“It may cost you a couple thousand dollars, it may cost you a job, it may cost you—who knows what it may cost.”



Industry models resume their careers after months of canceled fashion shows, shoots, and ad campaigns. But as modeling budgets decrease, booking jobs in a highly competitive industry may not be worth the pay.

In the last year, payments paused as LVMH, Kering Group, and OTB Group, who own clients of industry leading agencies, reported record financial losses. Agencies, including Wilhelmina and IMG, received requests for delayed payment to agents, which further delayed payment to models. Clients book signed models through the model’s agency, then pay is distributed to the agent, but the agency may or may not pay the model.

After contracts are signed, the agent collects commission from the client and model, and other fees, incl. composite cards, are deducted from the model’s pay. If payment is received, it may be significantly lower or later than expected, and while often models live in high-priced cities, insufficient to pay bills and rent.

Llewellyn spoke about the modeling industry from his apartment in Los Angeles. He started his career in New York.

“[payment] varies depending on your level in the industry, your importance in the show, your importance in the shoot,” Llewellyn said.

    He was not signed to a mother agency, which is recommended to models at the start of their career. A mother agency is an organization who provides support and security to talent before they sign to other agencies, often in multiple cities. But models are independent contractors not employed by their agencies, therefore models are paid when clients pay the agent. In most contracts, clients have up to 90 days to pay, a time frame which is often breached.

“Models get paid up to a year late, sometimes they never get their money,” he said. “When it comes to pay you get paid what you get paid.”

Modeling agencies, including Wilhelmina and IMG, suspend open calls replaced by online submissions only, which increases saturation in castings for less job opportunities. Models may receive non-monetary pay in exposure or trade (payment in clothing) for runway and magazine shoots. Although, for most industry leading brands, models are not tagged in social media posts or on magazine websites.

Agencies expect models to reimburse them for appointments their agent scheduled to the gym, salon, dermatologist, and other treatments, often unrequested by the model. But when checks from a booking are not processed for up to a year, if at all, unpaid fees increase the model’s debt to the agency. With a temporary career expectancy in the modeling industry, models may be signed to one or more agencies by age fifteen and be released before twenty-five, in debt and/or owed money throughout their contracts.

“It may cost you a couple thousand dollars, it may cost you a job, it may cost you—who knows what it may cost,” Llewellyn said.

“I’m not even in a contract with the agency and I’m still owed money, but there’s nothing I can do about it because there are no regulations.”

Breach of contract in payment agreements indicate how far exploitation and unpaid labor extend in the supply chain. But  agencies claim clients are at fault for late to non-payment, as payment disputes continue for some multi-billion euro clients.