The industry professionals, who include the likes of Christy Turlington Burns, Amber Valletta, and Iskra Lawrence, banded together through the Model Alliance to sign an open letter to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas after a report in The New York Times detailed allegations made against Ed Razek–the former chief marketing officer of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, L Brands–accusing him sexual harassment, bullying, and misogynist behavior.
“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 letter said.
It continued: “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.”
Razek has since denied the allegations in an email to the Times: “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.”
The letter also detailed how the Model Alliance met with (parent company) L Brands’ Tammy Roberts Myers, Chief Communications Officer in New York City last September and “it was made abundantly clear that Victoria’s Secret does not take these complaints seriously.”
“We believe that this moment can be a wake-up call for Victoria’s Secret. This is an opportunity to take meaningful steps towards ending these abuses by joining the RESPECT Program, as models have called for since December 2018,” the women wrote.
The models called for VS to “take action” and “protect the people they profit from.” They proposed VS join the RESPECT Program which is an “accountability program designed by and for models” by which the company in the future will have to “require their employees, agents, vendors, photographers and other contractors to follow a code of conduct that protects everyone’s safety on the job.”
The last Victoria’s Secret fashion show was in 2018.
Ultimately, the models and the other organizations that signed the letter such as TIMES UP are aiming for “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.”
In response to the open letter, an L Brands spokesperson told People magazine in a statement: “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.”
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show broadcast was canceled last year after nearly two decades on the air.