Victoria’s Secret angel and Prada model shares anonymous stories of industry predators on Instagram
Meet Cameron Russell.
She's a 30-year-old model from Boston who's walked the runway for Victoria's Secret, as well as major fashion houses Chanel, Prada, Versace and Louis Vuitton. She delivered a TED Talk in 2012, titled 'Looks Aren't Everything. Believe me, I'm a Model', which became one of the most popular talks from TED. She's also a particularly motivated advocater for climate change, civil rights, and women’s rights.
Basically, she's a modern-day Wonderwoman.
This week, Russell addressed the controversy over Harvey Weinstein, who has been widely reprimanded following accusations of sexual assault, harassment, and rape from an alarming number of women in the film industry. She mentioned how hard it can be to share stories of assault, but that the story had "sparked conversations about how widespread and how familiar his behavior is".
The torrent of sexual assault victims who have found the confidence to come forward about their own experiences inspired Russell to move the conversation into a more personal field – the modeling industry. She said that sexual assault is also a huge issue for models, and the fact that such behaviour is considered "normal" is a huge part of the problem.
"When they are the norm, calling them out can feel disruptive and unprofessional," she wrote on Instagram.
"On many occasions I've been called a feminist for reporting unwanted groping, spanking, pinching, pressure for dates, phone calls and texts of a sexual nature, lack of appropriate changing areas, etc. And because the response has always been 'are you surprised?' or 'that's part of the job' I tolerated them."
Russell felt inspired to spark her own movement, inviting other models to open up about their own experiences.
It all started when a friend of Russell's, also a model, reached out to the star with her own story. The friend who wanted to stay anonymous asked Russell to share her story with her almost 90,000 Instagram followers to encourage others to speak up too.
"We need a way to begin breaking the silence while remaining protected," wrote Russell in the original Instagram post. "We are not talking about one, five, or even twenty men. We are talking about a culture of exploitation and it must stop."
She then prompted people to share their stories anonymously by direct messaging Russell on Instagram, who would then post them. Russell also started the hashtag #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse, encouraging people to publicly share their stories "so the industry can see the size and scope of this problem".
She since posted an incredible amount of 80 different stories from followers, dedicating a huge chunk of her Instagram feed to raising awareness. The stories show how incredibly common sexual harassment is in the modeling industry – no matter the age, gender or experience of individual models. People have shared stories accusing major brands and well-known photographers of harassment from fashion hubs all over the world including London, Milan, Paris, LA and New York.
Here are some of the stories Russell received privately, but be warned that they can get pretty graphic and upsetting to read.
Many people commented on the posts thanking Russell for giving light to the issue that affects such a huge number of individuals. Some followers have called for a dedicated union to protect the rights of models. Another pleaded with Russell to "PLEASE use real names of the predators; otherwise they'll continue to hurt, harm and ruin lives and dreams."
The influx of assault stories appears to have shattered Russell, who wrote after posting the almost 80 stories: "The last 48 hours has been devastating. We know what is happening in fashion. We tolerate it and ignore it and excuse it every day. Coming face to face with so many of the people effected is opening to an impossible grief."
Russell's initiative, as well as the brave individuals who chose to share their stories, are incredible forces pushing for change. And hopefully, we'll get there.