Model Marina Asenova says she became the face of Sally Hansen when her former agency, MC2, struck a deal with the company and kept it from her. And now she's going after Sally Hansen's parent company, the beauty giant Coty, for looking the other way.
Asenova sued MC2 last year for allegedly granting Sally Hansen the right to use her photos in its advertising and packaging without her knowledge, and for pocketing the company's payment for that usage. You'd think that when a model becomes the face of a major beauty company, she'd know it; there would be a casting and contract negotiations via her agency and a shoot. But funny things can happen in the world of modeling. A photo taken for a lighting test during a hair job gets sold by the photographer to Estée Lauder and ends up as a print ad. An image from an editorial for an obscure German fashion magazine gets licensed to Urban Outfitters and printed on t-shirts. Photos taken for one purpose can be repackaged and sold to third parties, sometimes without a model's knowledge or consent — let alone compensation. It's the agency's job to prevent this sort of mis-use, but when models move between markets, sometimes the thread gets lost. Or, allegedly, as in this case, the agency just took the money Sally Hansen offered and figured Asenova would never find out. Asenova didn't know that Sally Hansen had been using her image to sell its hair removal cream until, after many years' absence from New York, she went into a Duane Reade beauty aisle and saw her own face staring back at her.
And her lawyers are still in the dark about how much the Sally Hansen job was even worth. MC2 claims it "can't find" key financial records. Meanwhile, Asenova's image is still being used by the brand; she has now been the unpaid face of the beauty company for seven years.
MC2 contends that it doesn't owe Asenova for the Sally Hansen deal because it no longer represents her. "Ms. Asenova was never a supermodel. She was an average model at best with average earnings," says MC2 New York head Jeff Fuller. "It’s a shame her career has dwindled down to the point" that she has to sue to be paid. Yes, that makes total sense: if a company hires a model for a job but then decides she is, like, kind of totally average, then it doesn't have to pay for any of the work she's done.
Asenova has now added Sally Hansen and Coty to her suit. She is seeking unspecified damages and the removal from sale of all the products that still feature her face.