Models backstage.

FIGHTING HARASSMENT: Models in California now have a little more legal reenforcement thanks to the passage of the Talent Protections Act, which was created to fight sexual harassment and eating disorders. While not designed solely for models, the law is geared for the state’s fashion and entertainment industries. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law Sept. 30 and it will take effect in January.

The Model Alliance, the New York-based organization that champions models’ rights, worked closely with California State Assembly member Marc Levine, detailing models’ experiences to help develop the law and calling for its support.

Under the law, talent agencies must create educational materials about sexual harassment prevention and retaliation, as well as information about good nutrition and eating disorders for adults. For minors starting out in the entertainment industry, they and their parents, or respective legal guardian, will be required to have training in these areas. The law also mandates that information about nutrition be provided to fashion models.

Models are routinely advised to lose weight, according to what is said to be the largest survey to date on eating disorders among professional models. Published last year in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, the study was an effort between the Model Alliance and researchers at Northeastern University and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Models reported great pressure to lose weight from their agencies. Forty-four percent of respondents reported having been “often” or “always” told by their agencies to tone up in the past year. Thirty-six percent said they had been advised to lose weight and 32 percent indicated they were told to adopt a new diet or exercise regimen. And 5 percent said they had been given pills or substances for weight loss.

Sara Ziff, founding director of Model Alliance, described the act’s passage as “a huge step forward for models to ensure their basic right to safe working conditions.” She and other models including Carré Otis testified in Sacramento. Ziff spoke of “the unchecked exploitation we have faced in our working lives, from sexual harassment and assault to coerced starvation.…Our work will continue, but this victory is one to celebrate as an important step forward.”