Ex-President of Elite Model Management, Gérald Marie, has been accused of sexual assault by multiple models, adding to the growing list of abusers in the fashion industry.
After a wave of #MeToo accusations against fashion world heavy-hitters like photographer Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, allegations continue to surface. Gérald Marie, former President of renowned modelling agency, Elite Model Management who has a clientele list of Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Gisele Bündchen, is being accused of sexual assault.
Accusations against Gérald Marie
Several women – Wendy Walsh, Jill Dodd, Ann Maguire, EJ Moran, Shawna Lee, Ebba Karlsson, Carré Otis – spoke to journalist Lucy Osborne this month about their alleged assaults by Marie, two of whom were underage at the time.
Wendy Walsh had just turned 18 when she moved to Paris in hopes of pursuing a modelling career in 1980. Walsh said within weeks of her arrival, Marie organised for the teenager to meet him in his apartment at night under the guise of a business meeting.
“With the wise eyes of a grownup, business meetings don’t take place at apartments at nine o’clock at night,” she says. “But when you’re 18 and believing all the adults around you, you just do what you’re told. So I went.”
Walsh claims he gave her champagne and within minutes had grabbed her breasts and said: “‘You are the only model in the agency with large breasts – I love it.’ All I was thinking was, ‘If I make this man angry, I’ll never get work again.’” She alleges Marie then anally raped her. Soon after, she was offered to go on a luxurious trip to Monte Carlo but was advised by an older model not to go because of the older, rich men who took advantage of young girls there.
Jill Dodd, founder of surf-brand Roxy, was 19-years-old when she crossed paths with Marie, in 1980. After a night of clubbing with the then-boss of Elite Model, she went back to his apartment where he raped her despite her protests, Dodd claims.
Dodd went on the trip to Monte Carlo and was introduced to Adnan Khashoggi, Saudi billionaire and arms dealer, by her Paris Planning agent (an agency that later merged with Elite). The model and Khashoggi then began a ‘relationship,’ but Dodd says in hindsight: “I was basically one of his harem wives for almost two years.” She found out several years later their meeting was paid for by Khashoggi and she was picked out of a book of pictures. Khashoggi apparently discussed fees between $35,000 and $50,000 with Paris Planning for Dodd.
Ann Magurie was 18 in 1980 when she moved into Marie’s personal apartment to help her budding modelling career. She claims a friendship naturally came about but soon after, she was raped repeatedly during her stay.
In 1981, EJ Moran was a young model in her 20s when she was coerced into attending a dinner with Marie. After the dinner, Marie allegedly got Moran to come up to his apartment before he violently raped her.
15-year-old Shawna Lee was a finalist in Elite Models’ Look of the Year in 1992 when she was flown to Paris. After a night of clubbing, Lee claims Marie raped her: “What is grossest is him asking me to put Linda’s T-shirt on to sleep in, then pouncing on me.”
Lee is referencing Marie’s then-wife and supermodel, Linda Evangelista, who divorced him in 1993. Recently, Evangelista has come out in support of the victims: “During my relationship with Gérald Marie, I knew nothing of these sexual allegations against him, so I was unable to help these women,” she said. “Hearing them now, and based on my own experiences, I believe that they are telling the truth.”
Ebba Karlsson was 20-years-old in 1990 when she claims she was raped by an Elite scout. Shortly after, she met Marie in his office where he showed her portfolios of models working with his agency before “Suddenly, his hand was inside my vagina. It was so quick and abrupt, I totally froze.”
Supermodel Carré Otis, who modelled alongside Marie’s ex-wife Linda Evangelista, claims she was repeatedly raped at the age of 17 by Marie. Around 1986, she was staying in Marie and Evangelista’s apartment. Evangelista was absent one night, when “he attacked me in the middle of the night”, she says. “I was sick and I had a fever. That was the beginning of many such attacks.” Otis also claims she was assaulted by others in Marie’s circle. She said a hairdresser raped her in a hotel room on a photoshoot that was organised by Elite.
