Fired Balenciaga casting directors respond to claims of model ‘abuse’

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Moya Crockett
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The casting agents accused of subjecting models to degrading and “inhumane” treatment in the run-up to Paris Fashion Week have responded to the allegations made against them.

Maida Gregori Boina and Rami Fernandes reportedly locked more than 150 models in a dark stairwell for over three hours at a recent Balenciaga casting, while they went to lunch. Their fellow casting director James Scully named and shamed them in an explosive Instagram post, calling them “serial abusers”.

Scully’s post was shared by hundreds of fashion industry professionals, backed up by models who said they had been at the Balenciaga casting, and applauded by several high-profile models, including Helena Christensen, Edie Campbell and Joan Smalls. In wake of the outcry surrounding the revelations, Balenciaga proceeded to severe professional ties with Boina and Fernandes.

Now, Boina and Fernandes have released a statement disputing Scully’s version of events.

In an exclusive statement provided to Business of Fashion [BoF], Boina describes Scully’s post as “inaccurate and libellous”.

“It is important to stop the spread of rumours and set the record straight,” she says.  

“To directly address these accusations, the models did not wait for three hours in the dark, not even one hour. We personally ate our lunch in the casting facility and – without question – we did not lock the models in the stairwell and turn out the lights. That would be completely inhumane.”

Boina adds that the electricity went out in the building Balenciaga had provided for the session, and that models were asked to wait on a staircase because the fashion house’s reception area was unavailable.

“Throughout the entire process, we provided the most comfortable accommodations allowable based on the facilities provided,” she says, adding that she and Fernandes were “saddened” to have been fired by Balenciaga “without a discussion of what actually took place”.

Scully, the casting director for designers including Stella McCartney, Jason Wu and Carolina Herrera, has long been an advocate for the fairer treatment of models in an industry known for its tough working conditions. At a BoF event in December, he pledged to speak out on behalf of models treated badly by designers, casting directors and other industry professionals – a fact he referenced in his Instagram post about Boina and Fernandes.

“So, true to my promise at #bofvoices that I would be a voice for any models, agents or all who see things wrong with this business, I’m disappointed to come to Paris and hear that the usual suspects are up to the same tricks,” he wrote.

While Scully was not at the Balenciaga casting, he said that “a number of girls” had told him about how they were treated by Boina and Fernandes – behaviour that he condemned as “sadistic”, “cruel” and “dangerous”.

Responding to Boina’s rebuttal of his allegations, Scully insists that his Instagram post reflected what really happened.

“What Maida and Rami did, they have been doing for a long time,” he tells BoF. “They are the king and queen of abuse. I’ve heard stories from girls who were left waiting for so long without food or water that they ordered a pizza, and Maida came out and started shouting at them and calling them pigs.”

In his Instagram post, Scully also accused another major fashion house of having racist casting criteria for its show at Paris Fashion Week. He said that he had been told by “several agents” that Lanvin had requested no non-white models be sent to its casting.  

A spokesperson for Lanvin denied these claims, saying: “These allegations are serious and completely untrue.”

The Lanvin show in Paris on Wednesday was 90% white, with only four women of colour out of 44 models: Yue Han, Luping Wang, Joan Smalls and Alicia Burke.

Image: Rex Features, Getty