"We All Knew About the Trafficking"-The Untold Story of Trump Model Management (Part 1)

Clerk Note: This is a major skeleton in Trump's closet that should have precluded him from politics. It is so glaring that the media missed this, it acts as a signal flare to issues of media and their weaknesses that such could be overlooked. Shows the extent of the con game to get Clinton elected.


"We All Knew About the Trafficking"-The Untold Story of Trump Model Management (Part 1)


By: Swedishjewfish
Date: 2016-10-06

Authors Note-The Wade Turnbull I attributed to the Twitter posts was incorrectly identified as an individual with the same name. The Wade Turnbull quoted-who I did not speak with prior to this publication-is the owner of the website Cargo Collective.  My apologies for the error. 

Back in July of this year, an article written by author Michael Gross about Trump’s modeling company was posted on the Daily Beast. It didn’t receive much fanfare, nor did these tweets-but lets take a look at them for a moment-

 Asked to explain further, he stated the following:

These Tweets came from the account of Wade Turnbull. His remarks echo the sentiments of many who have worked with Trump Model Management. Turnbulls remarks are notable in particular because of their timing-They were made a full two months before the Mother Jones article outlining the immigration fraud, financial exploitation and generally deplorable working conditions at Trump’s agency were made public.

It should also be noted that Mr. Turnbull, judging by his Twitter feed, is no fan of Hillary Clinton.  This is simply his impression, based on his experience working with this particular agency. And he is far from alone in his views. 

Some people have said this is the face of a human trafficker

About a month ago I came across a Mother Jones article about Trump’s modeling agency and its treatment of a young, largely immigrant workforce. The story was, in a way the height of irony-here was a man who built an entire campaign on his hard-line stance against immigrants, and all the while his business was committing full-scale immigration fraud. But as I read on, I was struck by how much this all resembled the business model of sex trafficking-something I have researched and written about extensively.

I was not alone in my impressions-others who commented on the Mother Jones piece and the subsequent coverage made similar observations. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes commented that Trump Models seemed to be borderline human trafficking, initially making the comment on Twitter and later on dedicating a segment of his prime time show to exploring the topic. Seth Meyers, for his part, did a segment on the MJ piece as well, comparing it to an episode of Law & Order SVU. While his commentary was cloaked in his usual sardonic humor, Seth’s disgust was evident as he wondered aloud if the prospect of Trump harboring sex slaves in his proverbial basement would be enough to make voters sour on his candidacy. 

At the time this story broke, I assumed it was going to blow up. I assumed that follow up reporting would be done, and it would become the major story of the 2016 election. I thought it might even open up a long overdue dialogue about sex trafficking, and how our broken immigration and criminal justice systems enables its existence. 

But that never happened.

To my astonishment the story disappeared into the ether of the 24/7 news cycle and seemed to be all but forgotten within a week, if that. Barbara Boxer initiated a senate inquiry, which I have been told is now underway. MJ did a short follow up, noting that Trump Models only response was to point out that the story was from “many many years ago” (it actually wasn’t) Melania Trump sued a relatively unknown Canadian blogger and the Daily Mail over a related story, but otherwise disappeared from public view amid questions about her own strange and inconsistent account of her path to citizenship. And even as Trump ramped up his scathing rhetoric about undocumented immigrants, not one reporter bothered to challenge him on how he squared those public pronouncements with his business practices. Not one reporter asked him how much of his own purported fortune was made on the backs of undocumented immigrants, from his Polish demolition crews to his imported child models, and why that kind of thing was acceptable. The universe basically gave a collective shrug, and moved on.

And yet I couldn’t. And so I started researching, and writing what I thought would be a decent blog post, perhaps two, But the more I researched, the more I found, and the bigger the story became. I have conducted interviews with models who have worked with Trump’s agency, and those at rival agencies but were familiar with his practices and the industry generally. 

This is a difficult story to write-it’s taken me hundreds of hours to slog through the research, and even longer to put it together in a coherent way. I’ve also been ham-stringed by the fact that most people who deal with Trump are not willing to speak on the record about their experience with him-especially the very people I had to talk to for this story, who are young and relatively powerless young women who signed iron clad non disclosure agreements and are afraid of the notoriously litigious Trump. I understand their hesitation-this is a dark subject, and it involves powerful people who no doubt have a vested interest in keeping a lot of this out of the public. Indeed, I have never been more afraid to hit “publish” in my life-my only comfort is knowing that everything I’ve written is based on factual information. 

I came to a conclusion about the nature of Trumps activities, but I’m going to stop short of saying what that is and let the facts speak for themselves. Because this is a complex story, it is going to be done in several parts, and the installments are going to be long-especially this first one. In order to really understand the information I uncovered I had to learn about the history of the fashion and modeling industries in order to put it into context. I believe it will be helpful to others as well-it’s a different world, and most of us don’t ever navigate it. I believe that is a big part of why this hasn’t been picked up before. (Note-For background information I relied primarily on 2 books- Model-The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women by Micheal Gross, and Bad And Beautiful: Inside the Dazzling and Deadly World of Supermodels by Ian Halperin. An earlier version of this story did not contain proper attribution, and I apologize for the oversight.) 

So with apologies in advance for the length, and what might at times be some unpolished writing-please read all of this, and share it with others. There are many issues that require our attention, and many aspects of Trumps business dealings that need to be investigated- but this story is important, and it hasn’t ever really been told. I will do my best to tell it, with the hopes that other more skilled writers with bigger platforms and more resources can flesh it out further-preferably before November 8th. 

Part 1-The Ugly Business of Beautiful Girls

The first thing you need to know about the fashion industry is that everything you see is a lie. The beautiful woman who looks up seductively from the cover of a magazine may very well only be a child. The glamorous lifestyle you imagine models living is in reality a grinding, low-wage existence of long hours and slum-like living conditions. Living conditions which in some cases have been contractually required. The exorbitant rent charged for that squalor is then directly deducted from any wages they can garner. In some cases the models may owe significant amounts of money to their agency-making only an average of $23,000 per year, before expenses. The reality of fashion is it’s an illusion by design, intended to both trick the customer into thinking they need the items being sold, and to sell the lifestyle and glamour of being a model to vulnerable young girls. 

Once upon a time, the fashion industry was one of the few where women were at the helm. This was not surprising given that it relies on a consumer market driven by women. So in days past, while far from perfect, fashion models were at least representative of the average woman in size, stature and age. And their purpose was to model the clothing that women might want to buy, giving them an idea of how it might look on their own bodies. The modeling agencies of this time were headed mostly by mother hen types, like Eileen Ford-dedicated to standardized pay and curfews for their models. It was decidedly boring, and unsexy. 

