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More than 100 models signed a petition on Tuesday to urge Victoria’s Secret to protect its contractors against sexual misconduct.
The models, along with co-signer Time’s Up, are calling on the lingerie brand to join the RESPECT Program created by The Model Alliance, a New York-based nonprofit that promotes “fair treatment, equal opportunity and sustainable practices in the fashion industry.”
The RESPECT Program invites fashion companies to commit to ending abuse in the industry, including through pressure to lose weight, discrimination, harassment, a lack of financial transparency and the absence of an effective process to report abuse.
On Tuesday, Milla Jovovich, Iskra Lawrence, Christy Turlington Burns, Carolyn Murphy and many others sent Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas a petition “to take meaningful action to protect its talent and those who aspire to work with the company” (Mehas joined from Tory Burch in November).
“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,” the note begins. “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.”
The signatories point to L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner’s “close friend and associate” Jeffrey Epstein (who was indicted on sex charges) and allegations of sexual misconduct by photographers Timur Emek, David Bellemere and Greg Kadel. Though not mentioned in the letter, photographer Marcus Hyde was also called out last month when model Sunnaya Nash exposed him asking for nude photos in exchange for a free shoot, prompting Kim Kardashian and Ariana Grande to condemn him.
As for Epstein, The New York Times reported in July that executives at Victoria’s Secret’s parent company L Brands knew he was pitching himself as a model recruiter for Victoria’s Secret. Epstein allegedly pretended to be a talent scout and “lured” a woman into his hotel room and attacked her.
“It is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationships with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls. These stories are gut-wrenching and hit close to home for many of us who have encountered these kinds of abuses that are too often tolerated in our industry,” the petition reads. “If Victoria’s Secret were to take a stand against these abuses and commit to meaningful change by joining the RESPECT Program, this would go a long way in helping our industry chart a new path forward.”
On Wednesday, a Victoria’s Secret spokesperson told THR in a statement: “We are always concerned about the welfare of our models and want to continue to have dialogue with the Model Alliance and others to accomplish meaningful progress in the industry.”
Others to sign include Fiji Water Girl Kelleth Cuthbert and former Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive, as well as Madeline Hill, Gemma Ward, Alyssa Sutherland and more models.
The letter comes one day after the chief marketing officer of L Brands, Ed Razek, resigned; he previously spoke out against casting transgender or plus-size models in the Victoria’s Secret fashion shows “because the show is a fantasy.” Also this week, Victoria’s Secret hired its first openly transgender model Valentina Sampaio, signaling a possible shift in the franchise, which has reportedly decided to cancel its famed televised fashion show this year.
“Too often, women across industries are forced to choose between speaking out about sexual harassment on the job or advancing their careers. It’s crucial that we have mechanisms like Model Alliance’s RESPECT Program in place to ensure that workers can safely report abuse and will be protected against retaliation,” says Rebecca Goldman, interim CEO of Hollywood initiative Time’s Up, in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.
Read the full petition below.
Aug. 6, 11:00 a.m. Updated with statement from Time’s Up.
Aug. 7, 7:56 a.m.: Updated with statement from Victoria’s Secret.
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