Kate Upton is officially an entrant in the #MeToo movement after posting an account of a sexual assault she allegedly suffered early on in her modeling career.
“After the first day of shooting the Guess Lingerie campaign [on July 25, 2010], Paul Marciano said he wanted to meet with me,” Upton said. “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.’”
Yu Tsai corroborated Upton’s story and confirmed that he was there.
The model says that, as she avoided Marciano’s constant grabbing and prodding, he told Tsai to leave them alone. She discreetly sent the photographer a text begging him not to go, which he didn’t, but that didn’t seem to deter Marciano very much.
At that point, Upton recalls that Marciano held her head in place while forcibly kissing her face and neck.
“I remember not wanting to say ‘Get off of me,’” she recounts, “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.”
Upton said that Marciano tried to walk her up to her hotel room, and Tsai had to insist vehemently that he would do it before the fashion mogul would finally let it go. The next month, when she was hired for another shoot with Guess, she says that Marciano began calling her immediately, asking to come up and see her hotel room.
“After several denials, I just turned off my phone and locked the door and tried to get some sleep,” she said. “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, Upton was informed that she had been fired from the shoot before it even began. “Someone had called my agency to say I had gotten fat and would not be needed on set,” she said. “I was devastated, especially because at this point no one from Guess had even seen me.”
Upton said that after a while, Guess began contacting her again, but she was scared to work with the company and run into Marciano. Tsai convinced her to stay on the campaign.
“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.”
According to Upton, Marciano continued using a “dominant and possessive” tone with her, scheduling her shoots personally to make her feel that her prospects depended on him. He used overtly sexual language despite her repeated denials. Finally, in an effort to brush Marciano off, Upton told him that her boyfriend would be on set for an upcoming shoot.
She said that Tsai was fired from the next shoot “in what seemed to be retaliation.” Instead, Upton worked with photographer Ellen von Unwerth. Unwerth also picked up on the predatory nature of the relationship, and rescued Upton from being alone with Marciano.
“After that he was extremely upset,” she recalled. “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.’”
Of course, Upton skyrocketed to success after that, and later refused an enormous paycheck from Guess just to avoid Marciano. She explained that the ordeal had a lasting impact on her confidence and even made her question her career choice. She told TIME she was speaking up in hopes of sparking a systemic change in the industry.0comments
Marciano gave a responding statement to TIME, calling Upton’s allegations “absolutely false” and “preposterous.” “I have never been alone with Kate Upton,” he said. “I have never touched her inappropriately. Nor would I ever refer to a Guess model in such a derogatory manner.”
“I fully support the #metoo movement,” he 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.”