In the 1970’s the industry began to change. It began moving away from fashion as a utilitarian concept, and into a kind of pop culture theater of costumes and performance art, all the while promoting an increasingly unattainable ideal of feminine beauty, and blurring the boundaries between women and girls, exploitation and art. There were a number of reasons behind this transformation-but one of the driving forces was the sexual liberation movement, and the dark side of its gains. In the words of writer Rebecca Solnit, reflecting on her experiences as a young teen in the 70’s, “the sexual revolution had deteriorated into a sort of free-market free-trade ideology in which all should have access to sex and none should deny access”

Pop culture was also influenced by the emergence of Playboy magazine-with its clever use of genuinely

good editorial content from respected writers interspersed with pornographic images, was able to re brand what had previously been seen as smut into something almost classy. Cloaked with the veneer of sophistication, and by publicly aligning the brand with the causes of feminism, civil rights and free speech, Hugh Hefner was able to mainstream the objectification of female bodies in a way that had never been done before. He made porn fashionable-and it was only a matter of time before fashion embraced this approach as well. 

“Chester the Molester”-Hustler magazine

In the 70’s Playboy’s brand faced competition, in the similarly constructed but more explicit Penthouse magazine. Its publisher Bob Guccione and Hefner became engaged in a game of one-upsmanship as they competed for customers with increasingly explicit content. Playboy and Penthouse were soon joined by Hustler, which played a role in normalizing the idea of pre- and peri-pubescent girls as sexually desirable and available. It did this with its popular “barely legal” franchise, but in a more subversive way it also did this through its comics. In fact Dwayne Tinsley, Hustlers cartoon editor for 25 years, created one of the most popular recurring characters in the magazine- 'Chester the Molester', a cartoon which depicted Tinsley's character, Chester, sexually abusing prepubescent girls. In 1989, Tinsley's own daughter testified that he molested her, and he was convicted of sexually abusing his daughter as well as having sexual contact with another 13-year-old girl, whose accusations originally led to his arrest. He continued to draw and publish his comics from prison. 

But even the sophisticated Playboy would dip its toe into the underage market-its 1975 issue featured a now infamous set of photos shot by Gary Gross-in a series titled “sugar and spice” Brooke Shields appeared naked, sitting and standing in a bathtub covered in oil and a full face of makeup. She was 10 years old.

But even the sophisticated Playboy would dip its toe into the underage market-it’s 1975 issue featured a now infamous set of photos shot by Gary Gross (no relation to the author of Model)-in a series titled “sugar and spice” Brooke Sheilds appeared naked, sitting and standing in a bathtub covered in oil and a full face of makeup. She was 10 years old.

Brooke Shields at age 10, cropped for obvious reasons

The photo shoot was part of Gross’s work for a larger project-a publication called “The Woman in the Child”, in which he wanted to reveal the femininity of prepubescent girls by comparing them to adult women. His partner in the project was Playboy Press.

In 1976, the Italian edition of Playboy featured another child pictorial-11 year old Eva Lonesco as photographed by her mother-who she would later sue for profiting off of her exploitation. In a twist of irony, Lonesco-who was eventually taken away from her mother by child welfare officials-was the inspiration for the 1978 film “Pretty Baby”. The film starred none other than Brooke Shields, then 12, as a child prostitute, complete with nude scenes. All of this, it should be noted, took place while Brooke was signed under Ford Models, who found success in marketing her as the new ideal of feminine beauty. In 1980, Brooke Shields became the youngest model to score the cover of Vogue. She was 14 years old. 

As one might have predicted, the commodification of young girls into sex symbols drew many into the industry with less than noble intentions. Throughout the late 70’s the industry became gradually taken over by a crowded field of “playboys”, who liked the idea of owning a modeling agency for obvious reasons. But there was no greater success-and no single person who transformed the industry more than John Casablancas

“I Treated Them Like Women”-John Casablancas in the 1970’s

John Casablancas at his New York office of Elite

John Casablancas was a Brooklyn born son of wealthy Spaniards, highly educated and handsome. In the 1970’s he was a notorious playboy living in Milan when he started a relationship with a professional model. His girlfriend, who he would eventually marry, was represented by Ford Models, the #1 agency  

in the world at the time. Casablancas would eventually work for the company as well, as one of their talent agents in Paris. Through his work and his numerous romances with models, he realized that many of the women were growing restless in the low wage, unglamorous existence they had under the stewardship of Eileen Ford, and resented the fact that they often couldn’t afford the clothes they were modeling. Ford ran her agency with an iron fist, imposing curfews and morality clauses on her models, and insisting on chaperones for photo shoots. This code of conduct and strict rules were largely informed by Ford’s own experiences as a model, and her understanding of how predatory the industry could be. She was committed to both protecting her models, and making the industry more professional as a whole. And while Ford could be overbearing, she was also a motherly influence and brought in many of the models she represented into her home to nurture them alongside her 4 children and help them navigate the perils of a notoriously exploitative industry.

Casablancas, who broke away from Ford and started Elite Model Management in 1972, by contrast, offered something different. First, he offered money-much more than models were making under Ford and similar agencies. He also offered the prospect of a more exiting lifestyle unhindered by curfews or morality clauses, where late night partying, drug use and hedonistic pleasures were encouraged. While Ford and her compatriots provided the security of labor protection-such as standardized pay and working hours- Casablancas embraced the increasingly popular principals of unbridled capitalism and neoliberalism. In exchange for employment security he gave them an opportunity to earn money commensurate with their commercial success, and the possibilities were endless.

Casablancas opened Elite Model Management in 1972 with a roster of all-star talent, cementing his reputation as a top tier agency. But within its first year, 2 of his top models were dead. The first was Paula Brenken, who mysteriously dove out a window in a drunken state the night after she told friends she had been raped by a photographer. The next to die was Emmanuel Dano, who became hooked on drugs soon after signing with Elite. According to Casablancas, she was out for a late night drive with several male friends when they attempted to rape her, and fell out of the moving car while trying to fight off her attackers. He said she died instantly. This story raised quite a few eyebrows, in part because it was John Casablancas who discovered her body- lying in her own bed. In both cases there was little police investigation, despite the suspicious circumstances of these deaths-and the fact that the only explanation came from Casablancas.

John Casablancas, a marketing genius, would somehow be able to use those high profile tragedies as good publicity-his agency became the object of fascination, and stories of his models exploits became legendary. People in the fashion industry, the media, and the public became obsessed with following their every move, and Casablancas learned the benefits of courting controversy, and using media coverage as a marketing tool. In 1977 Casablancas moved his agency headquarters to New York, and set about stealing as many Ford girls as he could.

Ford struck back, hitting him with a lawsuit for unlawful business practices and beginning a long running legal battle that would become known as “The Model Wars”. For Casablancas, this only solidified his resolve-he would not only take Ford’s girls, he would make them successful beyond their wildest dreams and he would become the number one agency in the world.

