04/19/2013 11:40 EDT | Updated 04/19/2013 11:43 EDT

Canadian Model Coco Rocha Reveals The Unglamorous Side To Modeling

Twitter/The Model Alliance

Want to be a model? You may want to re-think that dream.

Canadian supermodel Coco Rocha spoke to wannabe models at Columbia Law School in New York on April 17 for a presentation on "The Business of Modeling: Essential Tips for a Successful Career."

The 24-year-old joined fellow model and filmmaker Sara Ziff on behalf of The Model Alliance, a not-for-profit whose goal is to improve working conditions in the fashion industry.

That industry is mostly unregulated in the U.S. which can leave models in a vulnerable position. Models often have to work long hours with little to no pay (some designers "pay" models with free clothes), have no privacy when changing backstage at a runway show and are routinely exposed to alcohol and drugs as well as sexual harassment on the job.

Rocha, who found instant fame dancing an Irish jig on the runway for fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier in 2007, spoke about how to handle tough situations in the modeling industry from how to deal with "creepy" photographers to how to say no to nudity.

"Tell your friends and agency when you work with a creepy photographer," said Rocha to the group, "or else he'll do the same to another girl."

Coco, who is also a coach on the modeling competition show "The Face," said she faced a hard decision when she started modeling at age 15: "I had to pick: did I want to be successful or stick to my morals? I was told 'to make it, you must do whatever they tell you.'"

28-year-old American model Sara Ziff, who chronicled her modeling career in the award-winning film "Picture Me," also spoke on how models need to stand up for themselves, saying "Be comfortable with what you feel doing, never do something you're not comfortable with."

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