Models endured sexual harassment by Victoria’s Secret executives, report says

by Abigail Oluwakemi
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A damning report by The New York Times details accusations of “misogyny, bullying and harassment” within the culture of lingerie company and fashion show juggernaut Victoria’s Secret.

Several accusations of inappropriate conduct toward models, including supermodel Bella Hadid, were made against Ed Razek, who recently stepped down as president and chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands. The allegations include bullying, lewd comments and sexual harassment.

Leslie Wexner, founder and chief executive of L Brands, was alerted to Razek’s behavior, the report says. But some women who came forward lost their Victoria’s Secret modeling jobs as a result.

USA TODAY has reached out to representatives for L Brands for comment.

More than 100 models have signed a letter to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas demanding that the lingerie company increase efforts to “protect the people they profit from.”

The Model Alliance’s call to action comes less than a week after the New York Times report detailed accusations of “misogyny, bullying and harassment” within Victoria’s Secret.

The letter demands “meaningful action” from Victoria’s Secret and asks that the company joins the Alliance’s RESPECT program to help prevent future abuse. The program, according to the letter, is the “only existing accountability program designed by and for models” that requires “employees, agents, vendors, photographers and other contractors to follow a code of conduct that protects everyone’s safety on the job.”

The letter indicates that Victoria’s Secret and its parent company L Brands have refused to join the RESPECT program, which the Alliance has called for since December 2018, and requested again ”five months ago.”

In a statement to USA TODAY, L Brands spokesperson Tammy Roberts Myers said the company “absolutely” shares a “common goal with Model Alliance to ensure the safety and well-being of models.”

Myers noted the company’s photo shoot procedures, which were implemented last May and updated in August and require an independent party present at photo shoots, a third-party hotline and increased screenings and trainings.

“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made and remain committed to continuous improvement,” the statement added. ”We’re always open to engage with those looking to make improvements in the industry.”

The new report comes amid turmoil for the brand: The annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was canceled in November after the company announced in May it was going to “re-think” the show.

In a statement sent to the associates at the time and obtained by USA TODAY, Wexner said the show would be going in a different direction.

“Fashion is a business of change. We must evolve and change to grow. With that in mind, we have decided to re-think the traditional Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show,” the statement read. “Going forward we don’t believe network television is the right fit.”

 

The show in recent years had been buffeted by bad publicity, bad reviews and bad numbers. The 2018 show’s audience of 3.27 million viewers was the smallest since it became a holiday season TV event in 2001, with Nielsen saying the show has lost more than half its television audience in two years.

The Times report also includes accusations that Razek made inappropriate comments to supermodel Bella Hadid at a 2018 fashion show fitting. Citing three people present and a fourth who was later told about it, the report said Razek sat on a couch, watching while Hadid was being fitted for underwear to make sure the look would be appropriate for television.

“Forget the panties,” he said, according to the report. He also made a lewd comment about Hadid having “perfect” breasts. USA TODAY has reached out to Hadid’s representative for comment.

Three people also told The Times that Razek touched another model’s crotch through her underwear at the same fitting.

In November, Hadid opened up about lacking confidence while modeling lingerie for Victoria’s Secret, a relationship that dissolved after she joined Rihannah’s Savage X Fenty lingerie brand.

“Rihanna’s amazing. For me, that was the first time on a runway that I felt really sexy,” Hadid said. “When I first did Fenty, I was doing other lingerie shows and I never felt powerful on a runway, like, in underwear.”

The younger sister of supermodel sister Gigi Hadid modeled in Victoria Secret’s fashion show three times, most recently in November 2018, where she donned multiple looks.

The difference? ”With Rihanna’s show, she was like, ‘Walk whatever way you want to walk,’” Hadid said.

Contributing: Sara M Moniuszko, Cydney Henderson

Read more at usatoday.com

credits: US Magazine

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