Playboys and Wannabes-Casablancas and Trump in the 1970’s

Around this time Donald Trump was working tirelessly to ingratiate himself into the Manhattan social scene with little success. That changed when he met the man who would become his mentor and closest adviser, Roy Cohn-the infamous lawyer who first gained notoriety as a red baiter during the McCarthy Hearings. Trump met Cohn in 1973 at Le Club, a members-only East Side hangout.

Trump was 27, and had just moved to Manhattan but was still working in Brooklyn at one of his father’s company offices. He was a nobody at the time, but he was able to strong arm the owners of Le Club into a membership-something he did as a way to get to know older, connected and powerful men like Roy Cohn. At the time, Trump and his father had been slapped with a lawsuit by the Department of Justice for racial discrimination, for refusing to rent out their real estate properties to black families. Trump knew his best shot at getting the feds to back down was to get a political “fixer” like Roy Cohn on his side. Cohn would eventually represent the Trumps in a counter suit against the DOJ, and ultimately a settlement would be reached. But that was just the beginning of Trump and Cohn’s relationship-“Though Cohn had ostensibly been retained by Donald to handle a single piece of litigation,” Wayne Barrett, an investigative journalist for New York’s Village Voice, would write in his 1992 book about the Trump family “he began in the mid-‘70s to assume a role in Donald’s life far transcending that of a lawyer. He became Donald’s mentor, his constant adviser on every significant aspect of his business and personal life.” 

Through Cohn, Trump gained access to Manhattan’s drug-fueled disco scene, of which Cohn was a fixture. Cohn would become the legal advisor to Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, the owners of Studio 54 where Trump would spend much of the 1970’s. During this period, Trump engaged in such excess of promiscuity that he deemed it “my second business” according to author Michael Gross. During an interview with Gross for his Pop Culture anthology My Generation- Trump reminisced on this time of his life “You had drugs, women and booze all over the fuckin’ place”, he boasted. “If I hadn’t got married, who knows what would have happened?” in case anyone missed his point, he would later clarify-“I don’t think anybody had more sex than I did. Sex was all over the fucking place”. He would also describe the typical night at Studio 54-“I would watch supermodels getting screwed, well-known supermodels getting screwed, on a bench in the middle of the room. There were seven of them and each one was getting screwed by a different guy.” Later he would tell Howard Stern that his sexual exploits-and their inherent risk of deadly disease-were what he considered his “personal Vietnam”, opining that there was perhaps no more deadly weapon than the vagina. 

And such was the life that Donald Trump saw in the late 70’s. In a way, it was a life not all that dissimilar to Casablancas’, yet with 2 considerable differences. One, Casablancas was a self-made man who was naturally charming, attractive, and navigated the celebrity and social scene with ease. Donald Trump was not. In fact Trump had a personality that most people in the elite circles he wanted to belong to found off putting. But perhaps the greatest difference between the two men was John Casablancas was famous, and Trump was not. 

Nonetheless, Trump and Casablancas would cross paths at some point during the 70’s-most likely through Roy Cohn, who was involved in the suit between Elite and Ford-and they would form a decades long friendship and later a formal partnership that would end up influencing many of his future career choices and inform his style of interacting with the media. Casablancas’ influence on Trump becomes obvious when reading about both men, and it portends quite a bit, but has been largely forgotten by history. 

As they approached the end of the 1970’s the two men were on very different trajectories. Donald Trump met, and started dating, Czech model Ivana Zelnícková- a woman who, despite his later claims that she was a supermodel, was in reality barely making a living posing in her bikini at trade shows at the time they met. Ivana and Trump would marry in 1978 and their first child, Donald Jr., would be born 8 months later.

While Trump set about his life as a not particularly involved husband and father, John Casablancas became a staple of the New York gossip circuit, where his dalliances with the most beautiful women in the world were splashed across page 6 every week, and his high class lifestyle became the stuff of legend. Casablancas-young, undeniably handsome and increasingly wealthy, was no doubt the envy of many men at the time. Furthermore, he was untouchable-during his glory days he would be accused of rape, murder, and everything in between-and it never seemed to affect him personally or professionally.

(Quote from Bad and Beautiful: Inside the Dazzling and Deadly World of Supermodels by Ian Haplerin) 

“[Casablancas] didn’t care what the media said about him, just as long as they spelled his name right” said entertainment critic Thomas Mann. “He knew how to play the media to a tee and was a master at turning any publicity he got into dollars. The craziest part is he didn’t have to spend a dime marketing himself. The press followed him wherever he went, and became obsessed with every detail of his life. 

And while Trump entered his long period of reckless business deals and marital strife, Casablancas was becoming an international star, credited with creating the supermodel. With his stable of women-both the ones he poached from rival agencies, and a growing roster of mostly young teenage girls recruited by his team of less than reputable international talent scouts-he embraced his reputation for risk taking and debauchery. After signing Cindy Crawford in 1988 he encouraged her to pose for Playboy magazine, as a way to expand her brand. The ensuing publicity led to a job as host of the MTV show “House of Style” and her iconic Superbowl ad for Pepsi. In 1995 she topped the Forbes list of highest-paid models, earning $6.5 million. The era of the supermodel had begun. 

Donald Trump, for his part, was becoming increasingly restless, and reckless. Despite fathering 3 children and having a devoted wife, by all accounts he didn’t spend much time with any of them, preferring work and play to the routines of domestic life. In the 80’s he made at least two life changing decisions-to step out on his wife publicly, and to expand his negligible empire into Atlantic City casinos. He built Harrah’s at Trump Plaza in 1984, and a partially completed building that became Trump Castle in 1985-a property that would be managed by his first wife, Ivana. He also scooped up the Taj Mahal in 1988, which at a cost of $1.1 billion made it the most expensive casino ever built at the time. 

Somewhere along the line, during this time period, Trump appears to have hardened and grown cynical. Despite all of his efforts, by most accounts he was never really accepted by the Manhattan social

crowd. No matter how many buildings he put his name on, or how many millions he was worth, he was still always seen as a bit of a joke. Over time his resentment grew, and simmered into anger-and his actions became increasingly fueled by his need to settle scores.

According to the accounts of his business partner at Harrah’s, he was not well suited for the gambling world and was nothing more than an off-puttingly rude presence on the casino floor, often becoming angry at the very high rollers who make such industries incredibly lucrative in the first place, and demanding they leave if they were too far ahead of the house in their betting. Trump became steeped in excess, making extravagant purchases such as a private jet which he decorated with his name emblazoned across the fuselage-and yet he was so cheap that he refused to fly in VIP clients, even those who were prepared to put up millions of dollars in bets-because he didn’t want to waste the gas and he was concerned over the prospect of them using his gold plated toilets and introducing him to strange germs. 

As his Atlantic City escapades began, Trump was in the midst of at least one torrid affair-with a 20 year old beauty queen, no less, named Marla Maples. She was trying unsuccessfully to break into show business. In an attempt to keep first wife Ivana distracted from his dalliances, he would put her in charge of his Trump Castle property-a job for which she was given a salary, as he boasted, of $1 a year (and “all the dresses she can buy”). With Ivana distracted, he became increasingly hot and heavy with Marla, who he put up in a condo at Trump Tower and controlled every aspect of her social life. 

