*Girl Model* Documentary Shines a Light on the Underage Model Biz

Stripping down to your skivvies at a moment’s notice, never-ending fittings that go on long into the night, and no carbs—ever—are all par for the course when it comes to modeling. But when the girls are unworldly barely-teenagers plucked from far-flung locales, do they really know what they are getting into?

The new documentary *Girl Model *hopes to help us get a clearer view inside the international modeling industry—it debuted at the SXSW Festival and will be showing at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in North Carolina on April 12-15. Shot by Ashley Sabin and David Redmon, the film follows a model scout seeking fresh faces for the Japanese market and 13-year-old Nadya Vall, a Siberian girl from a poor family. Vall is handed a contract while riding a train in Russia promising $8,000 and the possibility of becoming a model (her living expenses would be deducted from the advance). Unable to read the paperwork in English or Japanese, she signs on the dotted line, and her heartbreaking adventure begins. You can imagine what happens next. Disappointment, shattered dreams, exploitation, debt. Check out a clip from the movie on The New York Times’s On the Runway blog, where Sabin asks, “At 13, 14, 15, how much can [these girls] really understand about the dreams versus the reality?”

Whatever your take on underage modeling, this film is worth watching. Maybe the footage will result in stricter industry regulations (earlier this year, the CFDA urged designers not to hire models under the age of sixteen for runway shows) or maybe simply having enough people ask Sabin’s question is enough to change the status quo.


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