Accusations of sexual impropriety in the fashion industry are nothing new. The list of allegations against notorious photographer Terry Richardson recently grew so long that Richardson defended himself in a Huffington Post blog, then spoke out in a New York Magazine cover story.
Despite copious coverage of the disturbing accusations, model Nikia Phoenix says sexual abuse against models is still an unchecked reality in the fashion industry. During a conversation about gender and fashion, Phoenix told HuffPost Live's Ricky Camilleri that she "can't believe it's gone on for this long."
"It's been a rumor within the fashion industry for years and years and years that Terry Richardson is a sexual predator, along with Dov Charney, the former CEO of American Apparel," Phoenix said. "We've all known this, and I don't know why they've still been able to exist in the capacity they have."
Phoenix said that the reputation of people like Richardson is well-known among women working in fashion.
"Models, we talk amongst ourselves. We tell our agents, 'Yes, working with this person may make my career, but do I really want to subject myself to a possible sexual predator?'" she said.
So why have the complaints not made more waves of change?
"I'm still completely baffled by it. I don't know if it's that no one wanted to press charges, or a lot of models feel like they don't have a voice, like they don't want to be the whistleblower in the situation because it may cost them jobs in the future," Phoenix said.
Phoenix isn't the first model to speak out against Richardson on HuffPost Live. Sara Ziff, the founder of Model Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting models' legal rights, said in February that after working with Richardson several times, she "wouldn't work with him" again.
"[Richardson] will ask you to take your clothes off at the casting, and in some cases, give him sexual favors," Ziff said.