In the meantime his relationship with Ivana deteriorated-culminating in a now legendary ski slope showdown in Aspen between his wife and his girlfriend. And according to a sworn deposition that she gave during the divorce (which she would publicly distance herself from later) Donald brutally raped her:

After a painful scalp reduction surgery to remove a bald spot, Donald Trump confronted his then-wife, who had previously used the same plastic surgeon.

“Your fucking doctor has ruined me!” Trump cried.

What followed was a “violent assault,” according to Lost Tycoon. Donald held back Ivana’s arms and began to pull out fistfuls of hair from her scalp, as if to mirror the pain he felt from his own operation. He tore off her clothes and unzipped his pants.

“Then he jams his penis inside her for the first time in more than sixteen months. Ivana is terrified… It is a violent assault,” Hurt writes. “According to versions she repeats to some of her closest confidantes, ‘he raped me.’”

Following the incident, Ivana ran upstairs, hid behind a locked door, and remained there “crying for the rest of night.” When she returned to the master bedroom in the morning, he was there.

“As she looks in horror at the ripped-out hair scattered all over the bed, he glares at her and asks with menacing casualness: ‘Does it hurt?’”

Trump, perhaps inspired by the success of John Casablancas in earned media, decided to turn the ending of his first marriage into a Greek Tragedy for the ages. New personas were created in the form of “publicists” that sounded uncannily like Donald Trump himself. These personas called reporters to scoop them on salacious details of his exploits. Trump and/or his alter ego/”publicist” would  call Page Six reporter Liz Smith and others incessantly to let them know that Mr. Trump, while still technically married, and already carrying on a serious relationship with his mistress, was nonetheless the object of unbridled desire by the most beautiful women on the planet, who he apparently had to beat off with a stick. Madonna was chasing him around like a dog in heat. He was bedding “literally dozens” of models-a different one every day of the week. Kim Basinger was among his many conquests. And Carla Bruni-at the time one of the most high-profile supermodels in the world-was pursuing him to the point that restraining orders might end up necessary. Such was the sexual magnetism of “The Donald” in the late 80’s, early 90’s-to hear him  publicist John Barron say it.

Of course the fake publicist ruse eventually caught up with him. Page 6 reporters were all too familiar with the voice of Donald Trump, as was Marla Maples who they played the tape for to confirm. And eventually Trump would admit that the story about Carla Bruni was really just a way to get his long suffering mistress jealous.  And yet despite the fact that the ostensible relationship was entirely fictional, Trump has continued to act like he did in fact have an affair with Carla Bruni. As recently as 2008, in an interview with Howard Stern-he played coy when asked about his past dalliances with Bruni (who went on to become the first lady of France after marrying Nicholas Sarkozy) and made the now infamous comment about her less than impressive breasts-saying “very hard to be a 10 when you’re flat chested.” 

NY Post story about Trump’s “romance” with Carla Bruni

Bruni, for her part, vehemently denied that she was ever romantically involved with Trump, and said she felt “humiliated” by the story. Indeed she had a very different account of their one and only encounter. As she remembered it, while in New York for a charity event Donald Trump tracked her down at her hotel and tried to get in her pants. Thoroughly uninterested and annoyed, Carla would ultimately trick Trump into paying for a master suite in the hotel where she was staying-a suite where Carla and her friends spent the next few days ordering room service and gloating over the way they fooled the ‘King of Tacky.’

She speculated it may have been in retaliation for her rejection that Trump planted the story that they were romantically involved. A year later she would sum up the entire scandal in one perfect sentence- “Trump has obviously always been a lunatic” 

Trumps bizarre behavior around Carla, and women generally, turns out to have been fairly typical for Donald Trump. In fact it gives us quite an interesting glimpse into his personality. You see, despite his attempts to portray himself as a Don Juan, he really didn’t have much in the way of game-at least according to those who know him. “In all honesty, Donald is completely awkward with women,” a Trump insider told the New York Daily News in a July 2016 interview. “He never developed small talk. He’s not very social. He doesn’t have any friends. Plus, he’s completely paranoid about venereal disease and AIDS.”

In light of this, and considering the other things that were going on in his life, I will make an observation- Trump has been in the public eye for around 30 years, and his personal life-including romantic dalliances-have been exhaustively covered. Yet within those multiple decades in the public eye, there is a period of a little under five years in which Trump faced multiple accusations of sexual harassment and assault. To me, at least, the high number of accusations within a short time period are striking, as are similarities between each woman’s account

His alleged  rape of his first wife Ivana takes place in late 1989. He was accused of sexually harassing a model in 1992. A lawsuit filed by Jill Hearth alleged ongoing sexual misconduct-including an attempted rape, over the course of 2 months spanning between 1993 and 1994. And his alleged rape of a 13 year old girl (which I will discuss in more detail in the next installment) was reported as taking place in early 1994. As far as I’m aware, no other allegations have surfaced-although women in both his employ and personal life have spoken out about his continued inappropriate behavior and comments. 

1989-1995 just so happens to be the same time period in which Donald Trumps world and empire was falling apart at the seams. In the beginning of the decade he was facing the end of his first marriage and a looming court battle. Despite his purportedly active dating life, by many accounts Trump was being rejected by many, if not most, of the women he pursued-including Carla Bruni and Jill Hearth. Marla Maples, after years of being the secret mistress and repeated rounds of being dumped and publicly humiliated by Trump, was starting to lose her patience. And the big gamble he took in Atlantic City was, by all accounts, failing miserably-a direct result of his jaw droppingly awful business practices and general incompetence. In 1991, his Taj Mahal Casino filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 1992, he again filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, this time on his Trump Plaza Hotel (also in Atlantic City), at the time owing $550 million dollars. Recall that he would report an almost 1 billion dollar loss on his 1995 tax returns, according to the copies obtained by the New York Times. Indeed, the early

90’s were not a very good era for Donald Trump. In light of this fact, it’s worth noting that the sexual assault allegations against him are all clustered within this very time frame. 

In light of this, and considering the other things that were going on in his life, I will make an observation- Trump has been in the public eye for around 30 years, and his personal life-including romantic dalliances-have been exhaustively covered. Yet within those multiple decades in the public eye, there is a period of a little under five years in which Trump faced multiple accusations of  sexual harassment and assault. To me, at least, the high number of accusations within a short time period are striking, as are similarities between each woman’s account. 

