In an open letter cosigned by more than 100 models, including Amber Valletta, Christy Turlington Burns, Edie Campbell, Karen Elson and Iskra Lawrence as well as Time’s Up, the Model Alliance is calling on Victoria’s Secret chief executive officer John Mehas to join its Respect Program. The program calls for participants to adhere to a code of conduct to safeguard models.
This appeal is being made days after an investigative piece in The New York Times presented allegations of misogyny, bullying and harassment at Victoria’s Secret. Cosigners included Andi Muise, Alison Nix and Alyssa Miller, whose claims of abuse were featured in the article.
Reached for comment Wednesday, a spokeswoman for L Brands Inc., which owns Victoria’s Secret, noted, “We absolutely share a common goal with Model Alliance to ensure the safety and well-being 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.”
Executives at the company learned of the Model Alliance’s request, after receiving media requests Wednesday. After the fact, they received the group’s letter, according to someone familiar with the situation, who requested anonymity. The company is considering a response to the Model Alliance, the individual said.
An L Brands spokeswoman declined to comment when asked if any of the allegations in The Times’ article [which included inappropriate touching, lewd comments among other misconduct] would be contested. She cited a statement from L Brands’ independent board of directors’ which read, “On behalf of the independent directors of the board, we can assure you that the company is intensely focused on the corporate governance, workplace and compliance practices that directly impact our 80,000 associates around the world, nearly 90 percent of whom are female. With the adoption in recent years of even more robust antiharassment policies, hotline reporting and training, we have made significant strides in ensuring that the company provides a safe, welcoming and empowering workplace for every associate. We regret any instance where we did not achieve this objective and are fully committed to continuous improvement and complete accountability.”
She also referenced the company’s photo shoot procedures and highlighted how they were published in May and updated in August. In addition, she cited that an independent monitor is present at every shoot, and more than 760 third parties and more than 100 associates have been screened as part of those procedures.
But the letter to Mehas noted how the Model Alliance had met with L Brands/Victoria’s Secret in September 2019, and proposed concrete solutions for how the company could take action and end abuse. But regarding serious complaints, Victoria’s Secret chose not to take action. Instead, they followed up after the meeting with a short e-mail stating that they were “in the process of continued learning and listening.”
Noting the alleged inappropriate behavior in the recent article, the letter to Mehas said, “In the face of the horrifying revelations from the past year, this response is utterly unacceptable. The time for listening is long past; it’s time for Victoria’s Secret to take action to protect the people they profit from. Human rights violations can’t be stopped with a corporate rebranding exercise.”