PROVO — A BYU student is filming a documentary about underage models after experiencing the industry firsthand.
When Rosemary Card was 16, she lived a dream of many girls her age. She moved to New York City and became a fashion model. She worked with top photographers and top designers. She flew off to photo shoots and runways in Italy, Singapore and Japan.
At first, it was glamorous. Now, she has a different picture.
Card, a communications student at BYU, is currently working on a documentary called "Runway to Nowhere," about how the fashion industry objectifies women and sexualizes images of underage models.
Card was discovered when she was an extra in the locally-filmed "High School Musical." A casting director asked if she'd considered modeling. That eventually led to a three-year contract with the Elite modeling agency. She said most models were, like her, under 18.
"I was really excited that I was gonna be a star but I was gonna keep my morals," she said.
"I was gonna be this good example for girls that you can do whatever you want and stay modest and all that kind of stuff, but I quickly found out that the industry wasn't interested in celebrating someone's standards in that sense."
Card talks about one shoot, set at hotel where rooms were rented by the hour, during which she was posed by a bed in short dresses and high heels. At the time, she said, "I just thought it was edgy."
"It just didn't click in my head that they're posing me as a prostitute."
She said at various jobs she was asked to wear sheer clothing and pose semi-nude and nude. She would refuse.
"Why as a culture have we accepted the sexualization of young girls?" Card said. "Why is it not that big of a deal for us to see a 15 year old in a major magazine in a highly sexualized picture? Why are we OK with that?"
Card quit modeling before she turned 18. Once she came of age, she said, it would have been harder to keep her clothes on and keep working.
Why as a culture have we accepted the sexualization of young girls? Why is it not that big of a deal for us to see a 15 year old in a major magazine in a highly sexualized picture? Why are we OK with that?
She returned to Utah and is now at BYU completing a degree in communications with an emphasis on journalism.
For the documentary, she returned to New York and interviewed agents, models, and photographers.
She said a lot of people in the business aren't comfortable with how the industry uses young models and the general treatment of models, but have a hard time speaking out.
"It's really hard to be in the industry and bite the hand that's feeding you," she said.
Last October, the Governor of New York signed a law extending rules for child performers to underage models as well. Among other things, the law limits the hours young models can work and requires on-site nurses and, in some cases, tutors and chaperones. The rules could encourage designers to hire older models.
"I do think I have some responsibility as a former model to say something," Card said. "I have a responsibility to other models that I worked with to speak out. But I also think I have a responsibility as a woman to speak out and let the industry know that this isn't OK, but also to let women know there is something they can do. They don't have to accept these messages and they don't have to be influenced by them."
Her documentary will be shown March 21 as part of a film series on the BYU campus.