Some of the fashion world's biggest names are speaking out to advocate "for the safety and wellbeing" of aspiring models in light of recent allegations of sexual abuse and assault. Models Doutzen Kroes, Christy Turlington Burns, Milla Jovovich, and Iskra Lawrence, as well as over one hundred more, have signed The Model Alliance's open letter to Victoria's Secret asking for CEO John Mehas to do more to protect the young women who aspire to model for his company.
"In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models," the letter begins. "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."
"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 letter continues. "We stand with the courageous women who have come forward and shared their stories, despite fears of retaliation or harm to their careers. It breaks our hearts to keep hearing these stories. We can and must do better. It is time for RESPECT."
Model Ava Smith appeared on Good Morning America alongside Sara Ziff, founder of the Model Alliance to discuss The RESPECT Program. The program was designed by the Model Alliance and is basically that companies sign to create "a binding commitment to require their employees, agents, vendors, photographers and other contractors to follow a code of conduct that protects everyone’s safety on the job, and reduces models’ vulnerability to mistreatment."
"How many other jobs can you expect to be asked to, you know, out of the blue, pose nude or topless, etc.?" Smith said during her appearance on GMA. "And so I think one of the things to us is the inconsistency about how it's done, which you know you're almost never prepared for."
"There are multiple photographers who are known for their work for Victoria's Secret who have been accused of sexually assaulting models," Ziff added. "And in addition to that there has been a lot in the news recently about L Brand CEO Leslie Wexler's close personal and professional relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, who has multiple allegations against him of child sex trafficking and of luring girls and young women under the pretense that he was a recruiter for Victoria's Secret. So in the face of all of these very serious allegations, we felt that we couldn't just sit silently and not say anything."
The Model Alliance is asking Victoria's Secret to join their RESPECT program, therefore setting an example by using their "power and influence to bring about the changes that are urgently needed" in the modeling industry. "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."
In a statement to Good Morning America, Victoria's Secret responded by stating, "We are always concerned about the welfare of our models and want to continue to have a dialogue with the Model Alliance and others to accomplish meaningful progress in the industry.
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