Model & Activist Cameron Russell Shares Dozens Of Stories Of Sexual Abuse Within The Fashion Industry

Photo: Eyelul Aslan
The mistreatment of models is a topic that is repeatedly brought to light within the fashion industry. The criticism often focuses on the substandard conditions models are forced to work in, the systemic racism of designers and casting directors and the promotion of unhealthy body ideals. Sometimes – but not often enough – we are made aware of the seedier side of the industry but now, in the wake of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, model and activist Cameron Russell is drawing attention to the sexual harassment that is perhaps as widespread in fashion as it is in Hollywood. Via a series of Instagram posts on her own account, the model is sharing the anonymous stories of other models who have reached out to her about their experiences of sexual abuse.
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Using the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse, Russell posted the first exposé on Instagram on Thursday evening with the caption: "TRIGGER WARNING ⚠️ A brave model (and friend) reached out to me with her story today. She has asked to remain anonymous but asked that I share her words here because the photographer still works in the industry. She wants to encourage other women to speak up. We need a way to begin breaking the silence while remaining protected. We are not talking about one, five, or even twenty men. We are talking about a culture of exploitation and it must stop. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE YOUR STORY ANONYMOUSLY, DIRECT MESSAGE ME and I will post your words. If you would like to share publicly use the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse so the industry can see the size and scope of this problem.
"Hearing about #harveyweinstein this week has sparked conversations about how widespread and how familiar his behavior is. We talked about how hard it is to share stories of assault. When they are the norm, calling them out can feel disruptive and unprofessional. On many occasions I've been called a feminist for reporting unwanted groping, spanking, pinching, pressure for dates, phone calls and texts of a sexual nature, lack of appropriate changing areas, etc. And because the response has always been "are you surprised?" or "that's part of the job" I tolerated them. When the offenses were bigger, calling them out is terrifying, and demands a level of exposure and backlash to what is already painful and sometimes shameful."
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The 30-year-old-model (who has become widely recognised for speaking out on problems within the fashion industry since her TED talk "Looks aren't Everything. Believe me, I'm a Model" in 2012) then shared a series of messages she received from both male and female models about their experiences of sexual assault, most frequently at the hands of photographers. One anonymous person explained: "Hi Cameron, about a year I had a casting at an agency, which was organized from my model agency. I was all alone with the owner in a huge building. He was around 40 or sth and after he took a few Polas, he asked me to take my clothes off to photograph me in underwear. Doing what he said, he asked me to dance sexy in front of the camera... He ended up trying to kiss me and sitting behind me and touching the inner side of my legs. I was so scared and confused as the same time, that it took me a while to finally say that it took me a while to finally say that I need to go."
This was just one account in dozens of stories that Cameron has and continues to share. Most tell a similar story of young models encouraged to undress during photo shoots, dance provocatively; some detail photographers making advances on models, touching their breasts and genitals. Some models have bravely disclosed the names of their abusers, though Cameron has blanked these out. However, posts refer to "a legendary photographer," "a big Italian designer" and "a very well respected photographer," suggesting these abusers are household names and those who command a lot of power within the industry.
Earlier this year, casting director James Scully took to Instagram to shed light on the deplorable treatment of models at castings during Paris Fashion Week, which led to Balenciaga discontinuing its relationship with a culpable casting agency as well as much discussion on how to improve conditions for models.
We hope that Russell's decision to expose the prevalent sexual harassment within the fashion industry will help bring about change and encourage more of those who have experienced this to come forward to seek support and name and shame their attackers. Unfortunately, these specific cases, shared by Russell, are indicative of a deep-rooted problem that evidently spreads across the industry, from the repeated sexualisation of young models and objectification of the female form to such instances of sexual assault. It is essential that we continue to discuss the failings of the fashion industry, Hollywood and beyond, and do not sweep this under the red carpet. #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse
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