Supermodel Kate Upton has revealed that she was the victim of sexual harassment at the hands of a well-known fashion icon. She also says she has lost modeling jobs and blacklisted because she rebuffed his advances.
Upton told her story to Time Magazine, with excerpts from her interview included below. She says Guess co-founder and former CEO Paul Marciano constantly harassed her and even groped her multiple times when she was a model for the company. When she protested, she lost her job. She would go on to be a successful model for Sports Illustrated and Victoria’s Secret, but she says she is speaking out now as the #MeToo movement has given her a platform to be believed.
For his part, Marciano says the allegations by Kate Upton are “absolutely false” and “preposterous.”
TIME: What happened with Paul Marciano?
Kate Upton: After the first day of shooting the Guess Lingerie campaign [on July 25, 2010], Paul Marciano said he wanted to meet with me. 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.”
Despite doing everything I could physically do to avoid his touch throughout the meeting, he continued to touch me in a very dominating and aggressive way, grabbing my thighs, my arms to pull me closer, my shoulders to pull me closer, my neck, my breasts, and smelling me. He then told Yu Tsai to leave us 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.
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. I had two options: do everything I could to wiggle away and avoid his pursuit, or punch the CEO of Guess. So I decided to just wiggle away.
Then Paul insisted that he walk me up to my hotel room. I immediately declined. The only thing I was thinking is if he touches me like that in public, I can’t imagine what he’d try to do in private. Thankfully, Yu Tsai stepped in and insisted he’d do it. I was so relieved and felt like I had barely escaped.
The next Guess shoot I worked on was about a month later. As soon as I went up to my hotel room, Paul started calling me asking to come up and see how my room is. I politely declined several times.
He continued to insist. He said he was already in the hotel lobby. He even called my room from the hotel lobby desk. 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, I learned that I had been fired from the shoot. Someone had called my agency to say I had gotten fat and would not be needed on set [that day]. I was devastated, especially because at this point no one from Guess had even seen me.
Time: But Guess continued asking you to work with them after that.
Kate Upton: I talked to Yu Tsai about how scared I was and said I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t shoot anymore if this was how it was going to work. We came up with a plan that anytime Paul invites himself to my room, I would text Yu Tsai to be there so that I was never alone in a room with him. I was still very nervous and scared because clearly Paul was comfortable with touching me in front of him. But Yu Tsai assured me that he would look out for me, so that’s what we did.
After that, Paul was reaching out to me constantly, always in communication about my next shoot. But I wouldn’t officially be booked until a few days before the actual shoot. It made me feel that if I cut off communication with him, I wouldn’t be booked again. Paul’s texting increased, telling me how excited he was to see me, that he wanted me to change in front of him so he could see my naked body getting into his clothes. He asked if I thought of him when I was posing sexy on set.
All the language he used was extremely dominant and possessive. At one point, to avoid Paul coming to set, I told him my boyfriend was going to be there. He was absolutely furious at that. It was an emotional and non-stop battle of games, power struggles and creative avoidance tactics.
Then in what seemed to be retaliation, Yu Tsai was fired from the next shoot, which was Guess Jeans [between Sept. 30 and Oct. 2, 2010]. That’s when I worked with the photographer Ellen von Unwerth. Paul’s behaviors became much more aggressive without Yu Tsai there as a buffer. My denials to Paul had to be much more direct. Then I was told the morning of the shoot I was not needed on set and was fired again. I believe that Ellen insisted that I come anyway.
When we arrived at the hotel, Paul came right up to me, grabbed me hard by my arm and insisted he was taking me to dinner, just him and I, to celebrate the campaign. Ellen picked up on this, literally grabbed my other arm, and invited herself by saying she was so excited to celebrate the campaign with us. Paul told her she was not invited to dinner, and I felt like she saved me by pulling me away from him and jokingly walking me to the elevator, saying, “Well if I’m not going, Kate’s not going.” I have always been so grateful to Ellen for doing that. [A representative for von Unwerth said she supported Upton but did not recall the particular incident.]
After that he was extremely upset. I had a final shoot [in May of 2011], and he was outwardly rude and degrading the entire time. He said I was “disgusting” and started telling people how unprofessional I was by spreading rumors that I was drunk on set and partying every night, which of course I wasn’t. I was then told to leave because Paul had said, “Get that fat pig off my set.”
Marciano denied the allegations to Time. “I have never been alone with Kate Upton. I have never touched her inappropriately. Nor would I ever refer to a Guess model in such a derogatory manner,” he said.
“I fully support the #metoo movement,” Marciano continued. “At the same time, I will not allow others to defame me and tarnish my reputation. I have pledged to Guess and its Board of Directors my full support and cooperation with a fair and impartial investigation.”
Photographer Yu Tsai, whom Upton mentions in the interview as a witness to the harassment, confirmed the incidents took place.