Following a New York Times exposé on the toxic corporate culture at Victoria's Secret, over 100 models are demanding action. Christy Turlington, Amber Valletta and Alyssa Miller are just a few notable names who co-signed the Model Alliance's letter to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas urging the company to address its culture of "abuse."
The Model Alliance is a non-profit organization that promotes fair treatment, equal opportunity, and sustainable practices in the fashion industry, from the runway to the factory floor, according to its mission statement. The group met with L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, five months ago asking "that the company take concrete action to change its culture of misogyny and abuse."
"The company refused to act," the letter states.
"We write today because the New York Times investigative report 'Angels’ in Hell: The Culture of Misogyny Inside Victoria’s Secret,' shows that the culture of misogyny, bullying, and harassment at Victoria’s Secret is even more egregious and more entrenched than previously understood," the group writes. "The Times reports repeated complaints of inappropriate conduct towards models and employees: Body shaming, lewd remarks, crotch-grabbing, retaliation for rebuffing advances, unauthorized use of models’ images, and pressures to pose nude without pay for a photographer’s personal shoots."
The letter quotes Casey Crowe Taylor, a former public relations employee, who participated in the Times's article. Taylor claimed she witnessed inappropriate conduct from Ed Razek, one of the top executives for decades.
"This abuse was just laughed off and accepted as normal. It was almost like brainwashing. And anyone who tried to do anything about it wasn’t just ignored," Taylor alleged. "They were punished."
Miller, who had been an occasional Victoria’s Secret model, also spoke to the Times and said Razek is someone who exudes "toxic masculinity." She summed up his attitude as: "I am the holder of the power. I can make you or break you." (Razek denied all allegations against him, including a crude remark he allegedly made about Bella Hadid.)
"This is deeply disturbing but not surprising, as we have seen similar issues many times throughout our industry," the Model Alliance continues. "However, the intense retaliation used by Victoria’s Secret to silence those who reported misconduct is particularly deplorable. Indeed, the Times called Victoria’s Secret 'a case study in the wrong way to deal with allegations of misconduct.'"
The Model Alliance says after its meeting last year with Tammy Roberts Myers, Chief Communications Officer of L Brands, "it was made abundantly clear that Victoria’s Secret does not take these complaints seriously. In a follow-up email she told us that Victoria’s Secret was not ready to take any concrete steps towards addressing these allegations — rather, the company is simply, 'in the process of continued learning and listening.'"
The group calls the "horrifying revelations" over the past year "utterly unacceptable." L Brands billionaire founder, Leslie Wexner, has been scrutinized over his close ties to accused serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. The annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show was canceled last year amid ongoing controversy surrounding the company, like it’s lack of body diversity.
"The time for listening is long past; it’s time for Victoria’s Secret to take action to protect the people they profit from," the Model Alliance states, urging the company to join its RESPECT program. "Human rights violations can’t be stopped with a corporate rebranding exercise.
"The Model Alliance believes in safety, freedom to work without fear of harassment, and real consequences for abusers. Victoria’s Secret’s failure to create an environment of accountability, both in-house and in their interactions with a network of agencies and creatives, undermines these values," the group writes. "We envision an industry in which creative expression flourishes and everyone can work without fear of harassment or abuse. This is why we launched the RESPECT Program, and are again urging Victoria’s Secret to join us in creating a safer, more equitable fashion industry."
The letter concludes, "We invite Victoria’s Secret to work together with us to address these problems and to engage in meaningful action by joining the RESPECT Program. We stand with the courageous women who have come forward and shared their stories, despite fears of retaliation or harm to their careers."
Times Up also co-signed the open letter.
Myers provided a statement to the Times on behalf of the board’s independent directors. She said that the company "is intensely focused" on corporate governance, workplace and compliance practices and that it had "made significant strides."
"We regret any instance where we did not achieve this objective and are fully committed to continuous improvement and complete accountability," she continued. The statement didn't dispute any of the Times’s reporting.
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