His alleged  rape of his first wife Ivana takes place in late 1989. He was accused of sexually harassing a model in 1992. A lawsuit filed by Jill Hearth alleged ongoing sexual misconduct-including an attempted rape, over the course of 2 months spanning between 1993 and 1994.  And his alleged rape of a 13 year old girl (which I will discuss in more detail in the next installment) was reported as taking place in early 1994. As far as I’m aware, no other allegations have surfaced-although women in both his employ and personal life have spoken out about his continued inappropriate behavior and comments. 

1989-1995 just so happens to be the same time period in which Donald Trumps world and empire was falling apart at the seams. In the beginning of the decade he was facing the end of his first marriage and a looming court battle. Despite his purportedly active dating life, by many accounts Trump was being rejected by many, if not most, of the women he pursued-including Carla Bruni and Jill Hearth. Marla Maples, after years of being the secret mistress and repeated rounds of being dumped and publicly humiliated by Trump, was starting to lose her patience. And the big gamble he took in Atlantic City was, by all accounts, failing miserably-a direct result of his jaw droppingly awful business practices and general incompetence. In 1991, his Taj Mahal Casino filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. In 1992, he again filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy again, this time on his Trump Plaza Hotel (also in Atlantic City), at the time owing $550 million dollars. Recall that he would report an almost 1 billion dollar loss on his 1995 tax returns, according to the copies obtained by the New York Times. Indeed, the early 90’s were not a very good era for Donald Trump. In light of this fact, it’s worth noting that the sexual assault allegations against him are all clustered within this very time frame. 

Casablancas in the 1980’s-The Beginning of the End

For his part John Casablancas enjoyed continued success throughout most of the 1980’s, building the largest and most profitable modeling agency in the world. But beneath the glitz and glamour of his supermodels and lifestyle lurked a much darker reality. Once his agency was established, Casablancas embarked on creating a kind of hierarchy-a multi-tiered system that his prospects would have to navigate in order to be signed. Casablancas would ultimately turn over the day to day control of his agency to his business partner, and focus most of his time and energy on his “New Faces” division, meeting dozens of aspiring models a day in the comfort of his corner office, away from prying eyes.

It was in this private setting that Casablancas began the tradition of weighing and measuring girls, which soon became widespread throughout the industry. It was a practice that served the dual purpose of allowing agencies to closely monitor any weight gain, and created a pretense for agents to meet with young models alone in their offices, and require them to strip nude. The tier system incentivized doing whatever it took to get to “the top”-a perch which 99% of the young girls scouted and brought before Casablancas would never reach-there were only a handful of models who could wake up for nothing less than $10,000 a day, after all. But the possibility was tantalizing, and Casablancas was a skilled groomer who lavished every one of his models with attention and made them feel like they had the potential to reach the top. This created a power dynamic that had previously not existed. Among models it was understood that John Casablancas could make you a star. It was also understood that he could ruin you. 

The system worked for a while, but it was foiled by the fact that the playboys-in particular John Casablancas- were used to living by a different set of rules, and never being held accountable. None of these men were shy about their behavior, and the fact that they were bedding models as young as 12 on a routine basis was well known. But in the 1980’s the cultural tides started to turn against them. With increased awareness of child sexual abuse-both its alarming prevalence and it’s devastating effect on victims- attitudes began to change, and the public became less tolerant of famous men and their dalliances with children. And soon enough John Casablancas and his fellow playboys would find themselves embroiled in increasingly distasteful scandals involving underage girls. 

Very Young Girls

In 1984, John Casablancas met then 14-year old Stephanie Seymour at his newly launched “look of the year” contest for Elite. Casablancas selected Seymour as the local winner, but declared her a bit too undeveloped for his personal tastes (“if I looked at anyone with interest, it was her mom!” he said) and she was shipped back off to Florida to start her sophomore year in high school. Throughout the year, Seymour, continued to write to Casablancas (“the kid was delightful” he said of her correspondence, “she would send little letters and when you opened the letter, little silver stars would fall out”) and Casablancas responded to her correspondence personally, urging her to come back to New York and join his agency once school let out. At the end of her sophomore year she did just that, and by this time she was finally up to Casablancas’s exhausting standards. “By that time...her body was extraordinary-she was long and thin and the shapes were where they had to be-and her face was gorgeous, with this innocent little-child voice” he said in an interview, explaining his lust over a girl young enough to be his grandchild.

On the night of her 16th birthday, John Casablancas threw Stephanie Seymour a party at a cocaine-fueled nightclub in Milan, presenting her with a ,goblet of milk and plate of cookies. One week later, he would move in with her.

John Casablancas meets model hopefuls in his Denver offices in 1983

Casablancas affinity for very young girls was not a secret-in fact it was legendary within the fashion industry and the social scene in New York City long before it became public knowledge.  “I really, really have a bit of Pygmalion syndrome” he admitted in an interview, before discussing how he encouraged one of his  17 year old “new face” girls to lose weight by telling her that he was “really, really turned off” by her body (The Pygmalion effect, or Rosenthal effect, is the phenomenon whereby higher expectations lead to an increase in performance. The effect is named after the Greek myth of Pygmalion, a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had carved)

By the time “New York Magazine” did a front page profile of him in 1988, Casablancas reputation for bedding young models was established and begrudgingly accepted (a price to pay in exchange for his “genius”) within the New York social scene, but the expose came as a shock to many outside the bubble. John Casablancas would soon find out that he was not as untouchable as he thought he was. 

In the article-which ran under the title “Girl Crazy”-Casablancas was portrayed as a champagne guzzling pervert, singularly dedicated to the “new look” department of Elite where he spent his days ogling the scantily clad, sometimes naked bodies of teenage girls. 

In light of Donald Trump’s more alarming comments and decisions around his daughter Ivanka, this quote stands out:

Casablancas talked about his seventeen year old daughter, Cecile. He said Cecile had been solicited by a photographer last summer on a beach in Ibiza.The photographer asked her to pose in a bikini, and Casablancas raced over to try to get a $2,000 fee for the shot. “She’s got a great little body” he told his models.

Another quote that brings a chuckle and a nod of recognition in this story is Casablancas’s bizarre pride over never having changed a diaper. Donald Trump would make similar boasts in a Howard Stern interview a few years later. Compelling proof this is not, but I do believe it’s a hint at the kind of Don Juan persona that Don, far from a Juan, actually a dejected, balding husband with a crumbling empire, 

John Casablancas and Donald Trump at the Elite “Look of the Year” competition, 1994. Trump served on the judges panel. 

“Girl Crazy”- marked the beginning of John Casablancas downfall. The article became a huge scandal that reverberated far beyond the modeling industry and into the mainstream press. It was especially visible in New York City, where Elite had it’s headquarters and where Casablancas lived and was an active part of the social scene. Certainly, without a doubt, it would have gotten around to Donald Trump.

