Several models who’ve previously worked for lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret are now calling out the company in a lengthy open letter to CEO John Mehas.
Runway regulars such as Christy Turlington Burns, Amber Valletta and Iskra Lawrence — along with over 100 other signees — banded together through the Model Alliance to approve the critical note, which was prompted by a recent New York Times exposé titled “’Angels’ in Hell: The Culture of Misogyny Inside Victoria’s Secret.”
“The Times reports repeated complaints of inappropriate conduct towards models and employees,” reads the letter addressed to Mehas. “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 investigative report names company exec Ed Razek as a key perpetrator, claiming he fostered an “entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment” before stepping down from the retailer’s parent company, L Brands, in August 2019. Razek, 71, reportedly would watch and comment while models changed during fashion shows, made repeated sexual advances towards several of them, and even told supermodel Bella Hadid she had “perfect titties.”
The letter goes on to encourage the company to join RESPECT, deemed “the only existing accountability program designed by and for models.”
“Under the Program, signatory companies make 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. Models have access to an independent, confidential complaint mechanism, with swift and fair resolution of complaints and appropriate consequences for abusers. Further, RESPECT includes a robust training program aimed toward prevention, to ensure that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities.”
In addition to several working and retired models, organizations such as Time’s Up also signed the open letter.
L Brands responded to the note in a statement to People: “We absolutely share a common goal with Model Alliance to ensure the safety and wellbeing of models. Our robust Photo Shoot Procedures, including training and oversight, were implemented in May 2019 and reflect elements of the RESPECT Program and beyond. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made and remain committed to continuous improvement. We’re always open to engage with those looking to make improvements in the industry.”
Razek denied the allegations to the Times, insisting they are “categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context.”