Ashley Graham Opens up About Her Harrowing Sexual Harassment Experience as a Teen Model

Amanda Williams
Ashley Graham
Photo: Getty Images

Supermodel Ashley Graham joined the #MeToo campaign on Tuesday by sharing her personal story on “The View.” During a discussion about recent sexual assault accusation against fashion photographer Terry Richardson, Graham expressed her own frightening experience with sexual harassment in the fashion industry.

After a photoshoot at age 17, Graham said that a photo assistant asked to speak with her before luring her into a hallway, pushing her into a closet, and exposing himself to her. He then said, “Look at what you did to me all day long. Now touch it.” Though Graham traveled and lived on her own in New York City at the time, the “America’s Next Top Model” judge felt that, as a minor, 17 is still a tender age. “My mom stopped traveling with me when I was 16 years old,” Graham said. “At 17, you are very young traveling on your own.”

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Richardson had shot photos for noteworthy designers such as Marc Jacobs, Yves Saint Laurent and Tom Ford. He also worked with high-fashion magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. However, both magazines have since cut ties with Richardson. Though Graham said that she personally did not encounter any sexual harassment by Richardson when she worked with him, she remained skeptical given the bad rumors that surrounded his legacy.

“I said ‘yes’ to the job because you want to work with the best of the best,” said Graham, who feared that, despite Richardson’s talent, she could become a victim as well. “On set with him, it was normal enough, but of course, you have that fear of ‘is he going to ask me to take my shirt off?’ You just don’t know.”

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Much like other victims of sexual harassment or assault, Graham did not come forward about the incident for fear of not being able to work again. “If they find out that he did that to me, I thought ‘I’m never going to be hired for a job again,” she said. “I’m going to be the ‘difficult model’ and nobody’s going to want to work with me again.” As an adult, Graham wishes she knew then what she knows now. Not only is she more than ready to defend young women in her field, but she wants to prepare them to defend themselves.

By October 2017, more than 12 million people have shared their #MeToo stories on social media. At Sunday’s Golden Globe awards, hundreds of celebrities united to take a stand against sexual harassment in working environments with the Time’s Up campaign. Despite more harrowing stories coming out every day, Graham feels that the movement is working.

Like Graham and the millions of men and women saying “#MeToo,” we stand with them and say “time’s up.”