Protecting Male Models
October 25, 2013
JUNE 2016, IMPORTANT
If you or anyone you know has been contacted about a photoshoot from anyone claiming to represent Modelresource, please ignore it. Someone using the email address firstname.lastname@example.org is pretending to be Dan Grant. This person may be dangerous.
If you have been contacted by this person, please forward details of your conversation to email@example.com.
As a father whose son has been scouted, maybe I need to be the one to break the silence. I've been around this industry for 20 years now, since my college girlfriend (who would later become my first wife and the mother to my only child) was an international model. I didn't get into this field to be around pretty people or hang out at after-parties. My entry to the industry came about as a result of falling in love with a model who I worried about every time she worked.
In the mid 1990s there wasn't a wealth of online info to educate potential models. When a girl went away, to Milan or Japan, they put their trust in the mother agent and boarded a plane. Boyfriends back home received the occasional letter in the mail, and placed very expensive phone calls now and then. There was no Skype. There was no BBM.
Now there are websites like Toronto's own The Business Model that freely offer up market overviews to anyone that cares enough to click. Facebook provides personal insights from your "friends" in all corners of the connected planet and information gets circulated and recirculated like a doctor's office copy of Cosmo.
A couple weeks ago my Facebook news feed lit up with people commenting on Jezebel's Terry Richardson report. The well-known photographer, it explains, is a well-known dirtbag. The fact that the story was posted more than three years ago and still has the potential to become a recurring theme on the world's largest social media platform is a clear sign of how repulsed the industry is by guys in positions of power that prey on vulnerable females.
But what about the boys? Why does no one talk about the male models that get pressured into nasty situations? Bros, of course, don't talk about it with each other. Men aren't taken seriously as victims.
Within the fashion industry it's no secret there are lecherous types that stoop to disgusting depths to get with guys. It also happens in the church, in schools and sport. Any place where adults assume positions of power over minors there are going to be some that abuse the trust they've been afforded.
In the hockey world, Theoren Fleury had to publicly self-destruct before coming to terms with the effects of being sexually assaulted by a coach. A few years earlier, Sheldon Kennedy (who skated with Fleury both in junior and again as a member of the Calgary Flames) bravely opened up about his own sexual victimization while being mentored by the very same Graham James. Kennedy and Fleury made it okay for male athletes to speak out, but still - more than a decade later - very few have.
Thursday's revelation that Norwayne Anderson has been charged with five counts of sexual assault and two others of sexual exploitation was shocking (Toronto Police Service .pdf news release). I've known Anderson for close to a decade and watched models he managed – particularly males – ascend to the top of the fashion industry.
Anderson is an extremely charismatic man, well known for his big, infectious smile. He has a talent for scouting and knows his way around the industry better than most. Although he and I haven't been particularly friendly towards one another in recent years, I've never had reason to suspect him of sexual impropriety. I hear a lot of gossip, but this never entered the discussion.
None of the allegations against Anderson has been tested in a court of law.
When the owner of NAM approached my then-16-year-old son, I told my son he should be flattered because there wasn't a better men's scout in the country than Anderson. I wasn't in favour of my boy becoming a model at the time. He lacked the maturity, and as his father I wanted to shield him from the all the dirtbags nobody talks about. Now he's older and better able to speak up for himself, but I'm sure as hell not disappointed he chose university instead.
My biggest hope if the accusations against Anderson are true, is that the victims heal and Anderson gets whatever he needs (counselling, incarceration) to never offend again.
If there are victims that haven't yet come forward, I pray they find the strength to do so, but in order for that to happen it's important that more of us start talking about the fact that guys are also vulnerable to sexual predators.
Photographers, stylists, clients and agents need to be told repeatedly and loudly that pressuring guys into uncomfortable situations is heinous and unacceptable.
Anyone with a son they love, would (and should) tell you the same.