Friday, June 22, 2012

Million Dollar Scandal! Former Abercrombie Store Model Sues the Company Over 'Sexual Predator' Allegations...

Ex-A&F store model Ben Bowers, plaintiff in lawsuit over sexual allegations.
Image by  |  (image source)
What does one have to do to achieve the desirable relaxed and sensual look in photography? Well, according to a former Abercrombie & Fitch store model, he was asked to bare all his flesh and give himself a touch of his hand...masturbate in front of the camera! So boldly alleges Benjamine "Ben" Bowers who was an eighteen year-old at the time when he went in front of the lens – on 17 June 2011 at Jackson, Mississippi – for photographer Brian Hilburn...the guy identified in the lawsuit as a "sexual predator."

And what in the world does Abercrombie & Fitch have to do with this alleged incident? Models who do not make the final cut for A&F marketing campaigns are instead directed towards recommended modeling agents. As Bowers has shared, it was an A&F Casting director who referred him to Hilburn. And as Bowers strongly furthers, "Abercrombie & Fitch and Hollister Co. are delivering the names, photographs, addresses and telephone numbers of its young employees to a sexual predator."[source 1]

So is the basis of this scandal which also references victims, not just Bowers, but "young and vulnerable employees [who] are instructed to pose nude and masturbate in front of Hilburn while he photographs and videotapes them. Instead of being rewarded with a selection as a coveted model for Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister Co., the young employees are subjected to shameful and embarrassing sexual harassment."[source 1] Thus, Bowers, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, is presented as being but one of supposedly numerous models to whom this has occurred. He's furthermore stated that he complied, scared and confused, because he was intimidated by Hilburn who affirmed that Bowers had to acquiesce to establish a career:

"Specifically, Hilburn stated that there is a specific 'relaxed' look that characterizes the expressions on the faces of the most successful male models in the industry. Hilburn told plaintiff that he had tried various methods to replicate this expression on the models he shoots, including giving them alcoholic beverages before the shoot and even having them masturbate in another room before coming in to be photographed; however, he discovered the most effective method was for the model to masturbate in front of the camera so the facial expression could be captured on film immediately after orgasm. Hilburn also stated to plaintiff this was an industry secret he heard from a photographer in New York. Hilburn stated to plaintiff that this 'look' is what all photographers expect from models, so naturally, he had to go through this procedure in order to generate the best photographs for introducing plaintiff to the industry." – excerpt from complaint (source)

Bowers even says he was given an iPad with pornography, and that it wasn't long (no pun intended!) before Hilburn exposed his own penis to him – supposedly to engage Bowers – and even made comments regarding their genitalia. Ultimately, the former A&F store model states that Hilburn's industry-insider-masturbation-method was made up only to get Bowers naked and to perform the sexual act, photographed and videotaped, for the photographer's personal sexual-predatory pleasure...

If the entire thing is true, then it's kinda stupid Bowers didn't realize that and walk out on the spot. Surely, we've all heard the dreadful retelling of aspiring young models who end up in a nasty situation by abusive photographers. Most often, you hear about the sexual advances and sexual harassment which befalls the naive unaware of the realities of the industry and of the predators lurking within...

Regarding Bowers' case, we know not more then what is alleged by the plaintiff and it's all up for the Superior Court to decide whether to rule in favor of the plaintiff (Bowers) or the defendants which are named in the 41-page complaint, carrying fourteen causes of action, as being Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc., Abercrombie & Fitch Trading Co., J.M. Hollister LLC, Hollister Co. California LLC, a woman by the name of Daisy Ashburn, Brian Hilburn and AIG Model & Talent Management LLC. The plaintiff, Ben Bowers, is being represented by Matthew Panagiotis (Zomber & Panagiotis) and is seeking US$1 million+ in damages for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, fraud in the inducement, rescission due to fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, deceit, sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and negligent hiring and supervision.[source 1] ...Yeah, that's quite a load!

We'll see how this turns out as legal proceedings further develop...