Kate Upton has given a detailed account of the sexual harassment she alleges she endured at the hands of Paul Marciano, the creative director and co-founder of Guess? Inc.
In a frank interview with Time, Upton said she was grabbed, groped, and verbally intimidated by Marciano, who, she claims, called her a “fat pig.”
Marciano vigorously denied the allegations to Time, saying: “I have never been alone with Kate Upton. I have never touched her inappropriately. Nor would I ever refer to a Guess model in such a derogatory manner.”
Marciano’s denial is odd, however, as Upton does not claim in her account that the abuse happened when they were alone, and Time reports that photographer Yu Tsai told them he witnessed the harassment Upton describes.
The controversy now swirling around Marciano began when Upton tweeted a message about Marciano accompanied by the #MeToo:
Upton was criticized in some quarters for not providing more details of the allegation—but she has now done so.
She tells Time the alleged abuse began when she met Marciano after her first-ever shoot with Guess: “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.’
“Despite doing everything I could physically do to avoid his touch throughout the meeting, 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. He then told Yu Tsai to leave us alone. I was able to send a quick text to Yu Tsai asking him to stay. He did, but that did not stop Paul’s constant grabbing. I was extremely shaken, surprised, and scared.”
Upton told Time: “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. 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.”
Upton says on another occasion, Marciano bombarded her with phone calls between shoots. After she turned her phone off: “I learned that I had been fired from the shoot. Someone had called my agency to say I had gotten fat and would not be needed on set [that day]. I was devastated, especially because at this point no one from Guess had even seen me.”
Upton says that she and photographer Yu Tsai “came up with a plan that anytime Paul invited 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. But Yu Tsai assured me that he would look out for me, so that’s what we did.”
Upton alleges that ahead of another shoot, Marciano texted her messages “telling me how excited he was to see me, that he wanted me to change in front of him so he could see my naked body getting into his clothes. He asked if I thought of him when I was posing sexy on set.”
Upton said that Marciano became more aggressive after Yu Tsai was replaced with photographer Ellen von Unwerth.
During a final shoot in May 2011, Upton alleges, Marciano 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.’”
Upton said in 2012, after her Sports Illustrated cover, Guess offered her $400,000 for a campaign. She refused the campaign following aggressive texts from Marciano, which, she alleges, told her not to bring her boyfriend on set.
Upton says the experience “took a huge toll on my confidence and self-worth” and made her want to quit modeling.
“The response from some [to this movement] has been, ‘It’s not that bad’ or ‘other men are much worse than him’ or ‘at least it wasn’t rape.’ Those are unacceptable statements. That’s our only line? At least he didn’t rape her? That’s a scary office to be in.”
Upton adds: “Nobody has a right over my body just because they view me as sexy or a sex icon. I think people need to be educated on the definition of consent. I don’t think there are any blurred lines in this. I don’t think you should be touching people at the workplace, and I don’t think you should be sexually speaking to a model as they’re doing their profession.”