The Dark Side of Modeling: Trafficking and Abuse


CNN Money's series on model abuse does well to cover several important abuses that occur in the modeling industry. However, the article fails to highlight the sex trafficking and indentured slavery techniques employed by international model agencies and even major agencies in New York City. 


  • An 18-year-old worked several European fashion runways and had not received a single paycheck. 

  • A Jamaican Model worked int he New York modeling market for three years and only received a few thousand dollars, even though she had been promised a $75,000 salary from her agency. 

  • The average model makes only $26,000 a year. 

  • Many models start work in their early teens. 

  • Model agencies take irresponsibly large commissions of up to 40% and purposely create debt for their models. 

  • Sexual abuse is common in the industry.

  • There is no labor union. 


  • Many international model agencies participate in sex trafficking. 

  • Child labor laws do not apply in the modeling industry. 

  • Fake model agencies and corrupt business prey on struggling young girls.


'Runway Injustice' provides a reasonable argument from MC2 Model Management in support of models' low wages: 

“Like in any industry, many models are not successful [due] to various issues, such as a lack of commitment, physical problems, or personality flaws...Just as not every actor or musician will find commercial success, not every model will be successful.”


It's reasonable to assume that low wages have to do with model talent or appearance.

Why complain about low wages when all one has to do in order to model is stand in front of a camera or walk a runway? Many of us are thinking we would love to receive $26,000 dollars to pose in front of a camera.

However, it takes a simple Google search to discover that MC2 Model Management, the agency defending its model wages, has been reportedly involved in sex trafficking.

Several sources report that Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier, who reportedly molested up to 40 underage girls, received his victims from Jean Luc Brunel, former owner of MC2 Model Management. 

Epstein reportedly bought a 12-year-old French girl and a 14-year-old Yugoslavian girl to give him massages and 'birthday presents.' 

“These same civil complaints allege that young girls from South America, Europe, and the former Soviet republics, few of whom spoke English, were recruited for Esptein’s sexual pleasure. According to a former bookkeeper, a number of the girls worked for MC2, the modeling agency owned by Jean Luc Brunel, a longtime acquaintance and frequent guest of Epstein’s.”


“Brunel, along with numerous young models, was a frequent passenger on Epstein’s private jet, according to flight manifests. The agency owner also allegedly received $1 million from Epstein in 2005, when he founded MC2 with his partner, Jeffrey Fuller; although Fuller and Brunel denied any such payment from the billionaire pervert in 2007, when rumors started swirling, Sarnoff got confirmation from a former bookkeeper at the agency. Whether the money was a secret investment in MC2, or a payment for Brunel’s services as a procurer, is unknown. Brunel also visited Epstein in jail.”



Yes, Instagram 'model dieting trends' create body-image problems relating to eating disorders. Yes, it's a problem that our models are all size 00. Yes, Models should be paid to walk a runway in a fashion industry worth $3 trillion. 

But, I argue the real problem is that little girls who can barely speak English are being recruited to come to America. It's a problem that these same girls are being held in model apartments as indentured slaves with no money, no food, and thousands of dollars of debt owed to their agencies for housing and international flight costs. These same girls are sent out to 'entertain' businessmen after photoshoots. 

So, next time we post about the dangers of Photo Editing and Skinny Models, we should think about the other horrors of the modeling industry.