The supermodel Linda Evangelista has praised the “courage and strength” shown by a growing number of women accusing her ex-husband, the model agency boss Gérald Marie, of sexual misconduct and rape.
Speaking exclusively to the Guardian’s Weekend magazine, Evangelista said she believed the women’s accounts of their experiences with Marie, who for over three decades was among the most powerful figures in the fashion industry.
“During my relationship with Gérald Marie, I knew nothing of these sexual allegations against him, so I was unable to help these women,” said Evangelista, who was married to Marie between 1987 and 1993.
“Hearing them now, and based on my own experiences, I believe that they are telling the truth. It breaks my heart because these are wounds that may never heal, and I admire their courage and strength for speaking up today.”
Evangelista is one of the most famous and influential models of all time. Her intervention was prompted by four more models coming forward to accuse her ex-husband of rape or sexual misconduct in the Weekend magazine. They bring the total number of women to publicly accuse Marie of sexual misconduct or rape to nine. Eight of them tell their stories in Saturday’s issue of the magazine.
Marie is the former European president of Elite model agency, which at the time represented some of the world’s top models, including Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell. He strongly denies all allegations of sexual misconduct and rape.
Last month, prosecutors in France opened an investigation into Marie over allegations including rape from four women. They include Carré Otis, a top model in the 90s, who was 17 when she says Marie repeatedly raped her while she was living in the spare room of his apartment in 1986.
Evangelista was dating Marie at the time and was not there when the alleged abuse happened. There is no suggestion from Otis or any of the models that Evangelista was aware of the allegations at the time.
Others who have filed criminal complaints in France include Jill Dodd, who alleges Marie raped her in 1980; Ebba Karlsson, who alleges Marie digitally raped her in 1990, and the former undercover journalist Lisa Brinkworth, who told the Sunday Times the model agency boss assaulted her when she was working on an exposé of the modelling industry for the BBC in 1998.
Marie’s lawyers said he was “extremely affected” by the accusations made against him, which he firmly contests. “He intends to actively participate in the manifestation of the truth within the scope of the opened criminal investigation,” they said.
Former models Wendy Walsh, Ann Maguire and EJ Moran are among the new accusers speaking for the first time.
Walsh, who is 58 and a popular radio show host in America, told the Guardian Marie raped her in 1980, when he was the boss of the French agency Paris Planning. Like all but one of Marie’s accusers, Walsh was allegedly attacked in Paris.
Walsh said she was coming forward now “because I believe this is still a problem for girls in the industry today, and it needs to stop”.
Since Marie and the Elite founder, John Casablancas, were at the helm of the the prestigious modelling agency, the firm has been forced into bankruptcy and split in two. Both new corporate entities – Creative World Management and Elite World Group – have sought to distance themselves from abuses alleged to have taken place in the past.
More recently, Marie has been involved in Oui Management, a prestigious Paris agency whose models front Louis Vuitton campaigns and Vogue magazine covers. The company said Marie was not currently an employee but documents suggest he remains an investor with “significant control” over the firm.