"This abuse was just laughed off and accepted as normal," a former public relations employee told The New York Times

By Maria Pasquini
February 01, 2020 06:00 PM
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Victoria’s Secret storefront
| Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images

Former Victoria’s Secret chief marketing officer Ed Razek has been accused of sexual harassment, bullying and creating a culture of misogyny abetted by Leslie Wexner, the owner and founder of L Brands, according to a new report from The New York Times.

For the report, published on Saturday, the Times spoke with over 30 current and former executives, employees and models.

Most allegations revolved around Razek, who stepped down from his position in August 2019, months after causing controversy over his comments about hiring transgender or curvy models for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which was canceled last year. He has since apologized for the comments.

Alyssa Miller, who occasionally modeled for the brand, told the Times that Razek’s attitude towards models was: “I can make you or break you.”

Model Andi Muise, who had participated in the fashion show for two consecutive years, told the Times that in 2007, when she was 19, she repeatedly rebuffed Razek’s advances. Then, she was not cast in the next year’s show.

Multiple people who spoke to the Times also claimed that Razek would sometimes ask models for their phone numbers while they were in their underwear.

“What was most alarming to me, as someone who was always raised as an independent woman, was just how ingrained this behavior was,” Casey Crowe Taylor, a former public relations employee, told the Times. “This abuse was just laughed off and accepted as normal. It was almost like brainwashing. And anyone who tried to do anything about it wasn’t just ignored. They were punished.”

Les Wexner and Ed Razek
| Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Bella Hadid, who participated in the fashion show several times, was also mentioned in the report. During a 2018 fitting, while the model was being measured for underwear, Razek allegedly said “forget the panties” and went on to remark about her “perfect” breasts, the Times reported.

Several employees also complained about Razek’s behavior, specifically referencing his “demeaning comments and inappropriate touching of women,” according to the Times.

Razek denied the allegations, telling the Times in an email that “the accusations in this reporting are categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context,” adding, “I’ve been fortunate to work with countless, world-class models and gifted professionals and take great pride in the mutual respect we have for each other.”

A rep for Hadid did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Bella Hadid at the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show
| Credit: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

Executives also told the Times that concerns about Razek’s behavior had been brought to Wexner’s attention, and that the L Brands founder had also been heard using demeaning language towards women on multiple occasions. Additionally, three L Brand executives said it had been brought up to Wexner, who had ties to Jeffrey Epstein, that the late financier had attempted to recruit models by claiming he worked for the brand prior to his first arrest for a sex crime in 2006.

L Brands spokeswoman Tammy Roberts Myers released a statement to the Times saying the company was “fully committed to continuous improvement and complete accountability.”

“We regret any instance where we did not achieve this objective,” she added in the statement. Myers did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

A spokesperson for Wexner declined to comment to the Times.

Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show
| Credit: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Several models also agreed to pose nude for photographer Russell James, who frequently worked with the brand, although they were not usually compensated for the photos, which were not covered by their Victoria’s Secret contract, according to the Times.

Some of those photos were released in a 2014 coffee book title Angels, which currently sells for over $1,000 on his website.

Model Alison Nix detailed a weekend event she was invited to attend on behalf of the brand in 2010, and was told by her agent she would be expected to pose for nude photos by the photographer, according to the Times. Two photos from the trip appeared in James’ book, which Nix said she did give consent for.

James’ lawyer Martin Singer told the Times that all of the women featured in the book approved of the use of their images and that models were not required to pose for the photographer.

Singer did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.