It started with a Tweet from model Kate Upton in late January that implied creative director of fashion powerhouse Guess, Paul Marciano, is guilty of sexual misconduct.
“It’s disappointing that such an iconic women’s brand Guess is still empowering Paul Marciano as their creative director,” the 25-year-old model tweeted on January 31, alongside the telling hashtag #MeToo.
Days later, she doubled down, telling reporters at a New York airport: “I can’t wait to tell my story, it’s a huge problem”.
And tell her story she has. Upton’s allegations against Marciano have finally been published in Time Magazine and they’re as disturbing as they are indicative of an immense problem throughout the industry.
Upton claims the abuse from Marciano, a 65-year-old married father-of-two who co-founded Guess Jeans in 1981, started on her first professional shoot for the brand when she was 18.
“As soon as I walked in with photographer Yu Tsai, Paul came straight up to me, forcibly grabbed my breasts and started feeling them — playing with them actually. After I pushed him away, he said, ‘I’m making sure they’re real’,” she told Time magazine.
The role of Yu Tsai is important in corroborating Upton’s story. The well-known photographer has also spoken to Time Magazine saying Upton’s account is accurate, despite Marciano’s determined denials.
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Upton said the meeting continued and Marciano’s advances escalated. She alleges he “aggressively” grabbed her thighs, arms, shoulders, and neck in attempts to pull her closer to him. He allegedly groped her breasts and started smelling her, before telling Yu Tsai to leave them alone.
“I was able to send a quick text to Yu Tsai asking him to stay. He did, but that did not stop Paul’s constant grabbing. I was extremely shaken, surprised and scared,” Upton said.
“At one point he forcibly grabbed the back of my head so that I could not move and started kissing my face and my neck. I remember not wanting to say ‘Get off of me’ because I didn’t want to open my mouth to say anything because I didn’t want him to be able to put his tongue in my mouth.”
In a statement to Time magazine, Marciano called Upton’s allegations “absolutely false”, saying he’s never been alone with the model.
Next, Upton said, Marciano asked to walk her to her hotel room. When she declined – and Yu Tsai offered, instead – the older man didn’t stop his pursuit. He continually called her mobile, asking to see her room.
“After several denials, I just turned off my phone and locked the door and tried to get some sleep. I was terrified. All I could think was if he was able to get into my room it would not be good.”
The next day Upton was fired from the shoot and so began the alleged power play between Marciano, the one with the power, and an 18-year-old model trying to break into an industry pitted against her.
Marciano allegedly started messaging Upton constantly, with the younger woman feeling trapped beneath the knowledge of what he was capable of.
Upton told Time she felt as if she had to respond to Marciano's messages, otherwise she'd risk being fired again.
And, if she responded forcefully - at one point telling Marciano her boyfriend would also be attending the shoot - he would become "furious" and either fire her from the shoot, or tell other agents she was "fat" and "partying too much".
During her final shoot for the brand in May 2011, when Upton was still 18, Marciano asked her to dinner and she declined.
"After that he was extremely upset," she said. "I was told to leave because Paul had said, 'Get that fat pig off my set'."
When Guess Jeans reached out to Upton the following year requesting to book her for a new campaign, Upton considered taking the job because of the money. Then, she began receiving similar messages from Marciano and pulled out.
We've seen the unbelievable spread of #MeToo experiences in Hollywood, and sexual misconduct is a poison that seems to be present whenever there are men in power and women doing everything they can to succeed.
This is surely intensified in modelling, where the job itself involves using your body and, at times, nudity to make a lasting impression.
"Paul used his power to make me feel insecure and powerless," Upton said. "But I’m not going to let him intimidate me anymore. These men think they are untouchable, but times are changing."
Read Kate Upton's full interview in Time magazine.
If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.
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