American model Kate Upton recently opened up about the alleged sexual assault and harassment she endured at the hands of Guess co-founder and former CEO, Paul Marciano.
In her first public interview about the allegations following the Jan. 31 tweet in which she wrote, “It’s disappointing that such an iconic women’s brand @Guess is still empowering Paul Marciano as their creative director #metoo,” Upton told Time that 65-year-old Marciano began harassing her when she was 18 and had started modelling for Guess.
In a graphic interview, the 25-year-old told Time that Marciano grabbed her breasts during a business meeting, forcibly grabbed her head and kissed her face and neck, repeatedly tried to come up to her hotel room and ultimately fired her after calling her a “fat pig.” Marciano denies all allegations and told Time he has “never touched her inappropriately.”
The Sports Illustrated model says the harassment began after the first day of shooting a Guess lingerie campaign in July 2010 when Marciano said he wanted to meet with Upton. “As soon as I walked in with photographer Yu Tsai, [Marciano] 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,'” Upton said.
Upton went on to describe Marciano’s alleged behaviour throughout their meeting, saying that “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.” Upton says Marciano told Yu Tsai to leave him alone with Upton, but Upton says she felt so uncomfortable that she asked Yu Tsai to stay, which he did. Despite the photographer’s presence, Upton says Marciano continued with his behaviour. Yu Tsai confirmed to Time that he witnessed the harassment and corroborated Upton’s allegations.
“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,” she said. “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.”
Following the initial incident of alleged assault, Upton says during her second shoot with the brand a month later Marciano tried to enter her hotel room. The model said she politely declined his offer several times but Marciano kept calling her room. “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.”
During her professional relationship with Guess, Upton says in order to avoid Marciano’s inappropriate behaviour, she and photographer Yu Tsai developed a plan: any time Marciano tried to be alone with her, she would text Yu Tsai so he could be there with her. After Yu Tsai was fired from Guess, in what Upton said “seemed to be retaliation,” Marciano’s behaviour continued with constant inappropriate text messages, comments and an emotional “non-stop battle of games.”
Eventually Upton was fired by Guess in 2011 after Marciano allegedly called her “disgusting,” and during their last shoot he reportedly said, “Get that fat pig off my set.” Upton said the abuse “took a huge toll on my confidence and self-worth” and made her want to quit modelling. Now, a few years later, Upton feels differently.
“I’m sick of being silenced and expected to sweep everything under the rug,” Upton told Time. “I’m sick of being expected to laugh off these aggressive advances and accept the power imbalances that exist…These men think they are untouchable, but times are changing.”
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