The efforts to oust sexual harassment and sexual assault from every dark corner are reaching far past Hollywood, and the fashion industry is refreshingly following suit. Amidst the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment and abuse scandal, publishing companies Condé Nast and Hearst decided to (re)blacklist Terry Richardson, a photographer with a notorious history of sexual harassment allegations.
Nothing new had surfaced yet as far as recent allegations, but the photographer had already been blacklisted in 2014 from sexual harassment and misconduct (including a change.org petition to stop the industry from hiring him). When Roberta Myers was the editor-in-chief at Elle (2000 – 2017), she had forbidden the use of Richardson for any shoots for the magazine. But when Nina Garcia took over, she immediately lifted the ban and commissioned the known sexual predator to shoot the January 2018 cover with Zoë Kravitz for Elle.
Her reasoning? Who knows. The photographer is certainly talented, that can’t be argued. He’s shot celebrities like Beyoncé, Clint Eastwood, Will Ferrell, and even Barack Obama. And the pairing of the photographer’s guttural style with the bohemian beauty Kravitz would surely lead to greatness. But this questionable decision put the current industry leaders in a vulnerable position once the Weinstein scandal, #MeToo, and #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse movements broke if they didn’t show they were taking action to protect any known victims…and really just any industry participants.
And as the Harvey Weinstein scandal grew to an overwhelming, far-reaching size, the Elle and Hearst brands knew a mistake had been made and they had to undo it as quickly as possible. The cover was canceled and reshot by Argentinian photographer Paola Kudacki. I don’t know what the original shots looked like, but the shoot by Kudacki was minimalist and clean, showing off Zoë’s natural beauty in relaxed, no-fuss clothes.
What happened afterwards, I don’t think anyone saw coming.
Within a day of each other, two models came out in different publications with allegations of sexual assault by Terry Richardson in mid-December 2017. Lindsay Jones’ story covered by The Huffington Post was published on Dec 13, describing her allegations that he sexually assaulted her in his studio in 2007 or 2008. The following day, the New York Daily News published an account of model Caron Bernstein’s alleged sexual assault by Terry Richardson while she was at what she thought was a fragrance editorial for V Magazine in 2003. The magazine had no knowledge of this shoot nor any editorial.
It was a one-two punch and it got noticed. Fast. The women received phone calls from the NYPD Special Victims Squad asking to interview them because they were investigating Richardson for sexual assault claims. Apparently a special victims unit was created just for these high profile cases that have been flooding in since Harvey Weinstein. It must be said that it’s unfortunate for all the other victims out there without high profile predators who don’t have this kind of response from the NYPD and other police departments around the country. Still, at least a very clear message is being sent to potential and current aggressors in the industry. Stop. Don’t even think about doing it (anymore). You will be very publicly ousted from the industry, investigated, and possibly charged for these crimes.
An attorney representing Richardson told the New York Daily News that his client denied the allegations (of course), stating Ms. Bernstein knowingly and willingly posed for the photographs and that any contact between the two parties was consensual. No statement was made regarding Lindsay Jones.
It’s certainly not a direct route, but if the stories are true (and between these accounts and the original allegations that got him blacklisted in 2014, there are quite a few), then his victims deserve some justice and a safe work environment. Perhaps these are cold cases…because I watch TV crime shows, and that like, makes me an expert in these things. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that all you need after a decade or two is a single witness, a strand of hair, and a good cop/bad cop routine, and everything will unravel as you keep digging. OK, maybe not that simple.
But as they pull the thread on one case, it may lead toward finding information on other cases. Hopefully there’s enough evidence for the Special Victims Squad to make solid determinations. And in the meantime, this guy has been dumped by almost every major brand out there. It’s about time predators in the industry are shut down.
And to that point, Isha Aran of Splinter News put it perfectly: “Just like Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood, Terry Richardson isn’t the main problem here. He’s a symptom of a much broader, much more sinister issue in the fashion industry, where it almost seems like sexual harassment or even assault is considered an occupational hazard.”