A week after she accused Guess cofounder and former C.E.O, Paul Marciano, of sexual harassment, Kate Upton is ready to speak out. The 25-year-old detailed her sexual misconduct allegations in a powerful interview with Time, in which she claimed that Marciano groped her and fired her from a photo shoot when she didn’t reciprocate his advances.
According to Upton, the first instance of sexual harassment occurred on a Guess lingerie shoot in July 2010. She claimed that as soon as she walked in to meet Marciano, he went up to her and started playing with her breasts. “Paul came straight up to me, forcibly grabbed my breasts and started feeling them—playing with them actually,” Upton said. “After I pushed him away, he said, ‘I’m making sure they’re real.'”
Upton alleged that Marciano continued to touch her inappropriately by grabbing her body parts, including her neck, arms, breasts, and shoulders, and pulling her closer to him. Upton then alleged that Marciano told Yu Tsai, the photographer who Upton had walked in with, to leave the room, so he and Upton could be alone. Immediately, Upton texted Tsai, asking him to return. “I was extremely shaken, surprised and scared,” she said.
Marciano’s advances continued. At one point, Upton alleged that he grabbed the back of her head and started kissing her face and neck. “I remember not wanting to say ‘Get off of me’ because I didn’t want to open my mouth to say anything because I didn’t want him to be able to put his tongue in my mouth,” she said. “I had two options: do everything I could to wiggle away and avoid his pursuit, or punch the CEO of Guess. So I decided to just wiggle away.”
After the incident, Upton claimed that Marciano continually asked her to visit her in her hotel room, which she declined every time. Soon after, she learned that she had been fired from the Guess job for becoming “fat.”
“The next day, I learned that I had been fired from the shoot,” Upton said. “Someone had called my agency to say I had gotten fat and would not be needed on set [that day]. I was devastated, especially because at this point no one from Guess had even seen me.”
However, Upton’s relationship with Guess didn’t end there. She received other jobs with the brand, which spurred more meeting requests from Marciano. Upton came up with a plan that whenever Marciano asked to meet with her, she would ask Tsai to be in the same room, to deter his advances. “Paul’s texting increased, telling me how excited he was to see me, that he wanted me to change in front of him so he could see my naked body getting into his clothes,” Upton said. “He asked if I thought of him when I was posing sexy on set.”
Soon after, Tsai was fired due to what Upton suspected was retaliation. Photographer Ellen von Unwerth was hired to replace him. One day, Marciano pulled Upton aside to go to dinner with him alone. Seeing this, von Unwerth grabbed her other arm. “I felt like she saved me by pulling me away from him and jokingly walking me to the elevator, saying, ‘Well if I’m not going, Kate’s not going,'” Upton said. “I have always been so grateful to Ellen for doing that.”
Upton claimed that Marciano then became irate and started texting her, calling her “disgusting” and a “fat pig” and accusing her of arriving to photo shoots drunk. “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,” Upton said. “I was then told to leave because Paul had said, ‘Get that fat pig off my set.'”
A year later, after Upton’s fame rose from a Sports Illustrated cover, she was offered $400,000 to shoot with Guess, the company’s highest-ever offer. She declined a week before the shoot. Upton said that the experience “took a huge toll” on her self-worth. She began slumping her shoulders to hide her breasts and body.
She also opened up about why she chose to speak out on Marciano and how she feels a new sense of power. “I’m sick of being silenced and expected to sweep everything under the rug,” Upton said. “I’m sick of being expected to laugh off these aggressive advances and accept the power imbalances that exist. I’m sick of being expected to endure all of this while being polite and professional through it all. 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.”
Read Upton’s full story on Time’s website.