The lengthy letter was signed by former Victoria’s Secret models, Christy Turlington, Caitriona Balfe, and actress Mila Jovovich.
The models have written to John Mehas, CEO of the lingerie company, to be a leader in protecting present and future models from sexual harassment. The letter says that the company can play a “crucial role” in changing the exploitative environment that models and aspiring models are subjected to.
The company has made the news recently for hiring the first transgender model, canceling the televised fashion show, as well as the close friendship between Leslie Wexner, CEO of L Brands, (the parent company of Victoria’s Secret,) with accused pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein.
It is noted in the letter that recent stories of models facing sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking, are not directed at Victoria’s Secret directly, but the hope is that the company would be a leader in protecting those in the modeling industry by taking preventative measures.
We are writing today to express our concern for the safety and wellbeing of the models and young women who aspire to model for Victoria’s Secret. In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models. While these allegations may not have been aimed at Victoria’s Secret directly, it is clear that your company has a crucial role to play in remedying the situation. From the headlines about L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner’s close friend and associate, Jeffrey Epstein, to the allegations of sexual misconduct by photographers Timur Emek, David Bellemere, and Greg Kadel, it is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationships with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls.
Source: Program For RESPECT
The goal is for the company to adopt the RESPECT Program, which is described as “the only existing anti-sexual harassment program designed by and for models.” The program, which was developed by Model Alliance in 2018, requires signatory companies to make a binding agreement that all employees and anyone on contract — including agents, photographers, and vendors — to adhere to a code of conduct that would protect models from mistreatment and abuse.
Christy Turlington Burns has said that sexual abuse is rampant in the modeling industry. In 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement, she told Women’s World Daily, “The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experienced.”
Kate Upton, for example, has said that Paul Marciano, one of the co-founders of Guess, “forcibly grabbed” her breasts at their first meeting. Marciano denies the allegation.
After the first day of shooting the Guess Lingerie campaign [on July 25, 2010], Paul Marciano said he wanted to meet with me. As soon as I walked in with photographer Yu Tsai, Paul came straight up to me, forcibly grabbed my breasts and started feeling them — playing with them actually. After I pushed him away, he said, “I’m making sure they’re real.”
Despite doing everything I could physically do to avoid his touch throughout the meeting, he continued to touch me in a very dominating and aggressive way, grabbing my thighs, my arms to pull me closer, my shoulders to pull me closer, my neck, my breasts, and smelling me. He then told Yu Tsai to leave us alone. I was able to send a quick text to Yu Tsai asking him to stay. He did, but that did not stop Paul’s constant grabbing. I was extremely shaken, surprised and scared.
At one point he forcibly grabbed the back of my head so that I could not move and started kissing my face and my neck. I remember not wanting to say “Get off of me” because I didn’t want to open my mouth to say anything because I didn’t want him to be able to put his tongue in my mouth. I had two options: do everything I could to wiggle away and avoid his pursuit, or punch the CEO of Guess. So I decided to just wiggle away.