Models sign open letter to Victoria's Secret CEO amid accusations of 'sexual harassment, misogyny and bodyshaming'

Sarah Young

An open letter signed by more than 100 models is urging Victoria’s Secret to take action to end its "culture of abuse and harassment”.

The letter, which was written by the Model Alliance – a nonprofit organisation that advocates for the protection of models – comes in the wake of a New York Times investigation titled "Angels’ in Hell: The Culture of Misogyny Inside Victoria’s Secret".

The expose, which was compiled after interviews with more than 30 current and former executives, employees, contractors and models, detailed allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment within the retail giant and claims of retaliation against those who filed complaints.

Now, the advocacy group Time's Up and more than 100 models including Amber Valletta, Christy Turlington, Edie Campbell and Iskra Lawrence are demanding action.

In an open letter addressed to Victoria's Secret's CEO John Mehas, the Model Alliance states that it met with L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, five months ago asking “that the company take concrete action to change its culture of misogyny and abuse”.

However, “the company refused to act”, the letter claims.

Now, the organisation is calling on Victoria’s Secret to join its RESPECT program, which is described as an “accountability program designed by and for models” that requires employees, agents, vendors, photographers and other contractors of signatory companies to follow a code of conduct that protects everyone's safety on the job.

The letter goes on to detail the repeated complaints of inappropriate conduct towards models and employees, including “body shaming, lewd remarks, crotch-grabbing, retaliation for rebuffing advances, unauthorised use of models’ images, and pressures to pose nude without pay for a photographer’s personal shoots”.

The Model Alliance continued by stating that it believes “this moment can be a wake-up call for Victoria's Secret” and an opportunity for the brand to “take meaningful steps towards ending these abuses”.

”The time for listening is long past; it’s time for Victoria’s Secret to take action to protect the people they profit from,“ the letter reads.

“Human rights violations can’t be stopped with a corporate rebranding exercise.”

The letter concludes with an invitation for Victoria’s Secret to work together with the Model Alliance to address its problems.

“We stand with the courageous women who have come forward and shared their stories, despite fears of retaliation or harm to their careers,” the letter states.

In response to the claims outlined in The New York Times’ report, a spokesperson for L Brands said the company had “made significant strides” in workplace and compliance practices.

“We regret any instance where we did not achieve this objective and are fully committed to continuous improvement and complete accountability,” they added, without disputing any of the publication’s reporting.

The Independent has contacted L Brands for comment.

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