Before Marie, John Casablancas was the founder of Elite Model and was also predatory towards women. At age 43, he ‘dated’ then 16-year-old model Seymour while he was married to Jeanette Christiansen. His third marriage was to the winner of his company’s competition, Elite Model Look, Aline Mendonça de Carvalho Wermelinger, who was 17-years-old at the time. Casablancas was a known playboy who favoured underage girls and still, it did not overshadow the success of Elite Model as a company – allowing men like Marie to take over and continue the cycle of assault.
Similarly, Jean-Luc Brunel, former head of Karin Models and MC2 Model Management, has been accused by several women in the past of drugging, groping and raping models around 1988 to 1991.
Brunel is also closely associated with dead financier and convicted sexual offender, Jeffrey Epstein. Brunel apparently ‘lent’ girls to Epstein and Brunel’s name is logged repeatedly in Lolita Express’s flight logs (Epstein’s private jet). Brunel is also associated with Epstein’s now convicted accomplice and rumoured girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell. A case against Brunel was opened in France this year, but no further information has been released and the case seems as if it’s not developing.
In recent years, several photographers like Terry, Richardson, Seth Sabal, Andre Passos, Greg Kadel, David Bellemere have been accused of sexual assault or misconduct. But most notably are three of the biggest names in fashion photography: Bruce Weber, Mario Testino and Patrick Demarchelier.
In 2014, model Jason Boyce alleged famous fashion photographer, Bruce Weber, sexually assaulted him during a photoshoot. Weber has denied these allegations but in 2018, five more male models filed a sexual misconduct lawsuit against Weber. The accusers have only been identified by their initials in the case, describing the incidents that apparently occurred from 2008 to 2011.
The models accuse Weber of ‘breathing exercises’ during photoshoots where he groped their genitals, phone conversations where the photographer asked for photos in underwear and asked personal questions like ‘How many girls are you having sex with?’ During these conversations, it is reported that Weber’s breathing got heavier. The case is still ongoing.
Renowned photographer, Mario Testino, was accused in 2018 of sexual misconduct by 13 models and assistants. The allegations include groping individuals, forcibly kissing them, and masturbating in front of them. Testino has denied the allegations.
Patrick Demarchelier, who was Princess Diana’s personal photographer, was accused by 7 women of sexual misconduct in 2018. Demarchelier denied these claims and called them “ridiculous.” More information regarding the accusations has not surfaced.
Condé Nast has cut ties with the accused photographers. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, said in a statement specifically about Weber and Testino:
“Allegations have been made against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, stories that have been hard to hear and heartbreaking to confront. Both are personal friends of mine who have made extraordinary contributions to Vogue and many other titles at Condé Nast over the years, and both have issued objections or denials to what has emerged. I believe strongly in the value of remorse and forgiveness, but I take the allegations very seriously, and we at Condé Nast have decided to put our working relationship with both photographers on hold for the foreseeable future.”
In more recent news
In September this year, model Emily Ratajkowski accused photographer, Jonathan Leder of sexually assaulting her during a photoshoot in 2012 after he plied her with alcohol. Leder denies these claims. Four years after the photoshoot, Leder then published a book of nude photographs of Ratajkowski without her consent. The model unfortunately cites the price of lawyers as being too high to legally contest Leder’s publication of her nude images. Ratajkowski is set to publish a collection of essays that delve further into the exploitation of women and the ownership of one’s image.
It is overwhelming to realise how entrenched sexual abuse is in the fashion industry. The list of victims only grows and it is unfortunate that it took a huge movement like #MeToo for victims to feel as if they would be heard. The power, connections and money of the alleged abusers have protected them for far too long.
It is not just the billionaires, executives, agency owners, photographers and other high-ranking people that failed these women. Every makeup artist, assistant, stylist, agent, that saw the abuse failed them. The people who continue to normalise or ignore predatory behaviour in the industry failed them. It is unimaginable to think how many more girls were abused and are being abused, and how many offenders still remain at large.
With a perennial need for fresh talent and new models, we hope that the brave testimonies of the victims will pave the way for a safer and more transparent work environment for models, particularly underage ones.
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