Back in February, we covered the story of 6-year-old Anissa Fraser when her image was used on a billboard and paid for by the anti-abortion group Life Always. Set in the middle of New York City’s popular Soho, the billboard displayed a picture of Anissa that stated, “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
After public outrage claiming racism, the billboard was taken down. Anissa’s mother Tricia said in February that when she took her daughter to a modeling agency over two years ago, she was told the photos taken might be used for stock photos but she had no idea that they would ever be used for anything so offensive. Yesterday, Tricia officially filed a lawsuit against the Texas based group, Life Always and Majella Cares dba Heroic Media.
Apparently in 2009, Tricia took Anissa and her three sisters to a one-hour modeling shoot at a Manhattan studio. She now says she expected the images would be used for the personal portfolio of lensman C. Camarena only, but ended up caught in a political and personal storm:
“This isn’t at all what the family signed up for,” lawyer Andrew Celli said Tuesday. “This was a modeling shoot that they were told was a family album-style presentation. The mom did sign a release,” Celli said. “But the release was very clear that the image was not to be used in a way that would defame her daughter or hold her up to ridicule in public.”
Courthouse News Service reports that the mom responded to an ad on the NYCastings.com website, “seeking models for ‘family photos,’” and that neither she nor her daughters were paid a dime for it, but they they did receive copies of the photos:
“Ms. Fraser was led to believe that the photos would be used by the photographer to publicize his own work. At no point was she told that they might be used to illustrate a controversial message or as political propaganda,” she says.
If indeed Tricia did sign a release that clearly stated the image would not be used to defame the child or subject her to ridicule, I think Tricia might have a case. Yet, these shady child modeling agencies are a dime a dozen especially in New York City.
I can’t tell you how many times, my kids and I have been stopped on a street corner and given a flyer saying that the kids should come to a modeling shoot. I’ve also had a few agencies call our home phone and say that they saw our child somewhere and she would be perfect as a model. One time I asked which child, and the caught off guard, the caller said all of them.
It’s clear these places obtain purely demographic information and then try to persuade parents into thinking their child is a supermodel. And they usually prey on parents that don’t know any better.
Still, in the end the parents are responsible for getting their kids involved in a crooked operation.
What do you think? Does this mom have a case? Would you ever trust a child modeling agency? Should Life Always cough up a settlement?