Dad of Disney Star Peyton Clark and Influencer Acacia Kersey Accused of Grooming Underage Girls

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Photos Getty Images
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Photos Getty Images

The father of Disney actor Peyton Clark and influencer Acacia Kersey has been accused of grooming teenagers, using his child photography business to get alone time with young girls in order to pressure them into taking risqué and explicit photos, several sources told The Daily Beast.

Seven women who had previously modeled for Rich Clark detailed the 52-year-old’s alleged predatory behavior, including how he would encourage young girls to pose provocatively for him by convincing them that “sex sells,” to justifying his “love” for 14-year-olds, declaring that while he’s not “supposed to act on it” he could “think it and want it all I want.”

One former model alleged that Clark presented himself as a father-like figure to her after the sudden death of her dad. But she says he abused her trust by pushing her into doing nude and implied nude photos when she was 16, having her believe it was the only way to be successful in the entertainment industry.

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She says she was horrified when she discovered that her photos wound up on explicit Instagram accounts, and nude pictures of her under the age of 18 were being sold online for $2.58.

Today, the father of four still runs a children's photography business in Los Angeles, billing himself as a modeling and dance photographer with 27 years of experience. His online portfolio is almost exclusively filled with photos of girls and young women, several in provocative poses.

Clark’s website also features some headshots of his son Peyton, who starred on Disney’s short-lived series I Didn’t Do It in 2014. But it’s Peyton’s sister Acacia who is the star of the Clark family. As a tween she ran a popular Tumblr page, later turning to YouTube and Instagram, where the controversial influencer had nearly 2 million followers until she pivoted to Patreon last month.

The former models told The Daily Beast that Clark often used Peyton and Acacia’s success to market himself to potential clients—both parents and teenagers—propping himself up as a knowledgeable insider to the hard-to-crack world of show business and social media influencing.

But after their experience with Clark, the young women believe he should not be allowed around young girls.

Clark did not respond to repeated requests via email and his website for comment, yet hours after The Daily Beast reached out, Clark’s personal Facebook page and website were deactivated. When contacted at a phone that Clark had prominently featured on his sites, a male caller hung up without responding to a request for comment.

Melissa Clark declined to comment by phone when reached by The Daily Beast, while Peyton Clark and Acacia Kersey did not return repeated requests for comment.

Cosmetic company founder Brittni Kristine was the first to come forward about Clark, with the now 26-year-old sharing a brief version of her story on TikTok last week, explaining how when she was around 18 years old, she began dating Clark’s then-teenage son Peyton in spring 2013. But things moved fast, and soon after her first date, she says she essentially began living with the Clark family, with Clark constantly pursuing her.

“I’m on the older end of the spectrum of who he was using grooming tactics with,” Brittni tells The Daily Beast. “I know there’s debate on if an 18 or 19-year-old can be groomed at all, but I think what matters less is my age and more that he was using [these] tactics.”

Clark’s pursuit began almost immediately after she began dating Peyton, Brittni claims. After the young couple’s first date at the Clark family home in Los Angeles, Brittni says Clark suggested that Brittni come along with the father and son on a road trip.

During the car journey, Brittni says Clark began telling her about his photography business, bragging that he had worked with plenty of young stars and how Brittni had potential, offering to shoot some photos of her during the trip.

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Flattered, Brittni says she timidly agreed, noting that she had never modeled before but was willing to try it out. Clark eventually stopped the car and snapped some photos of Brittni and even had her pose with Peyton.

“We had kind of like some couple shots,” she recalls. “[Clark] did kind of encourage more like romantic shots—I think mine and Peyton’s first kiss was on camera—I’m pretty sure it was directed, which was a little bit strange, but we all kind of bonded over the trip.”

Soon enough, during that same trip, Brittni says that Clark asked Brittni if she was open to posing nude for him, saying she had done so well in the first shoot.

Brittni maintains she initially shied away from the idea, confiding to Clark that she used to self-harm and was concerned the photos would show her scars. But Clark soothed her fears. “We kind of trauma-bonded,” she says. “He was like, ‘Oh, I would never judge you for that.’ It was just kind of reassuring and I felt more comfortable after that.”

Additionally, Brittni claims that Clark had claimed to her that he was asexual, and she didn’t have to be concerned about being nude in front of him. “Obviously, now that I’m older and wiser, it’s a massive red flag,” she says. “It shouldn’t have even been mentioned at all if he was professional. But at the time, it [made] me feel more comfortable in his presence.”

