

"There was a pretty popular photographer who wanted to shoot me. But because we were in separate states, he wanted me to send nude photos of myself to him.

"I remember him asking me and me kind of knowing, 'I know I don't know much about the industry yet, but I'm pretty sure I don't have to send you a nude photo for you to be able to tell what type of model you want.'

"I tried to appease him but do it my way and I sent him photos of myself in my bikini. And he lashed out at me via text message, saying, 'If you aren't ready for the real modelling world, don't waste my time.'

"A photographer came to shoot me in my home town. As we were scouting for a location, he asked me to pull the car over.

"I'm still young, still 17-18, and he kissed me. And I remember being like, 'This is not OK.'"

Watch the Victoria Derbyshire programme on weekdays between 09:00 and 11:00 on BBC Two and the BBC News channel.