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Modelling’s ‘dark side’ facing big clean-up

Published on the Web by IOL on 2000-07-10 09:40:19

By Samantha Mott

Behind the veneer of Cape Town’s modelling industry, with its promises of fame and glamour, lies a sordid world of drugs, alcohol, teenage sex and the occasional abortion.

While local and international models working the catwalks admit to being involved in many of the problems, agency directors say it is an aspect of the industry they are cleaning up.

Out-Look Models director Natasha van Dieman said she was aware of the problems and her agency was holding workshops for models, advising them on the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

‘Models must do their homework before selecting an agency’

Topco Models director Karen Burt said the actions of a few models should not be a reflection of how the industry was run. “Models must do their homework before selecting an agency,”
she said.

Catwalk queens, however, said it was often the younger models, between 13 and 16, who were the most vulnerable and who were lured into the industry’s underbelly of sex, drugs and alcohol.

Liezl, 20, a model at a local agency, said the availability of drugs was a lot more prevalent than in most other industries.

“Models aged between 14 and 17 are easy targets as they often travel without their parents and seek the comfort zone. They hang out with older models and use drugs just to fit in.

“Modelling is a great deal of fun, but the stress levels are usually very high. Drugs, sex and alcohol are what some call ‘great stress relievers’,” she said.

‘Most models love parties which are often kinky and naughty’

Dutch model Tanya, 21, who arrived in the city recently, said that at times the competition was too much and too many girls struggled to pull a job.

“In this industry, it is all about you. You have to be independent and, if you’re not strong-willed, it’s easy to get drawn into the bad side,” said Yolanda, 20, who works in Cape Town.

Male model Warren, 24, said that even under-age models were involved with late-night partying and the abuse of drugs and alcohol.

Warren, who is bisexual, said bisexuality and homosexuality were all part of the industry, just like drugs. “Most models love parties which are often kinky and naughty.” It was this “irresponsible sexual behaviour” that at times ended in unwanted pregnancy or unnecessary abortions, said Ms Burt.

“A lot of pressure is put on models about their weight and this leads to eating disorders like bulimia.

“If your weight is not up to their standard, it could cost you a job.

“The industry is very picky about the weight of models. They usually like them thin and sometimes even skinny. At times, some models use drugs to control their eating.”

Rozlyn, 22, who has been modelling for five years, said models needed to be well motivated and focused so as not to get pulled into the dark side.

“If you are strong, it can clearly be a terrific job. The modelling industry is very entertaining business with lots of fun and opportunities to progress into international stardom.”

Ms Burt said the actions of a few models must not be seen as a reflection of the whole industry.

“How we run our agencies is not be up to the models. I run a good, clean agency and keep a close eye on models and make sure all their problems and concerns are addressed …

“I maintain a healthy relationship with each of them.”

Ms Van Dieman said she believed it was important to hold workshops for models on what was expected of them and the dangers of drugs, alcohol and under-age sex.

“While we can’t run away from the problems or deny their existence, there is a lot of positive work being done to overcome it.

“We have had many positive results and wonderful success stories. And it is not only about turning beautiful healthy females into stars, it’s about developing them into confident individuals.”

Ice Modelling Agency director Steffi Freier said she had warned her models against opportunists and maintained a personal relationship with all her people.

“It’s important to remain positive in the industry and to remember that modelling is a fun activity and must not be turned into something ugly,” she said.

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