Harvey Weinstein allegedly used “Project Runway” to meet models

Harvey Weinstein watches the models at the Marchesa spring-summer 2014 runway show.
Harvey Weinstein watches the models at the Marchesa spring-summer 2014 runway show.
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
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The accusations of sexual harassment and other misconduct against Harvey Weinstein keep mounting.

A new Los Angeles Times investigation alleges that Weinstein used his extensive fashion ties as a “pipeline” for models. Among those ties—which include his backing of Marchesa, the fashion line cofounded by Weinstein’s wife, Georgina Chapman, and his past investment in the brand Halston, which he helped to revive—is his connection to the long-running show Project Runway. The Weinstein Company produces the show, though its name was recently scrubbed from the credits after the allegations against Weinstein began to surface.

According to the Times, which spoke with nearly a dozen people tied to the fashion industry, including executives and publicists connected to the show, Weinstein used his links to fashion and his company’s ownership of Project Runway “as enticements or pretexts for meetings.”

In multiple instances, models claimed Weinstein tried to coerce them into unwanted sexual situations. Former model Juliana De Paula told the Times that Weinstein “groped her and forced her to kiss other models that he had taken to his loft in New York a decade ago. When she tried to leave, she said, he chased her through the apartment, naked. She fended him off with a broken glass.”

Another model, Samantha Panagrosso, said she encountered Weinstein at a hotel pool during the 2003 Cannes Film Festival. He began touching her legs, and when she rejected his advances he pointed to another model and said, “Look at her, I’m going to have her come to my room for a screen test.”

The stories echo those that other models and actresses have now told about Weinstein. Former actress Lucia Evans told the New Yorker that, in 2004, the year Project Runway launched, Weinstein worked persistently to arrange casting meetings with her. Weinstein mentioned to her that she’d “be great in ‘Project Runway,'” but only if she lost weight, and also discussed two film scripts. Then he allegedly forced her to perform oral sex on him.

In an Instagram post, model and actress Cara Delevingne described how when she started acting she met Weinstein at a hotel lobby to talk about an upcoming film. Weinstein pressured her to go to his room, where she found another woman there. Weinstein asked them to kiss, and when Delevingne tried to leave, he stood in front of the door and tried to kiss her.

We’ve reached out to the Weinstein Company and Harvey Weinstein’s spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, for comment and will update this story with any reply. Hofmeister has already said that Weinstein has “unequivocally denied” allegations of rape, and that he recalls events very differently than many of his accusers, including some of the women interviewed by the Times.

To those in the fashion industry, stories of models being abused are all too common. Often models are young and travel far from home for work, leaving them feeling uncertain and vulnerable.

Different groups have begun responding. Recently, luxury labels LVMH and Kering introduced a charter with guidelines for how their brands are to hire and treat models. Today (Oct. 23), New York State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic announced a plan (paywall) that would amend her state’s anti-discrimination laws to include protections for models that would make sure those hiring and working with them are held accountable for any abuses.

“The horrible thing is, as a model, it wasn’t that unusual to be in a weird situation where a photographer or someone feels they have a right to your body,” model Trish Goff told the New York Times (paywall). Goff is among those who say Weinstein sexually assaulted her.