Modelling Industry’s Shockingly Dark Side Revealed In New Documentary Girl Model

The team at modelling agency Talent Management have just come across this shocking trailer of new documentary ‘Girl Model’, uploaded by the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

The team at modelling agency Talent Management have just come across this shocking trailer of new documentary ‘Girl Model’, uploaded by the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

Girl Model, which premièred at South by Southwest (SXSW) last weekend, follows a disturbing journey into the cut throat world of high fashion modelling.

Told through the eyes of 13-year-old Siberian model Nadya Vall and model scout Ashley Arbaugh, the film reveals what can only be described as a global supply chain of young girls sent abroad to seek fortune in what is a largely unregulated modelling industry.

The story starts with Ashley – who discovered Nadya having scoured the Siberian countryside looking for fresh faces to send to the Japanese market – as she plucks the youngster from her rustic family home in Russia and sends her, alone, straight to the centre of bustling Tokyo with nothing but promises of a successful modelling career.

The team here at the agency has shown great interest in this documentary, not only because it exposes the dangers of young models being placed in an adult marketplace that essentially sexualize and treat them as disposable goods, but also because it shows the infinite potential for things to go wrong when there is a complete lack of family or agency support – both of which Talent Management does not condone.

In an interview included in the film’s press notes, Girl Model’s directors Ashley Sabin and David Redmon further highlighted these issues as they spoke about the difficulties in maintaining boundaries with a vulnerable 13-year-old.

“I think Nadya’s age made the entire situation very difficult,” explained Redmon. “We were the adults and she looked to us for support when people in the modelling industry wouldn’t assist. From time to time, when the situation demanded it, we stepped in to provide a little guidance, although none of these experiences are in the film. Frankly, though, I don’t know what she would have done or how she would have navigated her complications without at least a little bit of our help.”

Sabin added: “Additionally, the language barrier made the situation more complicated for everyone. For instance, when Nadya first arrived at the airport in Tokyo, she was expected to find her way to the agency on her own, with just an address on a slip of paper. She didn’t speak the language, didn’t know how to get there or even how to figure it out. She didn’t know who to ask or where to turn and hadn’t ever travelled abroad before. Had we not intervened to help her find the way, she would have become exasperated, completely lost in Tokyo and probably would have lost all trust in us. It was one of the rare times we decided to intervene.”

Shockingly, in what is perhaps one of the saddest parts of the story, the directors go on to reveal that Nadya is continuing her modelling career despite the lack of family or agency support she seems to so desperately need.

“We recently received a message from Nadya that she has decided to continue working as a model,” confirmed Sabin. “Having gone through the emotional experience of her first trip to Japan, it’s a bit incredible to us that she’d want to continue that line of work. But we also understand that, because of her background and the economic situation of her family, she still views the prospect of being a model as an opportunity to escape and work overseas.”

While many will argue that this documentary simply demonstrates cause for alarm over models’ ages, and that modelling so young should not be allowed, the issues brought to light in Girl Model are much more complex.

It’s one thing for a 13 year old to model teen clothes appropriate for and marketed towards their own age range, but it’s quite another when such a young girl is sexualised in adult, high fashion garments intended for the eyes of a market much older than she is.

With support from both a modelling agency and family members, child and teen modelling in age-appropriate shoots can be both fun and extremely rewarding.

Government-regulated agency Talent Management always gains parental permission before signing a young model onto our books and insists that all our models under the age of 18 are accompanied by a parent or guardian on a modelling job booked by us.

As well as carrying out integrity checks on new clients, all our models under the age of 16 must also have a child performance licence, providing further protection.

Unfortunately, not all agencies are regulated, and Girl Model highlights particularly unsavoury aspects of the modelling industry, which we recommend being aware of. Girl Model will air on the BBC in the UK later this year.