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Miserable models?


10:33, May 14, 2012

Model at the 2012 Beijing International Automobile Exhibition (Photo from

Chinese model

Twenty-six-year-old model An Li has been modeling for 10 years. On paper, she earns about 10,000 yuan ($1,589) a month. An earns 500 yuan a day modeling at the China International Photograph & Electrical Imaging Machinery and Technology Fair (China P&E) and 1,000 yuan per day modeling at the Beijing International Automobile Exhibition.

Though An's income is higher than most of her white-collar worker peers, it is not enough to sustain her lifestyle. Now, she runs a clothing shop to support herself.

"I bet these models earn 8,000 to 10, 000 yuan a day," guessed security guards at the automotive exhibition.

But most models feel like they are no better off than the security guards.

"Everyone sees the superficial parts of our life, but we are like the migrant workers in the fashion circle," said a model who wished to remain anonymous. "[Very often] we eat boxed lunch, stay up all night, and rush from interview to interview [to get work]."

Lowered incomes

The China International Fashion Week committee released the 2011-12 annual standard for wages of professional models: 8,000 to 10, 000 yuan per fashion show for models in the A list and above; 5,000 to 6,000 yuan for A list models, and 2,000 to 3,000 yuan for B list models.

Zhang Yan, vice secretary general of China International Fashion Week, said a small percentage is paid to model agencies and individual income tax.

Yet this standard is only followed by China International Fashion Week. Most commercial fashion shows set their own rules. At automobile shows, models are categorized from A to D. Models on the lowest rung are paid 2,000 yuan. There are no clear guidelines explaining the difference between A and D list models, with preferences arbitrarily given.

For unprofessional models, the payment is even lower, usually between 500 to 800 yuan a day. Freelance models bring in about 200 yuan a day. Only top models receive an enviable income, which varies from five million to 10 million yuan a year. A small fraction of their salary comes from runway appearances.

Fang Hua, founder of Paras Talent Management, a model talent management company based in Shanghai, said the majority of a top model's income comes from advertisement endorsement and appearing as guests for events. Income from walking in fashion shows amounts to only 30 percent.

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