The CFDA’s attempt to limit underage models on the New York Fashion Week runways has made headlines this week, setting off a debate on the efficacy of a 16-and-up policy. While supporters and detractors have voiced their opinions online (the New York Times story that broke the news has 137 comments and counting), what do the women who grew up in the industry have to say about it?
“Obviously with child labor laws in this country, there are certain things that should come into play,” said model-turned-actress Rebecca Romijn after Cynthia Rowley’s show. “Back in the day, we all had champagne backstage at these shows and it was a party,” she remembers. It wasn’t just the wild times that made it tough for teenage models, but also the demands of the job. “Shoes that were too tight and pointy,” Romijn says of the particular pains of modeling. “I wasn’t being honest with the shoe size I wore—you have to be honest or you’ll pay for it later.” She’s seen firsthand the changes taking place behind the scenes: “Last night I was at the Red Heart event and there was no champagne anywhere—and I could have really used some! I was like, ‘Get me out of here so I can get some booze in me, I need a shot of Johnny Courage!’”
At the other end of the spectrum at Cynthia Rowley was Abigail Breslin, who had her mother by her side. The 15-year-old has been working since she was three—surely she’s got some horror stories about underage workers? “I’ve been really lucky,” admitted the New Year’s Eve star. “I’ve never modeled before so I don’t really know what the whole industry is like[.…] I love seeing the shows and seeing the models all come out, it’s fun!”