Jenna Owen insists she was a “shit” model.
The now 24-year-old comedian and TV presenter signed to one of Australia’s biggest modelling agencies at 17, but quit after just two years.
“I wasn’t successful. I didn’t make any money,” she told Mamamia. “The opposite of that.”
But that’s why she felt compelled make The Model is Broken, her debut documentary for SBS’s The Feed. After all, in pulling back the curtain on the ways in which the fashion industry exploits young girls — financially, sexually, emotionally — she’s not risking her career, or professional relationships.
Instead, she’s able to amplify the voices of several working and former models, each of whom has endured treatment that’s, at best, ethically reprehensible and, at worst, downright illegal.
Though she’d been on the inside, Jenna says she was still struck by the level of fear many of them felt about coming forward.
“This industry is incredibly hostile to complainers and whistleblowers, and many girls that I spoke to even off the record were still afraid,” she said.
“It’s like Stockholm Syndrome.”
And for good reason.
The viewer is introduced to 21-year-old Lauren, who was working in Indonesia when a photographer sexually harassed her. Her agent responded to her complaint by having her visa revoked; her passport was then confiscated and she was forced to hire a lawyer to break her contract.