The letter, which was signed by Christy Turlington Burns, Amber Valletta and Iskra Lawrence — along with over 100 other signees, cites the Times’ article “’Angels’ in Hell: The Culture of Misogyny Inside Victoria’s Secret,” which critically addresses the company’s policies towards models.
“The Times reports repeated complaints of inappropriate conduct towards models and employees,” reads the letter addressed to Mehas. “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.”
The report claimed that Victoria’s Secret executive Ed Razek was a key perpetrator of an “entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment” prior to stepping down from the retailer’s parent company, L Brands, in August 2019. Razek would reportedly watch models changing and comment on their bodies, even telling supermodel Bella Hadid she had “perfect titties.”
The letter calls on Mehas’ Victoria’s Secret to join RESPECT as “the only existing accountability program designed by and for models.” The RESPECT program was established by the Model Alliance and aims to protect models against sexual harassment with a legally-binding agreement, as well as provide a blueprint for the creation of safe working environments in the industry.
“Under the Program, signatory companies make a binding commitment to require their employees, agents, vendors, photographers and other contractors to follow a code of conduct that protects everyone’s safety on the job. Models have access to an independent, confidential complaint mechanism, with swift and fair resolution of complaints and appropriate consequences for abusers. Further, RESPECT includes a robust training program aimed toward prevention, to ensure that everyone understands their rights and responsibilities,” the models’ letter reads.
L Brands responded to the letter in a statement to People magazine, saying that their robust Photo Shoot Procedures, including training and oversight, were implemented in May 2019 and reflect elements of the RESPECT program. The company, however, didn’t say if it will sign the full agreement. Razek denied the allegations laid out in the Times’ report, claiming that they are “categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context.”