« Germany uses Oktoberfest to fight deflation | Main | The ongoing search for deadbeat parents »

September 17, 2021

The perilous economics of high-class modeling

In the world of high fashion modelling, the rewards afforded the best-of-the-best are well documented.

Kate Moss. Gisele Bündchen. Heidi Klum. All these women, based on their looks, personalities and marketability, rake in somewhere north of $10 million ($25 mil if you’re Gisele) each year.

But maybe that’s where the glamour stops. According to one new report, in-demand models have no problem stuffing their pockets with cash, but for the rest of the ubiquitous, often homophonic industry, talent likely has trouble making ends meet.

Economist Howard Steven Friedman tells the Huffington Post as much in a recent article detailing the gruelling financial side of glamour modelling – and the daunting obligations many runway figures owe to their agents and agencies.

Indeed, while most models – well, okay, not Venus Williams – have seemingly hit the genetics lottery, cashing out on the prize may not be so easy.

Friedman cites a scene (video here) in the upcoming documentary Picture Me  which shows young model Sena Cech outlining her financial debts to her agent.

“I am in huge debt on my credit card because I’ve been paying for my own food, clothes and travel,” Cech, who has been modelling for two years, says in the video. “I’m still in debt to every single one of my agencies. They fly you (to overseas bookings), they charge you for your plane ticket, so that goes on your debt.

“When you first get here, they hire you a driver to get you to your apartment, so that goes on your debt. Your apartment goes on your debt.”

Cech also explains that agents organize for expensive photo books of models to be copied and sent out to industry officials for consideration, another high cost passed onto fledgling models and profited on by their representatives.

Now, there’s obviously some irresponsibility here on the part of models (why should they accept drivers and similar perks, especially when their agents take in a percentage of each transaction?) but there is a more alarming fiscal reality facing young men and women in this trade.

Namely, that they aren’t worth much.

“With the fresh crop of new aspiring models arriving regularly, the young talent is paid ‘new girl rates’ and soon discarded,” writes Friedman. “The high turnover rate in the industry keeps entry level modeling salaries down much like in other, less glamorous industries.”

So, if you’re scoring at home, it pays to be Brooklyn Decker, Adriana Lima or an agent in this biz. Most things short of that, though, and you might not be able to pay the rent.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



Post a comment


Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...