Victoria’s Secret blasted by models, who sign open letter demanding protection from sexual misconduct in workplace

August 7, 2019

by Daphne Sorenson

Victoria’s Secret models backstage at the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. (Photo by Heidi Gutman/ABC)

More than 100 models and several of their allies (including Models Alliance and Times Up) have signed an open letter to Victoria’s Secret CEO John Mehas to demand an end to the sexual abuse and sexual harassment that has allegedly been running rampant against Victoria’s Secret models.

The letter reads, in part: “In the past few weeks, we have heard numerous allegations of sexual assault, alleged rape, and sex trafficking of models and aspiring models. While these allegations may not have been aimed at Victoria’s Secret directly, it is clear that your company has a crucial role to play in remedying the situation.  From the headlines about L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner’s close friend and associate, Jeffrey Epstein, to the allegations of sexual misconduct by photographers Timur Emek, David Bellemere, and Greg Kadel, it is deeply disturbing that these men appear to have leveraged their working relationships with Victoria’s Secret to lure and abuse vulnerable girls.”

Most of the models who signed the open letter are not very well-known in the industry or are well-known models who are over the age of 30, such as Milla Jovovich, Emme, Doutzen Kroes, and Carolyn Murphy. Noticeably absent from the letter are supermodels who’ve been steadily employed by Victoria’s Secret in recent years, such as Gigi Hadid, Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Behati Prinsloo, Jasmine Tookes, Barbara Palvin and Taylor Hill. Adriana Lima, who retired from Victoria’s Secret runway shows in 2018, was also not on the list of people who signed the letter.

L Brands (based in Columbus, Ohio) is the parent company of Victoria’s Secret.  The letter was published just two days after L Brands chief marketing officer Ed Razek publicly announced he was leaving the company. Wexner and Razek had close ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested again in July 2019, for sex crimes, specifically, for sex trafficking of women and underage girls.

Razek came under fire in 2018, when he said in a Vogue interview that Victoria’s Secret was not interested in hiring plus-sized or transgender models. In August 2019, Victoria’s Secret hired its first transgender model: Valentina Sampaio, who posted the news on her Instagram account.

The open letter blasting Victoria’s Secret is the latest blow to the company, which officially canceled the 2019 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show only a few months after it was announced that the show would not be televised anymore. Victoria’s Secret and its Pink spinoff brand have also been experiencing a sharp decline in sales in recent years.

August 10, 2019 UPDATE: Convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City on August 10, 2019. According to the Associated Press, he died in the morning of an apparent suicide by hanging. The Associated Press also reports that although Epstein, who was 66, had been on suicide watch in the weeks leading up to his death, he was not on suicide watch at the time he was found dead. He had been denied bail while waiting to be put on trial on charges of sex-trafficking of underage girls. Of course, Epstein’s sudden death has fueled conspiracy theories that he might have been murdered to prevent him from exposing who his rich and powerful clients were in the sex crimes that Epstein was accused of committing.