Carolyn Kramer retired from a fashion modeling agent in 2004. After the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October, Kramer was contacted by a former model, who told her she had been raped at age 16 by a photographer Kramer had sent her to see. He is still working.
In a interview with HuffPost, Kramer explains how after retirement she considered writing a book about her time in the industry, specifically at Elite Model Management, which represented the greats like Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington; but the memories that resurfaced all seemed to be of abuse she had witnessed or, in some cases, suffered.
“Working for Elite manipulated me into thinking everything was fine,” she said. “I’m not trying to get out of it, by the way. I’m sick of being part of that poison. That makes me sick.
After the phone call, Kramer posted the memories on Facebook, writing that she knew many girls were underage when they first met the powerful men who could make or break their careers. It was considered normal for a grown man to sexualize, touch and have sex with them.
“Many of these girls who are assaulted are no older than 15,” she wrote. “And I stand here to say how ashamed I am that I didn’t have the tools or the resources or the courage to stop it.”
Kramer was inundated with responses, both from agents and former models, much like when the model Cameron Russell asked other models to share their stories of alleged sexual harassment and assault. Several confirmed their stories with HuffPost:
Another Elite employee, Marie Anderson Boyd, who was an agent and vice president of the company’s Chicago office between 1985 and 1990, said models regularly told her about sexual misconduct they had experienced on outings. . ”[Some photographers] wouldn’t hesitate to walk up to a teenager who’s brand new to the business, take off her top, unbutton her bra, and say something like, “I want you to look at me and think about… give me a blowjob,” she said. “And a lot of girls never even did that. [before]so they don’t even know what [photographers] mean.”
Kramer wants these stories to be heard: Although regulations have changed since its heyday in the 1980s, rules about accompanying underage girls on outings are rarely enforced. For every photographer labeled as an attacker, she says there are a dozen more:
There are still plenty of “Terry Richardsons” in the industry, Kramer said, men whose predatory behavior ignores the fashion world. “We all knew Terry Richardson was sexually abusing these girls and yet we kept sending them on dates and bookings themselves,” she said. “If you have a $20 million Revlon contract hanging in the balance…and yet you know that Terry is abusing these girls, what do we do?” Do we say no to Terry? Nope, [we] don’t.”
Kramer is trying to get senior agency executives to pave the way for change, first by refusing to sign girls under 16 and implementing protection for young women from known predators. But agent Jilian Gotlib, who currently works for Elite and was also with the company during Kramer’s time, says she went too far in criticizing the agency’s complicity.
“We would always be careful, check [the photographer] and tell our models, ‘If [the photographers] ask you to do something that we didn’t tell you was going to happen, let us know,” she told HuffPost. “Some girls would go on anyway, but we would always warn people, ‘Call me if anything seems untoward.’ I think we would try not to work with a lot of these photographers if we heard any issues.
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