The modeling industry is extremely glamorous, built on high fashion, allure and luxurious high living. Many young women are lured to try their luck and gain success. But little do people know that it also hides a dark side. Modeling's glamorous exterior cloaks a world where exploitation and abuse are prevalent for many girls, especially those very young.
In 2020, allegations of rape and blatant sexual abuse were made against Gérald Marie, the ex-top boss of one of the world's biggest modeling agencies. Former models are coming out with chilling tales of sexual misconduct dating as far back as 1980. At the time of their attacks, these women were starting their careers and were only teenagers and unable to protect themselves or seek help.
Gérald Marie was extremely powerful in the modeling world. He could make or break careers at the snap of his fingers. He was the head of the European branch of the Elite Model Management agency and is often credited for cultivating the supermodel culture that was all the rage in the 1980s and 1990s. His agency managed many of them, including Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Gisele Bündchen and more. He also married one - Canadian supermodel Linda Evangelista.
Over the decades, many hushed the stories about his behavior that have leaked out - but there were never any direct accusations. This was due partly to the women he abused feeling frightened or worrying about the future of their careers. Allegedly his modus operandi was to invite models, some as young as 14 or 15, to nightly dinner parties with his cronies where they would indulge in alcohol and drugs. He would then take the women to his home and assault them.
In 1998, when the whispered rumors started to gain momentum, the BBC decided to expose the rampant abuse within the modeling industry. Reporter Lisa Brinkworth and investigative documentary filmmaker Donal Macintyre went undercover as a model and photographer for over a year, eventually landing in Marie's inner circle. They filmed hours of hidden camera videos of Marie and his friends explicitly describing how they treat aspiring young models. He also assaulted Brinkworth, and today, she is one of the women who have come forward. However, BBC was sued by Marie for libel, and they never released the hidden footage again. He then stayed in the industry for another 16+ years.
This time around, it looks like prosecutors in France have finally taken notice. They have launched a full-scale investigation into the charges about Gérald Marie's predatory ways, made by his former models. The only issue is that some of the older cases might have already passed the statute of limitations.
In light of the #MeToo movement and the recent Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein scandals, these women - as well as a concerned public - are demanding that Marie be held accountable for his acts of depravity. Only time will tell if the case against him will succeed or not. What is clear is that the cycle of abuse by powerful men preying on young women must stop, and men and women who witness these types of behavior need to speak out and help.