In 2011, Carré Otis published Beauty, Disrupted, a memoir in which she made serious sexual assault allegations against agency boss Gérald Marie. Almost ten years later, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the fashion industry has only just begun to acknowledge the problematic power dynamics and complicity of silence that existed—and continues to exist—within its ranks. But is enough being done? And how and when should those who have experienced assault or harassment speak up? MODELS.com asked Carré for her advice, perspective, and insight.
Knowing what you know now what advice would you give to your younger self?
A reminder that things change! Both the good and the bad. It’s so hard for young minds to comprehend that what is happening in the moment won’t last forever. Also to be forgiving with yourself and that it’s OK to say no! Boundaries are a really important piece of being human and surviving. Life lessons that are not taught often enough.
How would you advise a parent or guardian with a child within the industry? How can they make sure their child is protected while also allowing them to have some autonomy?
I don’t believe children should be in the fashion industry, especially as it is at this current stage. There is much change that needs to take place to ensure that the modeling world is a safe place… for everyone.
That being said, a reputable agent (not always easy to find) is essential. As well as a mentor and an adult on set at all times to advocate for the minor. There are far too many reports of sexual misconduct, sexual objectification and sexual assault on castings and sets to have children be alone in any way shape, or form.
How would you compare the industry today to the industry when you entered it?
It is still mostly unregulated which is shocking to me. Perhaps the offenses were more blatant when I was working but they still exist and it’s not good news that they may be more undercover now. Predatory behavior in the industry has been normalized for decades, and there have been high profile individuals that have been protected by the industry despite it being known that they are abusive and dangerous. So I cannot say it has changed all that much.
Are there any instincts you have developed over the years that you have learned to trust?
All instincts should be trusted. They are there and in place to keep us safe. I think it has been more of the case that I have had to learn to trust my instincts rather than develop them. They were always there but I hadn’t been taught to honor them. All young people should be encouraged to listen to their hearts and trust themselves first and foremost.
What advice would you give to a person who finds themselves in a compromising or uncomfortable situation? How does that person assert themselves in a power-based industry?
It’s so important to speak up and speak out. To seek support, safety and help when needed. I highly recommend that all models join the Model Alliance as well utilize their Support Hotline to both report any inappropriate incident (confidentially, on or off the record) and access any and all support resources they have. It is true we are safer in numbers and to see any industry changes, we will all have to start speaking out. As well, the more we can suggest that the industry join the Respect Program, the more we can lean into the possibility of industry change.
What responsibilities do agencies have to a model who has experienced mistreatment by someone at work? What support and intervention should that person expect and be given?
Agents should be held accountable and responsible to ensure their workforce is always going to a safe casting and set. Agents should also be held accountable when they send their models to a set with a known predator, which has been the case too often. When a model experiences mistreatment it should also be the agent’s responsibility to report misconduct to the clients as well as The Model Alliance. This is the only way we can begin to demand a safer workplace… misconduct and mistreatment in any workplace needs to be addressed and those individuals should be held accountable and not be allowed to continue to work in our industry. Other industries work this way…. the modeling industry shouldn’t be an exception to that rule.
What changes can the industry — or even just individuals within the industry– make in order to prevent, support or protect young models from exploitation?
Join The Model Alliance. Join The Respect Program. Report incidents of misconduct. Use your voice and join us!
There are people who enable or have knowledge of predatory behavior or practices within the industry but haven’t taken action to stop it. There are also people who have worked alongside accused predators within the industry and don’t believe accusations can be true. What do you say to those people?
You are complicit. You are no different than Ghislaine Maxwell. There are too many within this industry that have done just this. Looked away. Deferred responsibility. Even knowingly supplied the predators with innocent victims. From bookers to assistants to agents. If ever there were a time to change one’s ways, come forward, use your voice and protect models, it’s now. There is a tsunami of truth heading this way. We are the next wave of the #metoo movement. This is one of the last frontiers to be tackled and reformed but it’s underway and those that have stood by the wayside for years also need to be held accountable.
What have been the positive experiences you have had within the fashion industry?
I have worked with incredible artists, co-created incredible works of art, traveled the world and met individuals that will be in my heart for life.
Jean Luc Brunel was arrested by French authorities at the end of 2020. What outcome(s) do you hope will be achieved from his prosecution?
My attacker was not Jean Luc but Gerald Marie. But of course, JLB is one of the players in the game. There seems to be a ring that worked together and at times as enemies but all behaving in the same ways. I am glad the French authorities have taken this seriously and can only hope they will do so with the same serious allegations against GM. I pray that justice can be had for all of the victims as we span decades where these serial perpetrators have blatantly gotten away with so much. This is unconscionable and in this day and age, it’s appalling we have these criminals still working within this industry.
What did you fear the repercussions would be by speaking out against your attacker? Did any of those fears materialize?
I did not know then what I know now. When I published my book Beauty Disrupted prior to the #metoo movement I knew it was a risk to speak out. The repercussions were that no one was ready to speak about such things and I was ostracized. There are times in life we must make sacrifices for the greater good and as a mother of daughters I knew I could not remain silent. What we know now is that I was far from alone… there are MANY women… and many still too frightened to come forward for fear of retaliation of being blackballed from work. And we all know too well this is common and a regular occurrence. If one speaks out you simply don’t work in this industry but that is going to change.
Your search for justice has taken decades. What do you hope can be learned from your experiences?
Each and every one of our stories holds validity and deserves to be heard and acknowledged. You never know how your courage might affect another. I hope my experiences and efforts can make this industry a safe and accountable place. Until there is real change and we have industry leaders signing up with The Model Alliance Respect Program it will remain unregulated. There are solutions and I hope that some of these big players will do the right thing and get on the moral and just side of the fence with us, the survivors that have been abused for far too long while so many insiders turned a blind eye. I call that complicit. This news is exploding now. With Owen Mooney calling out Alexander Wang only to find there were COUNTLESS others that came before him. And now with Marciano being called out. WE ARE the next wave of the #metoo movement. We are at the forefront. And until all industries are safe from sexual harassment and assault… we are not done.