But the scandal did not end there, nor did it begin. Less than a month earlier 60 minutes aired a prime-time special on the abuses of underage girls in the modeling industry. Investigative reporter Craig Pyes portrayed the modeling industry as infested with agents who were notorious hustlers and playboys. His report revealed that both Claude Haddad- the head of European scouting for Ford- and Ford’s Paris-based agent Jean-Luc Brunel had been accused of horrific sexual misconduct by many models. The special aired the interviews of dozens of women who accused both Brunel and Haddad of a litany of crimes, ranging from racist invective towards black models to violent rape. And in fact the hidden camera footage captured in filming the special caught it all- from Xavier lamenting about n**er models, to Haddad chuckling about drugging and raping 13 year old girls. According to Model At a retreat soon after the one-two punch delivered by the coverage, Haddad, Jean Luc Brunel and Casablancas were once again overheard (albeit not taped this time around) laughing about their crimes. Alternatively they were angry when confronted by interim scouting manager Trudi Tapscott-”I’m a man and I have needs, I will not apologize for that!” Casablancas is said to have declared.

There was, to be fair, fallout from these reports. Brunel and Haddad were condemned by Eileen Ford, and Casablancas never fully regained his public reputation. But the public and the insular world of fashion are very different animals, and within the latter the only repercussions any of the men faced was in retribution for airing the industries dirty laundry with their sloppiness. Haddad and Brunel kept their jobs, albeit not in an official capacity. And while Casablancas was removed from his official role as head of the “New Faces” division of Elite, where he had unrestrained access and influence over the youngest and most impressionable girls represented by his agency, he didn’t go very far. His unofficial capacity was far-reaching, and his behaviors were explained away by his replacements. One of the agents taking his place was Trudi Tapscott-the same woman who had tried unsuccessfully to confront John after his forced retirement. While initially she was furious at Casablancas, less than a year later she had softened her stance. Quoted in Model, she stated ”People in this business use their power to manipulate people in ways that are unfair”. But she nonetheless told the many parents who were concerned about Casablancas-who still retained an unofficial role in the division-that he was not a manipulator. “My answer is that no one ever did anything they didn’t want to” she stated. “I’m amazed how these girls act in certain situations. They knew more about making passes [at men] than I ever knew”

Over time Donald Trump would emerge from the ruins of his empire with a new approach to business, and a new source of income-in 1996 he bought the rights to the Miss Universe franchise, and became the central figure in the running of these pageants. And in 1999 he started a modeling agency-T models, later changed to Trump Model Management. The correlation of interests is quite clear-for a man awkward around women but dependent on his public image saying otherwise, a stable of women under his employ was a way to boost his image-and even better, he was able to lock all of these women into non disclosure agreements, ensuring that his behavior with them had little chance of becoming public knowledge. It also appeared to have served as a useful tool regarding his business transactions-which, in the aftermath of his bankruptcy, were increasingly dependent on some less than savory characters. How he did this, and the breadth of this activity, will be explored in the next installment. But for the time being, there is one final aspect of this story that is breathtaking, and speaks more to the character of Donald Trump than anything else. 


Fourteen year old Ivanka, the suddenly ravishing mini-babe who seems like one of those kids from soap operas-4 years old one day, 19 the next-is starting to model [...]

Donald is particularly enthusiastic. 

-New York Magazine, December 18th 1995


7 years had  passed since John Casablancas had appeared on the cover of New York magazine, declaring his love for underage girls, and Donald and Ivana had made a decision-their daughter, Ivanka, would become a model. Despite a widespread belief that she was too young, too naive, and wasn’t quite aesthetically suited for the industry-Ivanka Trump was nonetheless able to get signed to a major agency, At the tender age of 13, she signed on with the new look department of Elite Model Management- under the tutelage of none other than John Casablancas:

It seems that Monica Pillard, the president of Elite, had been eyeing Ivanka since she spotted her on her father's lap four years ago, when Mr. Trump was a judge of a new-talent contest for the agency.

Mr. Trump and Elite have a longstanding, informal relationship. Ms. Pillard served as a judge in the Miss Universe pageant, which is jointly owned by Mr. Trump and CBS, as is the Miss Teen USA pageant. John Casablancas, Elite's founder, is a friend of Mr. Trump's, and Elite has held events at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Yes, Donald Trump decided to entrust his daughter to this man. Yes, Casablancas still had his job. He would weather charges of tax evasion, and class action lawsuit-but eventually his past caught up with him. In 2002 he was sued by a former model who alleged that Casablancas had raped her when she was 15, and then forced her to get an abortion. The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount, and in 2003 Elite model management officially declared bankruptcy.

Despite the fact that Ivanka largely flopped as a model, Donald Trump would continue to brag about her physical beauty, physique, and ostensibly prolific modeling career. 

He would also go on to unceremoniously dump Marla Maples, his long suffering mistress having become his reluctant second bride, and shut her down with legal arrangements that both forbade her from saying a negative word about him in public for all time, and ensured she got next to nothing in spousal/child support. Maples agreed to this despite the fact that she had already raised their daughter Tiffany almost entirely on her own. In fact until his presidential run Trump had not shown a modicum of fatherly interest in her life aside from the bizarre speculation-when she was merely a baby-about her future breast size and compliments of her 1 year old legs on Lifestyles of the RIch and Famous. Over a decade later, in one of his few public acknowledgements of her existence, he would smirk as he admitted to Howard Stern that he had urged Marla to abort her.

In the meantime Elite and Ford collapsed under the weight of their scandals-creating a vacuum of talent to cash in on. A a cast of shady characters and playboys were drawn in, eager to capitalize on the power, social status and potential fortune that could be found in the business of beautiful girls. 

As Ford lost her grip on power, for better or worse, so died the last vestiges of a honor code within the modeling world. While the one that existed was without teeth, it still marked a change. During this time, the supermodel era also came to an end-no model since has ever dared to suggest that there was a price tag attached to her presence. Modesty-in terms of value and talent-became synonymous with greed and hubris. The fact that models-even supermodels-never gained the riches that were born of their starved bodies and faces didn’t matter. The fact that the largest spoils went to the very men who were caught on hidden camera laughing about raping underage girls didn’t matter. The industry was, like so many others, an unregulated wild west. And into this fray came numerous playboys and would-become kings. Jean Luc Brunel, the unwitting star of the BBC undercover investigation started MC2. Claude Haddad, his co-star, started DNA.  Paolo Zampolli, who we will talk about in the next installment, started ID. Michel Adam Lisowski started FashionTV. And Donald J. Trump started Trump Model Management.

All of these individuals and companies are, as it turns out, inextricably linked in ways that leave little doubt of the nature of their business. The fashion industry, as exploitative and morally ambiguous as it is on it’s very surface, is in fact merely the rock that covers an ecosystem of underground creatures beneath. This ecosystem will be explored and laid bare in my next post. This is a story that must be told in layers and parts. It involves oligarchs and diplomats, tax evasion, and trafficking of drugs, weapons, and human beings. 

