Model Ashley Graham, currently making the press rounds to promote the new season of America’s Next Top Model, is adding her name to the list of models — including models Sara Sampaio and Teddy Quinlivan — speaking out about sexual misconduct.
On Tuesday morning, Graham joined the ladies of The View for a frank discussion about sexual misconduct in the fashion industry. Though Graham’s past work with Terry Richardson generated the topic, Graham seized on the opportunity to share her own story.
“We did work together when I was 17, 18 years old,” Graham said, reflecting on her work with Richardson. “It is unfortunate all of the allegations that are coming out. I feel really terrible for that young woman,” she said, making reference to Caron Bernstein, a model who in December accused the photographer of raping her on set.
Though the fashion industry has, for the most part, been able to circumvent major stories around sexual misconduct, that does not exonerate an industry rife with accusations against those wielding the most power.
It’s a subject a number of models have spoken out about. Despite the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse making the rounds in October — spearheaded by model Cameron Russell — there has been no industry-wide effort to bring about substantive change (as Hollywood is doing with the #TimesUp movement). “The modeling industry’s #MeToo moment is long overdue,” former model Carré Otis wrote in a December op-ed for HuffPost.
Graham recounted her experience with Richardson to the hosts of The View.
“I got the call to do the job,” Graham said. “And of course, you know the rumors, you’ve heard them from everyone about him and I said yes to the job because you want to work with the best of the best. You want those images in your portfolio.”
“But did you think, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m putting myself in harm’s way?’” co-host Sunny Hostin asked.
“Of course I did,” Graham responded. “I thought ‘Oh my Gosh, I could be a victim, who knows.’ But you don’t know walking into it because you also have people who praise him.”
Did Graham herself see any troubling conduct from Richardson? “On set with him, it was normal enough,” she said. “But of course, you have that feeling of ‘Is he going to ask me to take my shirt off?’ You just don’t know cause you hear so many rumors.”
It was then that Graham shifted the discussion to her own experiences on another set when she was 17 years old. “I was shooting a big campaign and a photo assistant said ‘Come here. I want to talk to you.’ And he lured me into this hallway, pushed me into a closet. He exposed himself and he said, ‘Look at what you did to me all day long. Now touch it.’”
Graham said she then ran out of the closet, praying nobody would find out. “Because if they found out that he did that to me, I’m never going to get hired for a job again,” Graham said. “I’m going to be the difficult model. Nobody’s going to want to work with me again if they know that something like that happened.”
Graham says if she knew then what she knew now, watching all of the women in many industries coming forward, she would have smacked the guy and called the act what it was: pedophilia and sexual harassment.
“So the movement is working,” co-host Joy Behar interjected. “The movement is working,” Graham agreed.
Watch the full conversation below: