On January 31st, Kate Upton accused Guess co-founder Paul Marciano of sexual misconduct in a post to her Twitter account. And now, in a February 7th interview with Time, Upton provided details about her multiple traumatic encounters with Marciano. Her allegations, which Marciano claims are “absolutely false,” paint a dark picture of the man who built and ran the American denim empire.
“After the first day of shooting the Guess Lingerie campaign [on July 25, 2010], Paul Marciano said he wanted to meet with me,” Upton said in the interview. “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.'”
Upton claims Marciano continued to aggressively touch her throughout their meeting. He grabbed her thighs, breasts, arms, and then proceeded to even smell her. She said Marciano also forcibly grabbed the back of her head and kissed her face and neck.
Then, in a dilemma too often faced by victims of harassment, Upton explained, “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.”
When Upton later agreed to do another shoot with Guess, she received multiple calls from Marciano in which he asked if he could come up to her hotel room. Upton declined, but Marciano persisted. She eventually had to turn her phone off just so the calls would stop.
The next day she learned that she had been fired from the shoot. Someone had contacted her agency and claimed Upton had “gotten fat and would not be needed on set.” Although she had been fired, she said Guess continued to book her for photo shoots, and Marciano continued to sexually harass her via text. She and Yu Tsai even came up with a plan of action should Marciano ever show up to her hotel room unannounced.
Upton had her last shoot with Guess in 2011, during which she said Marciano was extremely rude to her. He apparently asked her to leave, saying, “Get that fat pig off my set.”
Despite Marciano’s erratic behavior, Guess eventually offered Upton their 2012 campaign, which would have paid $400,000. However, Upton ultimately decided to walk away from both the money and the company because of how she had been treated.
“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. I’m sick of being expected to endure all of this while being polite and professional through it all.”
Upton ended the interview with a call to action to end this silent epidemic within the modeling industry and beyond — and we hear her, loud and clear. Let’s work together, listen to each other, and weed out the people who have previously scared us into silence.
Thank you for sharing your story, Kate.