But for now, it is important to explore the surface-because it is the most easily understood, provable, and in many ways it’s the most telling when it comes to the character of the man who wants to be president. And there are a myriad of important questions to ask knowing the facts thus far: 

What kind of man seeks out, pursues friendship and business partnerships with a man who is unabashed in his predilection for underage girls? Who openly admits he prefers them young because they are easily manipulated? John Casablancas was “girl crazy”, and proud of it. His reputation was legendary. 

Ivanka Trump at a modeling shoot, age 14

Imagine, for a moment, that John Casablancas was doing this type of thing with boys of the same age. Imagine he was inviting young teenagers to his private office, having them strip down to near or complete nudity, inspecting their bodies, talking about how he thought they were sexy, sending them off to Europe to get them “broken in”, and falling in love with them. The ages of the girls he preyed on is not all that far off from the ages of the boys that Jerry Sandusky abused, and we all readily acknowledge that’s wrong. Joe Paterno was widely-rightfully-condemned for turning a blind eye to what was happening. But when it’s 14 year old girls? Why does anyone, including Trump, who continued to do business with him get a pass? And why is this the first time, to my knowledge, that Trump’s association with John Casablancas has even been questioned in the public sphere? 

And for that matter-What kind of man throws his 14 year old daughter into this den of wolves? Plausible deniability isn’t going to work on this one-Donald Trump knew about the state of the industry, he knew that it was a cesspool of drug abuse and sexual exploitation. Why would he sign his underage daughter with, of all people, John Casablancas? Anyone who was tangentially connected to the modeling industry was well aware of the scandals that plagued him-his relationship with Stephanie Seymour, his unrelenting desire for young girls. And furthermore, they KNEW that Casablancas’ attitude was far from an outlier, that in fact the industry was rife with people exactly like him, and hopelessly corrupted by their influence. This was not obscure knowledge-it was a subject of a national broadcast. It was an industry wide embarrassment. It was a front page story.

Donald Trump knew the reputation of Elite, he knew the reputation of the industry, he knew that it was a ripe hunting ground for young, impressionable girls. He knew that drugs were rampant and frequently pushed on “models” as they were hired under the guise of “entertainment” of “guests”-in fact, he admitted as much when asked about it in this New York Times Interview:

''This is an interesting case,'' he said over his speaker phone, which was not on a boat but rather in his office. ''I am only modestly in favor of this because I understand that that life is a very fast life, and at that age it is always a risky proposition.'

So what did Trump do? Did he recoil in horror?  Did he disavow any further dealings with these people? 


If you as a parent knew all of this about the fashion industry, modeling in particular-what would you do if your child, 13 at the time, announced that she wanted to become a model? By all accounts it does not appear that Ivanka was even the driving force behind the decision to start modeling. In fact reading old profiles of Trump, it’s abundantly clear that both he and Ivana were excited and invigorated by the prospect of their little girl being on the catwalk and in the pages of Vogue. They promoted her tirelessly-especially Donald. He bragged to anyone who would listen about how beautiful Ivanka was, often remarking on her body. He sought affirmation from others when he asked if they (including a judge for MIss USA and others) thought his daughter was “hot”. Trump is invested in this idea of his daughter as sexually desirable. I suppose it lends credence to his superior genes theory, in a way. But even a eugenicist would be able to talk about their progeny in a way that doesn’t reduce them to their sex appeal. Every father in this country-at least the ones who don’t have some underlying pathology-understand that fixating on your daughters body, her “hotness”, let alone thinking about her sex life vis a vis your own and even “joking” about dating her-is downright bizarre. An outrageous comment, a joke that falls flat-it happens. But this isn’t a one off. This is a pervasive pattern of behavior and a reflection of belief.

Most men do not talk about their daughters in this way. Not when they are adults, not when they are teenagers, certainly not when they are infants as he did when it came to Tiffany and her legs and future breasts. And most fathers care enough about their daughters to not thrust them into an industry rife with abuse, placing them under the control of a man known to take advantage of his underage charges. This is the basic criteria for being a decent human being, and the bare minimum to be a competent parent-you don’t expose your children to this. You protect them from it. Donald Trump is apparently incapable of even rising to that most basic standard of decency. 

In fact, many, many people and many companies decided not to work with Casablancas at all after his private behavior became public. Whether it was a moral stance, or a business decision, they determined he was toxic and should be avoided at all costs. Many people were able to see that associating with Casablancas would not reflect well on their character, and that any young woman they put in his presence would be at risk. 

The End Game for Casablancas, The Beginning of a New Empire

Russian models display Trump Vodka -- encrusted in 24-carat gold -- at the Millionaire Fair in Moscow in 2007.

And so this is the sad epilogue of John Casablancas-the man, the legend, the rather morally bankrupt human being. With his career and reputation in tatters, he moved to Brazil and tried to become a new man. It was there, in Brazil, that he met a high school junior from the slums of Sao Paulo who would eventually become his third and final wife. Casablancas, 51 at the time, met the 17 year old at-where else? The Elite Look of the Year competition, which he was able to export to Brazil with the help of friends like Trump, and Trump’s “matchmaker” and future business partner Paolo Zampolli. Once again Donald Trump was in attendance for the contest, sitting on the judges panel-smirk on his face, beaming, ready and eager to assert dominance. 

But where John Casablancas ended up at the end of his life is sadly ironic considering where our story began:

''The amount of money you have, especially in the region around São Paulo, is absolutely mind-boggling,'' said John Casablancas, the modeling mogul [...] 'You can be so elitist and so selective that you can focus on the upper crust of the upper crust.''

Mr. Casablancas, who sits on the board at Trump Realty Brazil and calls himself a ''lifestyle consultant of sorts'' for the resort's planning committee, predicts that Villa Trump will be such a success that it will end up having to turn people away.

-Trump Takes a Meeting, Now Backs a Resort in Brazil, New York Times, May 19 2004

Yes, John Casablancas- role model and rival to Donald Trump, the man who possessed the natural charm that Trump could never have, nonetheless ended up working for him in the end. And in many ways it would seem that Donald Trump ended up on top, doesn’t it? He has a beautiful wife who he has fooled most of the public into believing was once a high fashion model herself. She has given him another child who is good at the cyber, and stands as living testament to the continued virility of his orange hued father as he enters his 7th decade of life. But even better yet, Trump actually now has ownership over a stable of girls. 

All of the sudden, it was Trump who was surrounded by the most beautiful women in the world, while John Casablancas settled down with wife #3 and served on Trumps board in Brazil- Which begs the question-exactly what type of lifestyle was John Casablancas promoting? What type of expertise did he bring to the table? Did he have a hidden knowledge of real estate all along? Or was his “expertise” something else entirely? We have an idea based on the people he was introduced to through Casablancas, but we will have to cover that in the next installment.