So, on the way home from Idaho, Brittni says Clark shot some implied nude photos of her, with Peyton also in some of the frames. “We weren’t even officially boyfriend-girlfriend at that point,” she scoffs. “The tone for the type of photos we were taking was set very early on, like it was kind of normalized very early. I looked to Peyton to see if it was weird or not and he never expressed that it was uncomfortable for him at all. So I was like, okay, this is kind of normal.”

As she continued to date Peyton, Brittni says she essentially moved into the Clarks’ family home in Los Angeles, welcomed by Clark, his wife Melissa Dawson-Clark, and their three other children.

“It’s kind of like the whole family was love-bombing me,” she says. “Acacia was my best friend; she felt like a sister to me. Peyton and I were sharing a room. Acacia and I would get into Melissa’s bed in the morning and just all chat together. We were very much like family. They were my only friends and my only family.”

“It was interesting, the dynamic between me and him, because it was like I was his assistant, I was his love interest, and I was his daughter,” she adds.

It was this feeling of being ingrained into the family that Brittni kept quiet when Clark began to send her texts that she describes as “wildly uncomfortable.” (The Daily Beast confirmed the phone number Brittni texted belongs to a number associated with Clark.)

Brittni shared screenshots of messages that she says are from Clark, where he suggests that in order to ease her stress, Brittni needed “endless sex with an older man.”

It was common, Brittni says, for Clark to send her photos from their shoots, complimenting her looks and calling her “hot.”

“He would text me weird things and I would joke it off or I would quickly shut it down,” Brittni explains. “In the instances where I just tried to end the conversation quickly, he would get upset with me. It was like having a toxic boyfriend, where if I didn’t text back quickly, he would have been mad at me.”

Clark also messaged Brittni about other models he was working with. In one exchange, Brittni claims Clark was gushing over a girl who was around 15 or 16 years old, sending photos of the girl to Brittni. “She kept coming up to look at pics and pushing her boobs against me,” Clark purportedly wrote. “Ughhh.”

Another message alleged to be from Clark reads, “I love 14-year-olds as you know.” “You’re not supposed to admit that,” Brittni writes back. “No, I’m not supposed to act on it,” Clark responds. “I can think it and want it all I want.”

While she was staying with the Clark family, Brittni says she continued modeling for Clark, and some of those shoots would involve nudity. “I would say that they weren’t pornographic,” she says. “But it was fully nude—I would use the word tasteful. So, it wasn’t like he was directing me in wildly provocative ways, but he did direct me to be fully nude.”

But Irene Kaia told The Daily Beast that when she was 16 in 2015, Clark encouraged her to take more explicit photos, some where she’s fully nude and others where she is in various stages of undress.

Both Brittni and Irene have since come to learn that the suggestive photos Clark took wound up on mature Instagram accounts, but Irene says she has documentation that her explicit photos were being sold online for as little as $2.58 for a 4x6 print.

Instagram accounts that link back to Clark through his phone number and social media tags, including accounts named Purely Improper, Improper Models, Rich Clark Models, Rich Clark Mature, Just Mystical Models, and Purely Dancers, have all been deactivated. Under hashtags associated with these accounts are mature images and implied-nude photos of models that Clark had frequently photographed and posted on his website and personal Facebook page.

Irene claims the nude and implied-nude photos that were posted on the Purely Improper website and Instagram accounts tied to Clark were taken when she was 16 and 17 years old.

A model who worked with Clark when she was 18 in 2016 says that some of her photos ended up being sold on the Purely Improper website without her knowledge, where she poses in a wet T-shirt and her breasts are visible.

She recalls that Clark would make comments to her that made her uncomfortable, and had slowly pushed her into partially-nude photos. “I think if he knows he can overpower someone and control them then he can,” she says.

Irene, who is now 23, had met Clark after she moved with her mother to the Los Angeles area from South Carolina following the sudden death of her father. Hoping to pursue an acting career, Irene signed with a small acting agency who said she needed headshots taken, which is how she stumbled across Clark’s business.

Describing himself as a celebrity coach and a social media expert, she says Clark also used his semi-famous children as a selling point for working with him—which led to Irene booking a session.

It was after their first shoot together, which Irene’s mother attended, that Clark began asking Irene if she had modeled before, showering her with compliments, and suggesting that she join his “modeling group.”

