Models detail sexual abuse, bullying and harassment claims against Victoria's Secret

Ming Xi, Grace Elizabeth, Cindy Bruna, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Alexina Graham at the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show (Photo: Getty Images)
Ming Xi, Grace Elizabeth, Cindy Bruna, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Alexina Graham at the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show (Photo: Getty Images)

Cape Town – The New York Times published a scathing report over the weekend, describing the bullying, harassment and sexual abuse claims against women's lingerie and beauty manufacturer, Victoria's Secret.

"Victoria's Secret defined femininity for millions of women. Its catalog and fashion shows were popular touchstones. For models, landing a spot as an 'Angel' all but guaranteed international stardom," the publication writes.

"But inside the company, two powerful men presided over an entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment, according to interviews with more than 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors and models, as well as court filings and other documents."

The men they speak of is Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder and chief executive of L Brands – the parent company of Victoria's Secret – and Ed Razek, one of the top executives at L Brands.

"He tried to kiss models. He asked them to sit on his lap. He touched one's crotch ahead of the 2018 Victoria's Secret fashion show," reads the article talking specifically of Razek, who has previously come under fire for making comments about the trans community.

Leslie Wexner is reportedly thinking of stepping down and putting his stake of the brand up for sale, reports The Wall Street Journal.

According to The Times, Mr. Razek said in an email, "The accusations in this reporting are categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context. I’ve been fortunate to work with countless, world-class models and gifted professionals and take great pride in the mutual respect we have for each other." He did not comment on the list of allegations.

Mr. Wexner declined to comment.

After the piece was written, The Model Alliance published a letter to John Mehas, the current CEO of Victoria's Secret, demanding something be done to address the "culture of misogyny and abuse" within the industry.

They also mentioned that they'd met with L Brands and Victoria's Secret five months before, and nothing was done to enforce any sort of change, though Victoria's Secret did cancel their annual fashion show in 2019, saying they were "rethinking" things.

"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," they wrote.

"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.

According to Casey Crowe Taylor, a former public relations employee,"This abuse was just laughed off and accepted as normal [...] And anyone who tried to do anything about it wasn't just ignored. They were punished."

The Model Alliance urged Mehas to engage with them and work with the RESPECT program.

Signatories for the programme include Milla Jovovich, Christy Turlington Burns and is backed by the TIME'S UP movement. 

Tammy Roberts Myers, a spokeswoman for L Brands, responded to the The Times saying the company has "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 added.