While data is scant, models and anti-trafficking activists say abuse in the sector is rife for African hopefuls – due to a lack of oversight and guidance both on the continent and abroad. All eyes will be on the catwalk, but the model behind Ethiopia’s first reality TV modelling competition hopes the show will also shine a spotlight on exploitation in the industry across Africa.
While the #MeToo scandal highlighted widespread sex abuse in fashion, models and non-profits say women and girls pursuing a catwalk career face even greater dangers in developing nations.
Delina Cleo – a model in her late twenties who created the ‘Hidden Beauty of Ethiopia’ show – wants to educate aspiring African models about risks from online scams to sex trafficking.
“This industry can be very dangerous”, she said, referring to an Ethiopian girl whose family sold their house after a fake agency demanded payment to cast her in a production that did not exist. The girl ended up being sexually exploited, Cleo added.
“Families do not have (enough) knowledge to understand (when) it’s a scam,” Cleo said following the recent launch of the show’s second season, which sees about a dozen contestants compete for a contract with a major British modelling agency