Two other models, who did not wish to be named, confirmed to The Daily Beast that it was common for Clark to invite teen models to be part of his “modeling group”—an offer that was hard to refuse because for a heavily discounted rate, they essentially had free photoshoots whenever they wanted.

“Basically, if I remember correctly, we paid $200 for unlimited, free shoots,” one model who worked with Clark when she was 18 in 2016 says. “If you were on his brand, he had rules of how much to post and stuff. He helped me with my social media, but I don’t really know how he gains anything from that.”

A second model who worked with Clark when she was around 14 in 2016 and did not wish to be named told The Daily Beast that she actually stopped working with Clark after he had a dispute with her mother over the modeling club.

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Clark had allegedly wanted them to pay extra for his managing her social media accounts. She explained it was already a fraught relationship because Clark wanted to be in charge of what was posted and when, and he allegedly became very upset when the teen uploaded a bikini shot and cropped out her behind, making it a more modest photo.

But being part of Clark’s modeling group seemed like a win-win for Irene. “I was overjoyed,” she says, paying around $150 to join the group. “I was like, ‘Wow, things are falling into place, I get a distraction from my dad, and I get to do something pretty cool.’”

Clark allegedly began telling Irene to leave her mother behind when she came to the shoots, pushing her into more and more suggestive photos, which often were outdoors in secluded areas.

“The more we shot, the more he would just be like, your mom can’t come,” Irene claims, recalling that by the second photoshoot he was pushing her into more sexual poses. “[He would ask] how about bringing this underwear? Do you have fishnet underwear? He would send me photo inspo and I thought it was a little weird, but I just did what he said.”

“He would start off with little things, and then gradually move toward more provocative images,” she adds. “He wouldn’t just be like, ‘Oh, do a pose,’ he would be like, ‘Lower your shirt a little, just above the nipple. Take your bra off. I can help you take your bra off.’ He would be very specific and detailed about what he wanted.”

Irene claims that Clark was “very eager” to touch her, and although he never assaulted her, he would try to help her take her clothes off, hug her frequently, and put his hands all over her.

She felt unsettled with the direction that things were going, but Irene says that Clark presented himself to her as a surrogate father. “He would dangle my dad above my head,” Irene says. “He’d be like, ‘Oh, I’m like your dad. Like, don’t you want to be nice to your dad? Don’t you want to listen to your dad?’”

The 18-year-old model who worked with Clark in 2016 claims he also tried to pressure her into modeling in lingerie, but she adamantly refused.

“He was very forward and pushy and creepy,” she says. “He’s very odd… There was a time when we were doing a shoot and I was changing in the back of my car and I looked over and he jokingly stopped and took a picture of me while I was changing.”

“I don’t know why he feels the need to photograph 16-year-olds in lingerie,” she adds. “If you didn’t have a strong backbone, he would definitely try and pressure you into doing things that you probably weren’t comfortable with.”

The 14-year-old model who worked with Clark says that even though her mom was always on set with her, Clark often pushed her to take more mature-style photos.

“There were definitely times I felt uncomfortable or was asked to do certain poses, never nude photos but mostly bikinis and activewear,” she says. “I was told sex sells and to pretend I’m making love to the camera, whatever that would’ve meant.”

The photos that Clark took of her were “definitely more mature pictures than my age group,” she says, noting that her attire was always tight clothes. She also recalled how Clark would text her privately, saying she would either not respond to his messages or direct him to contact her mom.

A third former model who occasionally worked with Clark between 2015 and 2017 repeated the idea that Clark believed “sex sells,” and claims when she turned 18, Clark tried to get her to pose nude.

A fourth former model says she only shot with Clark once in 2013 when she was 17 years old, recalling how he had shown her the headshots he had just taken, gushing over how “hot” she was.

After the shoot, she claimed Clark would text her periodically, once saying she had a “porn star body” and had mentioned she would be even “hotter” if she lost five pounds. She says she never worked with Clark again because she was so “creeped out” by his comments.

For Irene, things eventually escalated to the point where Clark was not just taking implied nude and suggestive photos, she recalls—instead he was taking what she considers pornographic pictures of her when she was under the age of 18.

“He said I had to show people my whole body to make it in the industry or else how are they going to see what I looked like,” she says. “He would be like, ‘Open your legs, touch yourself, act like you are being pleased.’ At the time, I felt so uncomfortable, but I was just like, don’t question him, don’t fuck up your relationship with your surrogate dad.”

