Trump Organization Says It Is Closing Its Modeling Agency

Apr 11, 2017
Originally published on April 11, 2017 7:38 pm

The Trump Organization is shutting down its New York-based modeling agency.

A statement released by the company said it was "choosing to exit the modeling industry."

"While we enjoyed many years of success, we are focussed on our core business in the real estate and golf industries and the rapid expansion of our hospitality division," the statement said.

Started in 1999, Trump Model Management was part of Trump's eclectic array of businesses, though it was never as visible as some of the others and didn't play a major role in the fashion business.

But like other Trump businesses, it has found itself under special scrutiny as a result of Trump's decision to run for president.

Despite Trump's ongoing focus on illegal immigration, several of the foreign-born models hired by the agency told reporters they had been hired despite having no work visas.

"There was about six, seven or eight of us, at least in this models' apartment. There might have been about three Americans, but the rest of us had no visa,"
Canadian-born Rachel Blais told PRI's The World.

An article in Mother Jones quoted two other former models as saying the Trump agency "never obtained work visas on their behalf, even as they performed modeling assignments in the United States."

Trump Model Management denied using illegal labor practices.

The agency also became the target of a boycott by some fashion-industry directors, makeup artists and stylists, the website Refinery29 reported in February.

One of the agency's models, Maggie Rizer, said in an Instagram post the day after the election that she could no longer be associated with the Trump brand.

"I owe it to myself and to my children to proudly stand up for what I believe in and that is a world where Donald Trump has no voice for the future of our country," she said.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that one of the agency's managers, Gabriel Ruas Santos-Rocha, had left to start his own firm called Anti Management, taking some of the models with him.

He said the new agency's title was not an allusion to Trump, telling the Post, "I did not start an agency with the intent of taking someone out of business. Outside of that I have no comments."

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President Trump has said a lot over the years about illegal immigration. So last year when reports surfaced that his modeling agency had hired women without documents to do fashion work, it generated a lot of controversy. Now that agency is closing its doors, as NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: The Trump Organization said in a statement that it was shutting down its modeling operation to focus its energies on real estate and golf courses. Trump Model Management was part of the eclectic mix of businesses housed under the Trump brand name. And like other Trump businesses, it found itself pulled into the vortex of politics once Trump decided to run for president.

The liberal magazine Mother Jones did a much-discussed story last year saying that for all Trump's rhetoric about undocumented workers, some of the models hired by Trump weren't authorized to work in the United States. Here was one of them, Canadian Rachel Blais, who told CNN she began working for Trump in 2004.


RACHEL BLAIS: I spent most of my time in New York and worked - did a lot of jobs, but I didn't have a visa until September. I didn't actually start the visa process until August.

ZARROLI: The Trump Organization denied the allegations. Mother Jones also described tough working conditions with models as young as 14 forced to live in crowded apartments. The National Organization for Women accused the company of exploiting its young models. Terri O'Neill is NOW's president.

TERRI O'NEILL: His modeling agency is shutting down. From everything I've read about how that organization operated, I say good riddance to bad rubbish.

ZARROLI: In recent months, the agency was the target of a fashion-industry boycott, and several of its top performers left. One model announced she was leaving on Instagram because she opposed Trump's politics. And a senior manager announced last month he was leaving to start his own firm called Anti Management and taking several of the agency's models with him. He said the name had nothing to do with his feelings about Trump. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.