I Went To Court: Know Your Rights and Stand Up For Yourself

The past few months have been chaotic to say the least. I am usually very private about what I go through in my personal life, but due to certain circumstances, I felt that this was a situation that needed to be shared. I feel as though my voice wasn’t heard, and I want to tell my story to inspire and help others.

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For the last four months, I have been in and out of court for a lawsuit that I filed against my previous modeling agency—a small, unprofessional non-exclusive agency who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons. In December of 2018, I completed my first big modeling job with that agency after having not booked a single job for the duration of my contract with them. To be frank, I pretty much got the job on my own through direct contact with the client, but seeing as I was signed under an agency, I did the right thing by directing the client to my agent so she could oversee the booking. The job was completed, and I was placed on a hold to work with them again in February of 2019.

As you all know, I signed with Wilhelmina in January of 2019. When it came time to terminate my contract with my old agency, I was threatened. I was told that there was already a job in place for me and that since it was such a huge job, it would hurt the agency financially if I left. I was told that I would either have to pay an agency loss fee that was thousands of dollars, I would have to find a model to replace me, or that I would have to stay with them until February to complete the booking. Now, anyone with common sense knows that a “hold” is not a confirmation whatsoever. A job on hold can be dropped at any time, and there was no way I was going to pass up on such an amazing opportunity. I told the agent that unless the hold turned into a confirmed booking, that I would absolutely still proceed with terminating the contract. In response, she told me that the hold was dropped, that they would replace me with another model for the job, and that our contract was officially terminated. I went on to work with my new agency, but I still had to stay in contact with her for my payments as well as to receive my tax forms.

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February of 2019 came around, and I was well in with my new agency and working. I had received my tax form, and the day finally came for me to receive my check. The agent sent me an updated payment statement showing the days I worked the December job along with the rates, and the total I’d be receiving. On the last line, she listed all of the dates that were on hold for the February job, with a huge deduction from what I was supposed to receive, leaving me with a significantly less amount of money. So essentially, she claimed that I since I left the agency, she lost the client and job, resulting in me “stealing” a booking from her which is the reason why she took money from that check. The deduction is absolutely illegal for a number of reasons—mainly being that she deducted money for a 2019 job that NEVER happened—without any statements or proof of income—from my 2018 earnings AFTER filing my tax form. In addition, I was expected to pay taxes on money that I was never paid because she refused to amend my tax form to reflect what I actually received. (Are y’all still with me? I know this is pretty wordy).

I was in utter disbelief, engulfed in a whirlwind of emotions. I was angry and so confused, and felt fully taken advantage of. My first huge modeling check was literally whisked out of my hands. She blatantly took money from me solely because of her own bitterness. Throughout the anger and tears, I knew something had to be done. I KNEW this was wrong and unfair, and I had to fight it. I took one of the biggest, and scariest leaps in my life thus far—I filed a lawsuit in small claims court. Let me tell you, the process was so stressful. It’s as dreadful as dealing with employees at the DMV. Filing the lawsuit itself was easy, but the run-around that follows is the hard part. I was lost, scared, and I had so many questions. I called a handful of lawyers and legal representatives looking for guidance or insight. Of course unless they’re getting paid by the hour, they can’t hear your story, review your contracts, etc. In small claims court, it’s uncommon to be represented by a lawyer because the amount that you are fighting for is often less than the cost of a lawyer, so I was representing and defending myself. I gathered all of my evidence—I printed and highlighted every email, every statement, and I was even lucky enough to get an affidavit from the brand itself that I had worked with.

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I was nervous as hell when the first court date came around, but thankfully I had my parents and boyfriend right by my side. Something that also helped was seeing other models at court pursuing their own lawsuits as well. Unfortunately, my court date was rescheduled THREE times. In small claims court, you are on a very long list of cases waiting to be seen, and since the court cases are seen at night, the judge usually can’t get through them all, so you have to sit for hours with your fingers crossed. My final court date was a few days ago. I was READY, fueled with energy. When it came time to speak, I was told that my case would have to be closed because in my old contract I signed what is called an arbitration clause, which means that I agreed not to take any issues that I had with the agency to court. If I wanted to pursue any legal action, I would have to go through an arbitrator, which costs hundreds of dollars. Please be mindful if you see this in any contract—it is a businesses way of protecting themselves from being sued; it makes it more difficult and more costly for a person to pursue legal action against them.

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In that moment, I felt absolutely defeated. After all of these months of dedication, stress, tears, and strength, I was unable to pursue my case, unable to speak my side all because of a contract loophole. Just like that, it was all over. So here I am today, reflecting on a situation that has caused me so much stress, discomfort, and anger. How can one possibly see the good in this? Of course it’s not easy, because it feels so unfair and wrong. But I had to tell myself that life isn’t always fair, and in any situation there are always many lessons to learn, and to always take the good from the bad.

The positive aspects of this? It’s finally over. I don’t ever have to deal with such an unprofessional and disgustingly immature individual. I’m now signed with an amazing agency, starting a new journey and I sure as hell will make the money back that I lost three times over.

The lessons I’ve learned?

  • I've learned that you MUST read a contract, thoroughly from front to back. If you don’t understand legal terminology, RESEARCH it. Understand what you are signing off to.

  • I’ve learned how to be resilient and strong. I’m typically a person that will shy away from conflict. The fact that I pushed myself to take this situation to court, the fact that I learned how to maneuver the court system and take the time out to fight for my rights was an incredible move for myself. I didn’t walk away and let her take advantage of me. I gave her a run for her money (or mine, in this case) and the same amount of stress and time I had to go through, she had to do the same. She didn’t think that I’d take it this far, and I hope she’ll learn not to do this to any other model.

  • It’s taught me to be the bigger person. I wanted to drag this woman and ruin her. But, I had to learn to let it go, and trust that I am always in God’s favor. I’ve received so many blessings, and I can never lose sight of that. This situation was put in my path to make me wiser and more mature.

For anyone reading this, for anyone who was or is being taken advantage of or being mistreated, please please please stand up. Do not let the fear of the unknown keep you from defending yourself. Know your rights, and fight the good fight no matter what. Whether you win or lose, it will teach you so many important lessons and make you so much more powerful. It will also make you a more worldly person. My situation is not nearly as bad as so many unjust and flat-out wrong cases we are seeing on a daily. It has given me so much more respect for people who stand up for others, and for those who stand up for themselves. I hope my story will inspire others and open up a conversation about wrongful actions that happen within many industries.

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