Carolyn Kramer retired from working as a modeling agent in the fashion world in 2004. After the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October, Kramer was contacted by a former model, who told her she’d been raped at 16 by a photographer Kramer sent her to see. He is still working.
In an interview with the HuffPost, Kramer explains how after she retired, she considered writing a book about her time in the industry, specifically at Elite Model Management, which represented the greats like Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington; but the memories that surfaced all seemed to be of abuse she witnessed or in some cases experienced.
“Working for Elite manipulated me into thinking it was OK,” she said. “I’m not trying to squiggle out of this, by the way. I’m sick to my stomach that I was part of this poison. It sickens me.”
Following the phone call, Kramer posted to Facebook about those memories, writing that she knew many girls were underage when they first encountered the powerful men who could make or break their careers. It was considered normal for an adult man to sexualize, touch, and have sex with them.
“Many of these girls who are assaulted aren’t older than 15 years old,” she wrote. “And I stand here to say how ashamed I am of myself for not having had the tools or the resources or guts to stop it.”
Kramer was flooded with responses, from both agents and former models, much like when model Cameron Russell asked for other models to share their stories of alleged sexual harassment and assault. Several confirmed their stories with HuffPost:
Another Elite employee, Marie Anderson Boyd, who was an agent and vice president at the company’s Chicago office between 1985 and 1990, said models would regularly tell her about the sexual misconduct they experienced on go-sees. ”[Some photographers] will think nothing of walking over to some teen girl who’s brand new to the business, taking her top off, unbuttoning her bra and saying something like, ‘I want you to look at me and think of ... giving me oral sex,’” she said. “And a lot of girls have never even done that [before], so they don’t even know what the [photographers] mean.”
Kramer wants these stories to be heard: Though regulations have changed since her heyday in the eighties, rules about underage girls being accompanied on go-sees are rarely enforced. For every photographer who is outed as an abuser, she claims there are a dozen more:
There are still many “Terry Richardsons” in the industry, Kramer said, men whose predatory behavior the fashion world ignores. “We all knew Terry Richardson was sexually abusing these girls and yet we still kept sending them on go-sees and to the bookings themselves,” she said. “If you’ve got a $20 million Revlon contract weighing in the balance ... yet you know Terry is abusing these girls, what do we do? Do we say no to Terry? No, [we] don’t.”
Kramer is trying to get executives at the top of agencies to lead the way to change, first by refusing to sign girls under 16 and implementing protection for young women against known predators. But agent Jilian Gotlib, who currently works for Elite and who was also with the company during Kramer’s time, says she’s gone too far in criticizing the agency’s complicity.
“We would always be careful, check out [the photographer] and tell our models, ‘If [the photographers] ask you to do anything that we didn’t tell you was going to happen, let us know,’” she told HuffPost. “Some girls would just go ahead anyway, but we would always warn people: ‘Call me if anything seems untoward.’ I think we would try not to work with a lot of those photographers if we heard problems.”
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