Kate Upton has broken her silence on what she alleges was a sustained campaign of sexual harassment at the hands of the man behind one of fashion’s biggest labels.
Earlier this month, the model took to Twitter to call out Guess co-founder and former CEO Paul Marciano for inappropriate sexual conduct, after working with him as a Guess model at the beginning of her career.
“It’s disappointing that such an iconic women’s brand @GUESS is still empowering Paul Marciano as their creative director #metoo,” Upton tweeted, quickly followed up with an Instagram captioned: “He shouldn’t be allowed to use his power in the industry to sexually and emotionally harass women #metoo.”
Upton has now detailed a number of incidents of alleged sexual harassment involving Marciano, which she says began on her first day shooting a Guess lingerie campaign in July 2010, in a new emotional interview with TIME magazine.
“After the first day of shooting the Guess Lingerie campaign [on July 25, 2010], Paul Marciano said he wanted to meet with me. 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,” Upton told TIME’s Eliana Dockterman of her first meeting with Marciano. “After I pushed him away, he said, ‘I’m making sure they’re real.'”
Marciano denied the model’s account to PEOPLE, saying Upton’s accusations were “absolutely false.”
“The claim that I groped Kate Upton the first time I ever met her and in front of dozens of people in a busy hotel lobby is preposterous. I have never been alone with Kate Upton,” he said. “I have never touched her inappropriately. Nor would I ever refer to a Guess model in such a derogatory manner.
“I fully support the #metoo movement. At the same time, I will not allow others to defame me and tarnish my reputation. I have pledged to Guess and its Board of Directors my full support and cooperation with a fair and impartial investigation.”
PEOPLE has reached out to Upton for comment but has yet to receive a response.
Upton said during their first meeting, Marciano continued to touch her inappropriately.
“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,” Upton told TIME.
The model-turned-actress alleges that at one point the Chief Creative Officer “forcibly grabbed the back of my head so that I could not move and started kissing my face and my neck”.
“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,” she added.
Photographer Yu Tsai said he witnessed the harassment Upton described and”corroborated details of her allegations,” according to TIME.
Upton alleges Marciano continued to harass her at a later shoot by calling Upton’s hotel room repeatedly, asking to come see it. He also asked her to dinner multiple times, and became angry that she wouldn’t see him, the model told the magazine. After she declined his advances, Upton said she was 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,” she said.
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The model continued to explore other opportunities in her career and landed her first Sports Illustrated cover in 2012. Shortly after, Guess Jeans reached out to her for a new campaign.
“For this campaign, they offered me $400,000, which at the time was their highest paying offer ever,” she said. “I remember I had an internal struggle over this offer. I was hoping after my consistent denials and successful career, that Paul would treat me with professionalism. But as we got closer to the shoot date, Paul began texting that he would make sure to be on set. He told me that I wasn’t allowed to bring my boyfriend. I just couldn’t do it. I refused the campaign. I couldn’t accept the money. I walked away about a week before the shoot was scheduled.”
To donate to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which will provide subsidized legal support to women and men in all industries who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, or abuse in the workplace, visit its GoFundMe page. Learn more about Time’s Up, an organization of women in entertainment combating sexual harassment and inequality, on its website.
The whole experience damaged Upton’s own self-confidence and made her re-think her career.
“I wanted to quit modeling. I constantly blamed myself after it happened: What am I doing to invite someone to treat me like that or grab me like that? I wondered if it was how I was presenting myself or what I was wearing. I started slumping my shoulders to hide my breast size, wearing baggy clothes, started despising my own body.”
But the model is now using her modeling platform as a place to stand up for herself and other women who experience assault in the industry.
“The culture of complacency and tolerance in our industry needs to stop,” she told time. “People know what is going on and have previously accepted it. And we can’t always require the victims to be the ones to speak up and tell their story because the victims only know their one story. The people around in the corporate offices or around the harassers every day know of every time they do this. They’re the ones who need to speak out.”
For more from Upton’s candid and emotional interview, visit, TIME.