By Monique Derr –
Her mind raced as the modeling agent urged her to lift her dress higher. She was alone in the room. It did not feel right, but she wanted so badly to make a good impression and get the photo shoot job. Perhaps she was just being too cowardly? Maybe this was how it was supposed to work? “Higher,” he said, as he circled her with his camera. Finally, heart racing, she dropped her dress and asked why it was necessary to show so much skin. “That will be all,” he said, and he left.
She did not get the job. It was not until years later that she learned her gut feeling had been right, that she had been wrongfully pressured, and that the man posing as a modeling agent was, in fact, a predator who was later sentenced to jail time for exploiting young girls with big dreams.
Sex traffickers find ways to target and deceive vulnerable girls in many ways, and aspiring models have become a major focus for some of these predators. “Sex sells,” says world fashion mogul Stacy Eastman. “It is rampant and selling everywhere.”
As an impressionable young man, Eastman studied the fashion industry with some of the best and brightest. “I went to Milan, Paris, and London as an intern, and was head hunted by the most powerful man in fashion, John Casablanca,” Eastman said.
After 10 years with Elite Model Management, Eastman decided to form his own management company and Pulse Management was born. Unaware of modern day slavery in the industry he had reached great success in, he initially sought to put his experience and energy into a model management company that ethically cared for the talent they represented. “I set out to bring morals and standards to the entertainment industry through schooling, healthy eating habits and sports, and really the betterment of the person.”
Eastman then became a husband and father, and was introduced to the reality of sex trafficking through the fictional movie Taken, and he became enthralled with learning more.
“Having spent my life in the entertainment industry, I’ve seen a lot of people sell out and it disturbed me greatly. So I started researching to see if people posed as fashion moguls for this same purpose. Right then, I knew I had to stand and make even more of a difference,” he stated.
Eastman came across Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.), and started digging and learning all he could. “I bought tons of products in support and became, as they say, an abolitionist,” Eastman said. He has since found valuable ways to support O.U.R. and fight sex trafficking within the fashion industry and has played an active role in bringing awareness to the issue.
Pulse Management uses social media and their personal blog as a platform to educate their followers on how traffickers prey on models. They are able to spread the messaging and warning to millions of people through their clients and connections.
Public Relations and Online Media Director Lisa Hong Ballstaedt explained, “We have many followers who want to be models; they could easily be preyed upon because they want it… We want to be a voice of awareness for them.”
On a more personal level, Eastman is able to create dialogue with strangers who ask about the O.U.R. dog tags around his neck, which “I have never taken off,” he noted.
Pulse Management has also hosted screenings of the movie, The Abolitionists, and works tirelessly to ensure the safety of the models they represent. Ballstaedt stated, “We protect our models…sex should never be a factor in a modeling photo shoot…we try to be a light in [what can be] a dark industry.”
For those who are pursuing a career in modeling, Eastman has some pieces of advice to ensure safety and legitimacy in potential opportunities:
- Research the agencies. Check to see if they have a legitimate track record with the actual companies, designers, magazines, and so forth, that they claim they work with.
- Confirm that they have strong character references from actual models and their parents who they say they manage.
- The “agency” should never make or force you to wear something that is not age appropriate and/or shoot sexually explicit material.
- Make sure that parents are always welcome to travel with their daughter, no matter the model’s age.
- Never pay for “modeling schools.” There are really only three USA markets: NYC, which is number one in the world, Miami, and LA. Travel is mandatory.
O.U.R., unfortunately, has seen many modeling schools used as a cover up for traffickers to prey on the innocent. Unsuspecting parents are lured by promises of a successful modeling career for their children, only to never see then again.
In O.U.R.’s Operation Triple Take, potential sex victims were rescued from suspected traffickers who used former Colombian beauty queen Kelly Johana to entice them. You can read that story here.
“We spend thousands of unpaid hours ensuring our clients are globally protected with their parents and their futures in mind” said Eastman. Anything less should be a red flag.
Pulse Management demonstrates well the value of contributing to the fight against sex trafficking by means of personal talents and influence. “I adore my wife and two girls, let alone ALL my clients who happen to be beautiful, smart, and athletic girls. I could not bear to see this (trafficking) happen and their innocence be destroyed. So I’ve tried to do all I can and will continue, period!” Eastman exclaimed.
It is important to recognize that any person or organization, with any background, is in a position to join this fight. There are many opportunities to fight sex trafficking, and everyone has a role they can play to stop it.
O.U.R. is grateful for the example Pulse Management has set, and for the work they do to protect young girls with big hopes and dreams. Their work can inspire others to take action against sex trafficking as well. Everyone has something to contribute in this fight.