More Male Models Come Forward to Detail Fashion Industry Abuse

A second male model has come forth accusing famed New York photographer Bruce Weber of sexual harassment. At a press conference with attorney Lisa Bloom on Tuesday, Mark Ricketson, 31, joined model Jason Boyce, who has already filed a criminal complaint against Weber in a New York state court, in speaking out against Weber, who is one of the most well-known photographers in the fashion industry, shooting regularly shooting ad campaigns and editorials for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Versace, and Vanity Fair. 

According to Ricketson, Weber preyed on him during a photo shoot at his Manhattan studio in 2005. "He told me I 'looked tense' and proceeded to press his thumb on my forehead. He then took my hand and told me to 'find the energy' by guiding my hand and rubbing it on one of three places — my forehead, chest or my stomach," Ricketson said.

"Each time, the energy in my stomach would get lower and lower until I had to navigate the remaining space left before having to touch myself. I felt ashamed and embarrassed," he said. Fearing that we would be "blacklisted" if he spoke out about Weber's conduct, Ricketson said he kept quiet. "If you wanted to work, you did what you were told." 

He said he has "talked to other young men who, like me, knew that if we protested or refused then we would be blacklisted, not just from the photo shoot, but likely from our agency. There is no safe place to go. If you wanted to work, you did what you were told."

Ricketson will not be pursuing litigation, as per Bloom, the statute of limitations in California – the maximum time that parties have to initiate legal proceedings from the date of an alleged offense – has run out. He is speaking out now, however, to shed light on the "trauma of what I'd experienced while staying silent all these years, which led to a battle with depression, addictive tendencies and struggling to form loving and lasting relationships." 

Boyce's suit, which was filed on Friday in New York Supreme Court, is pending. And as of Tuesday, Vanity Fair, which has employed Weber for years, confirmed that it has cancelled a dinner scheduled to take place during Art Basel in Miami to celebrate Weber's new book “All-American Volume XVII." 

Bloom, who is representing Boyce is his legal battle against Weber, said during the press conference that the modeling industry is "long overdue for accountability for its exploitation of models" who are at the mercy of agents, agencies and photographers. 

"Other [models] have told me that they left the business because they could no longer put up with the exploitation," she said. "Some have said they thought being harassed and groped was just part of the business. But it’s not. Every worker, regardless of industry, is entitled to a workplace free of sexual harassment."

Also coming forward: Former model Michael Boyd Hager. Speaking to WWD, Hager says that he left New York-based Red Model Management's roster last summer and in light of recent news reports of sexual misconduct, he has decided to speak out. While Hager says he has not intention of filing suit against Red or his former agent, who was allegedly "verbally abusive" and had made sexually suggestive or otherwise "inappropriate" comments to him, he does want to help raise awareness of the fashion industry's toxic practices. 

Hager told WWD, “I’ve talked to people about it before. Because I was never assaulted, I thought, ‘Maybe I’m just being sensitive?’ Even though I knew none of these things were OK. Now seeing all these people in different industries tell their stories, the modeling industry needs to change.”

Incidents ranged from his agent responding to head and body shots by saying, "Too bad you found a pair of underwear [and] it wasn’t laundry day," to Red allegedly set up a meeting with a casting director who was known for sexually assaulting or harassing male models. "My agency set up this meeting in a hotel room with this casting director," per Hager. 

According to WWD, Red owner Neil Mautone has disputed Hager’s claims of verbal abuse and the possibility of being passed up for jobs.