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Kate Upton details sexual assault allegations against Guess founder Paul Marciano

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Megan Murray
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A week after alluding to sexual misconduct at the hands of fashion brand Guess’s co-founder Paul Marciano on Twitter, Kate Upton has given a thorough and intimate interview to TIME Magazine detailing her allegations. 

If the week since the 31 January, when Kate Upton tweeted her disappointment that “iconic women’s brand Guess is still empowering Paul Marciano as their creative director” has been the calm, then this is officially the storm.

The model took to Twitter using the #metoo hashtag to send a clear signal; she has a story to tell and is no longer afraid to tell it. 

Now the 25-year-old has shared details with TIME Magazine about a number of interactions with Marciano, from her first day of shooting a Guess Lingerie campaign on 25 July 2010, when she says he forcibly grabbed her breasts, held her head still so that he could kiss her and groped her thighs.

Upton recalls her first meeting with Marciano eight years ago when she was 18 years old. She describes how she was summoned to talk to him and brought along photographer Yu Tsai, whose presence did not discourage Marciano’s behaviour.

She says: “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 says that at this point Marciano asked Tsai to leave, who refused, but despite being in front of an audience the co-founder continued to “forcibly grab” the back of her head and kiss her face and neck. Upton remembers being “scared to open my mouth to say anything because I didn’t want him to be able to put his tongue in my mouth”.

Marciano then allegedly insisted in walking Upton to her hotel room, but although she managed to evade his advances with the help of Tsai, who said he would escort her instead, she feels she was penalised for rejecting him on a later campaign.

She says: “The next Guess shoot I worked on was about a month later. As soon as I went up to my hotel room, Paul started calling me asking to come up and see how my room is. I politely declined several times.

“He continued to insist…after several denials, I just turned off my phone and locked the door and tried to get some sleep. I was terrified.”

Upton says she was fired from the shoot the next day after someone called her agency to say she “had gotten fat” despite no one from the Guess team having seen her. 

Paul Marciano with Hailey Baldwin and Charlotte McKinney

Despite this, Upton was asked to work with Guess again. But along with this career opportunity came huge anxiety over Marciano’s behaviour, constant hounding from him and what Upton feels was emotional manipulation.

“I talked to Yu Tsai about how scared I was and said I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t shoot anymore if this was how it was going to work,” she continues.

“We came up with a plan that anytime Paul invites himself to my room, I would text Yu Tsai to be there so that I was never alone in a room with him. I was still very nervous and scared because clearly Paul was comfortable with touching me in front of him.”

After establishing a continuous professional relationship with Guess, Marciano’s treatment of Upton became increasingly dominant and possessive.

Upton alleges that Marciano would refrain from confirming her on set until just before the shoot, to make her feel that “if I cut off communication with him, I wouldn’t be booked again.” She also says he sent her sexually inappropriate texts asking her to change in front of him and if she was thinking about him while “posing sexy on set.”

Upton says her interactions with him became an “emotional and non-stop battle of games, power struggles and creative avoidance tactics.” After refusing to attend a private dinner with Marciano, Upton felt he became “extremely upset” and began tarnishing her reputation on set.

She explains: “I had a final shoot [in May of 2011], and he was outwardly rude and degrading the entire time. He said I was ‘disgusting’ and started telling people how unprofessional I was by spreading rumors that I was drunk on set and partying every night, which of course I wasn’t. I was then told to leave because Paul had said, ‘Get that fat pig off my set.’”

“I constantly blamed myself after it happened: What am I doing to invite someone to treat me like that or grab me like that?”

The final straw came when, after experience huge success with her Sports Illustrated cover, Upton was offered Guess’s highest paying offer ever to appear in the brand’s 2012 campaign.

Upton initially accepted, hoping that she would be treated with professionalism after her heightened fame. But as the shoot approached, so did Marciano’s advances and she felt she needed to refuse the campaign.

“Paul began texting that he would make sure to be on set,” Upton recalls.

“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.”

Upton says that her experiences with Marciano severely physiologically impacted her. Like many women who have experienced harassment and assault, she says it made her question and blame herself and took a toll on her self-confidence.

She says: “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.”

Marciano has responded to Upton’s accusations, calling them “absolutely false” and “preposterous.” 

In a statement to TIME Magazine he says: “I have never been alone with Kate Upton.” 

“I have never touched her inappropriately. Nor would I ever refer to a Guess model in such a derogatory manner.”

Photographer Yu Tsai has confirmed that he witnessed the harassment Upton describes and corroborated details of her allegations.

Despite her ordeal, Upton is defiant. 

In a sentiment that will stir many women who have felt pressured and taken advantage of in the work places, she says: “I’m sick of being silenced and expected to sweep everything under the rug.

“I’m sick of being expected to laugh off these aggressive advances and accept the power imbalances that exist. 

“Paul used his power to make me feel insecure and powerless, but I’m not going to let him intimidate me anymore. These men think they are untouchable, but times are changing.”

Images: Rex Features

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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a digital journalist for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about London happenings, beautiful places, delicious morsels and generally spreading sparkle wherever she can.

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