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Modelling world is dangerous for teen girls, warns Alison

ALISON Canavan has lifted the lid on the ugly side of the international fashion industry, describing it as a "dangerous" environment for young girls.

Canavan (34), one of Ireland's most successful ever models, started modelling at 15 and was a regular on the Paris catwalks from 16.

But the mother of one said she was not surprised to learn that supermodel Kate Moss had had a nervous breakdown when she was 17.

And she said she herself witnessed first-hand the pressures placed on young girls in the fashion industry, as some agency chiefs preyed "on the vulnerable" and berated models for not being thin enough.

The brunette, from Castleknock in north Dublin, said she was mostly shielded from the ugly side of the industry by her parents, who used to fly out to Paris with her when she was in her teens.

"There was enormous pressure in the industry. You do not have choices and you do not have a voice and you do as you're told. The agencies invest an awful lot of time in you and you're business, not a person. They look at you as a commodity and see you as dollar signs."Information is power, especially in the entertainment industry, so they don't give you information or they limit it," said Alison.

Recalling her early days in Paris, she said: "I was thrown into a completely different world. They [bosses] used to check our fridge to check what food was in it. They'd be happy if no food was in it.

"Two of the girls I lived with -- one had a very bad eating disorder and the other was taking a load of drugs. One of them died two years later.

"They prey on the vulnerable too. One woman from the agency used to say [to the model with the eating disorder], 'Look at the size of you, look how big you are'. And she was half my size."

However, speaking on TV3's Midday programme yesterday, Ms Canavan recalled one "terrifying" situation when she was aged 21, as she found herself alone in a basement with a photographer she had never met.

"The photographer went up and shut the door bolt. To this day I still remember the fear of God I had in me. He was trying it on with me and I was absolutely terrified and didn't know what to do.

"I remember running all the way back to my hotel. I then rang my Dad and he had me on the first flight out of there."

In a warning to parents of wannabe young models, she added: "What I'd say is that it's not going to change. These industries are dangerous and they're industries where people prey on the vulnerable."