For now, I will simply note that John Casablancas died at the age of 70, of pancreatic cancer. He would go to his grave bitterly cursing the very supermodels he is credited with creating- raging about their high and mighty attitudes, inflated self-importance and sense of worth, Above all else their lack of appreciation for everything he, John Casablancas, had done for them. He died bitching, still, at the audacity of women Linda Evangelista expecting $10,000 a day for her presence. Never mind that his own presence went for considerably higher at the height of his career, or that it was Linda Evangelista’s face and body that were being photographed, not his. “That is something I will always regret” he said, of creating the supermodel. He called Naomi Campbell “odious”, and Heidi Klum a “talentless German sausage” (ever the Casablancas copy cat, Donald Trump would also insult Klum, saying that she was “no longer a 10” and lamenting the state of her apparently less than perfect bikini body 8 weeks postpartum) 

In addition to his “lifestyle” consulting for Trump’s high class resorts precariously located in the middle of slums, Casablancas spent his final years working on other ventures. According to a late interview by Michael Gross for his fantastic book Model, he continued to do some kind of scouting-although the clients he worked for was never disclosed. Casablancas also developed a cyber-model agency, which he called “Illusion 2K”, which utilized the internet to facilitate global scouting. The program also featured computer-animated model, designed around what was considered an “ideal woman” at the time, named Webbie Tookay. Her greatest attribute, Casablancas said, was that she would never complain. 

But there is one final endeavor that John Casablancas took on before his death, which carries on to this day. And I think it might sound familiar to anyone familiar with Trump. 

Such glamour! 

John Casablancas, you see, started a modeling school. It was wildly successful, and before long franchises started popping up all over the country like mushrooms. Women of my generation probably remember the ads in the back of YM and Seventeen magazine. They boasted of the training regimen,that Casablancas himself used for his new faces division. John Casablancas School of Modeling promised to transform any young lady with potential (as screened by the admissions office during an interview and upon review of a head-shot-later on I would find out that such “interviews” were conducted with anyone who applied and the majority of these Polaroids ended up in the dumpster)

I almost did it, but my parents balked at the cost. But my best friend in 7th grade-a former Texas beauty queen-signed on for summer classes. She would practice walking with a book balanced on her head and strut an imaginary catwalk. On the night before graduation she rinsed her hair with mayonnaise at the suggestion of her Casablancas official stylist.  She did this treatment at my house and was horrified when it did not wash out, no matter how many rinses she tried. Her hair, and our bathroom, smelled like a bologna sandwich for weeks. But she came back from her model school graduation with a certificate in her hand and a huge smile on her face-she was officially, at that moment, a John Casablancas girl. An actual real life model. The thousands of dollars her family had spent were well worth it.

She never got booked. Well, correction-she got booked for a singing gig at our state fair, but only after she removed any mention of the John Casablancas modeling school from her resume. It swiftly became a source of humiliation, as everyone in the industry apparently knew it was a con. Her family paid off her debt to the agency, but many other “students” ended up in the same kind of quagmire that she found herself in, but with no way out. They had flushed away thousands on an education that they are too ashamed to list on their resume’s. They had been duped by the promises of a con-man who ensured them his sterling reputation would guarantee success, and that the fact they were even considered for such an honor was an honor in and of itself. 

Casablancas Modeling Schools created the blueprint that other flim-flam artists would eventually follow-Using a well known name as a lure, then providing a worthless “degree” or “certification” from a non-accredited body. Curriculum designed by various clueless charlatans, combined with high pressure sales tactics, and unapproved charges. For almost 2 decades now, John Casablancas’ school has carried on his legacy, finding new victims daily-the majority of them children, and their parents who end up footing the bill. 

In the words of one student:

“They "saw potential" in anyone with a checkbook.”

In the words of another-

”the most disrespectful people I have ever been in contact with”.

And finally one more (although there is a LOT where that came from here) 

“My daughter went [...] back in 1998...they told her that she had to lose weight [...] she  was 14 years old, and weighed 125 pounds at the time”

A famous name, the implicit promise of attaining fame and fortune, implied divulging of industry secrets and high powered connections. High pressure sales tactics and confusing contracts, widespread accusations of fraud and false advertising. A very rich man ripping off mostly working and middle class families. Sound familiar? 

When John Casablancas died he was eulogized in the familiar way that powerful men are eulogized no matter what their sins. Stephanie Seymour, her goblet of milk and plate of cookies, were not mentioned. John Casablancas stubborn insistence that he owned the rights and should share in the profits made off of the bodies and faces of little girls….that lived on-even when those little girls were too undeveloped and disappointing compared to their mothers (not too young to write love letters to, not to young to lure back to New York).

“I’m only a man, and I have needs” was, of course, never mentioned. Casablancas’s legacy of fraud- the whole-sale rip off of dreams like those of my friend, and everything that lay within the back pages of my latest issue of seventeen and YM went unremarked upon. The countless number of girls who were abused and exploited within his  “school’s”, his “new faces” division, his pep talks with naked adolescents trembling on scales as they straddled the fine line between “model” and “healthy weight” were forgotten. Honestly, who knows how many were affected? Based on the conversations I’ve had, not a single person who worked under Casablancas’s reign at Elite went unscathed. Victims of Claude Haddad-a man that Casablancas would later reconcile with and try to plot a re-entry into the industry- have formed a de-facto support group because of the horrors they endured. They still cry when they talk about it. They cry when they talk about him. They are not crying over his departure.  

And yet John Casablancas, the corporation, the legend, lives on. His name is still attached and promoted by his discredited chain of modeling schools,  which continue to churn through small town girls with high aspirations, low self esteem, and gullible parents willing to accrue sub-prime debt to help them succeed. A tapestry woven with countless broken dreams and lost fortunes. His legacy continues to take out ads in teen magazines to lure in young girls, teach them useless skills like how to balance a book on their head while turning their hair into grease-fires and issue them “diplomas” printed out at Kinkos under high volume discount. At the end they either walk away with thousands of dollars in debt before they even reach college-or if they are “lucky” they might funnel their “experience” and “Contacts” into the next level of this system-Miss Teen USA, teen modeling, hopelessly corrupt industries that will likely chew them up and spit them out before they reach the age of majority. In the end, despite his inadequacies, Donald Trump would end up on top. 

In the meantime,  however, the fashion industry as a whole would go through one more unexpected and profound transformation. After the USSR collapsed a very few number of men profited, and became untouchable, much more so than Casablancas could have ever dreamed. The cultural winds surrounding the industry changed direction yet again. It was likely inevitable, especially in such an already corrupt environment. But the results would be nothing short of devastating for many of the young lives caught in the balance, girls from Iowa to Slovenia and Brazil. And Donald Trump was in the center of it, just as one might expect he would be, all too willing to reap the rewards.

To be continued

If you are a journalist who is interested in pursuing this story further, I can be reached at swedishjewfish@gmail.com.

The article is reproduced in accordance with Section 107 of title 17 of the Copyright Law of the United States relating to fair-use and is for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

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