“I absolutely hate using this word, but I was groomed, and it took me a really long time to accept it,” Irene admits. “My mom doesn’t know about it; she’s still dealing with trying to get over my dad and I just can’t put more on her like that. She doesn’t know and I don’t plan on telling her about it. I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed it happened. I feel ashamed that I let myself get in that position.”

Most of the models who worked with Clark say they ended their relationship with the photographer after a falling out, whether due to disputes about the arrangement or for working with a different photographer, with many detailing his short fuse.

For Brittni, she says it occurred when Clark asked her to be his mistress, even though she was still dating Peyton and living in the family’s home.

“I told Peyton, I was like, ‘I don’t want to make a big deal out of this because it would make my life very uncomfortable, considering I live with you, but like do you want to handle it somehow, do you want to go talk to your dad,’” Brittni recalls asking.

But Brittni claims that Peyton shied away from the idea of confronting his dad, indicating a similar incident had occurred in the past with another one of Peyton’s ex-girlfriends.

Things quickly deteriorated between Peyton and Brittni and they broke up by early 2014, but she still lived with the Clark family for months afterwards. She eventually told Acacia about Clark, and the two girls then went to Melissa and showed her the messages from Clark.

“I told all this to Melissa, and she was justifiably horrified,” Brittni says. “She kicked him out of the house; he wasn’t allowed to be there. So, there were a couple months in which it did feel like they were on my side.”

While Brittni claims that Melissa, Peyton, and Acacia were initially supportive of her and she remained living with the family, they turned on her when she began reaching out to the parents of the young girls that Clark had been photographing, relaying what he had said about their daughters.

Quickly, Brittni says she was isolated from the Clark family and kicked out of their house in March 2014, saying it was obvious they didn’t want their family’s name tarnished if Clark’s alleged behavior was exposed.

“Their reputation really doesn’t hold a candle to these girls’ safety,” she says, standing by her decision of contacting the young girl’s families.

Records from Los Angeles Superior Court obtained by The Daily Beast show Melissa Dawson-Clark filed for divorce in May 2014, citing irreconcilable differences that no amount of counseling could fix.

In financial documents, Clark indicated his primary source of income was through his photography business, which brought in $2,000 a month. The split was speedy and uncontested, finalized that December.

Irene says her relationship with Clark ended when she realized that Clark had been posting her photos on his various mature Instagram accounts and then selling the images. “A lot of people in my [high school] class got ahold of those nudes and obviously I got bullied for it,” she explains.

She quickly reached out to the other models in Clark’s modeling group, alerting them that their images were being sold. Then she went to Clark. “I came to Rich hysterically begging him to take them down,” she says.

“He wouldn’t. He said that the people who judge me don’t matter, and if they don’t understand me then they’re not meant for me. But he would not take them down. He made it very clear that he owns the images, and he can do whatever he wants with images.”

Irene alleges that she sent Clark another desperate message asking him to take the photos down, this time voicing her concern that she was only 16 in the photos, and Clark went berserk. “He said to never talk to him again,” she says.

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But days later, Clark texted Irene out of the blue, sending her a screenshot of an Instagram post that accused him of “profiting off” the young girls and selling their photos without consent “to random perverts.”

In the text, reviewed by The Daily Beast, Clark was irate, calling Irene a “traitorous little cunt.”

“I know it was you,” he seethed. “What a piece of shit you are.”

Irene says she still has all the photos that Clark took of her underage stored away on a hard drive. She claims she went to police a few years ago with the images in order to press charges against Clark yet was told that because she wasn’t using a sex toy in the images, they didn’t consider it to be child pornography.

The Daily Beast confirmed that the Simi Valley Police Department opened an investigation into Irene’s claims in 2017, but could not release details of the case because it involves a juvenile.

But seeing Brittni’s TikTok video about Clark was an encouraging sign for Irene that she wasn’t alone in this. “I think it’s time that I speak up about this,” Irene says. “He’s still in the industry. He’s still working with children. I feel like he needs to be stopped. He shouldn’t be allowed around children.”

“It drove me insane then, and it’s driving me insane now, because it’s just constantly been shoved under the rug,” Brittni adds. “Obviously, being on the older end of the spectrum, it felt almost like my responsibility to come forward. I felt like the face of his victims for a long time.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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