Thanks to a brilliant sound team at Access Hollywood, we now know Donald Trump’s stance on pussy-grabbing. He’s for it, in case you’ve been living in an anti-media hermitage since last Friday (I don’t blame you if you have been). If you’re like me, the second presidential debate left you sobered by the mudslinging and Republican in-fighting and wondering where else Trump’s sexism will reveal itself.
Though the tape exposing Trump’s inclination to sexually assault women is incredibly important to this election, we mustn’t forget the other, odder, Trump ventures that are no doubt riddled with disgusting stories of rampant sexism and misogyny. Trump Model Management (TMM), his modeling agency that has recently come under fire for potentially hiring illegal immigrants, comes to mind. Let’s take a closer look at the Trump biz focused on beautiful women.
Trump Model Management was founded in 1999. It’s first name was T-Models, because women are objects, like a Model T Car. Get it?
Icky False Claims
On the Trump Organization website, the modeling agency is humbly described as “one of New York City’s top modeling agencies,” and boasts “a name that symbolizes success.” Anybody who knows fashion or has watched an episode of America’s Next Top Model can tell you that, IMG, Elite, DNA, Ford, Wilhelmina, and Next are actually the top agencies in New York. TMM didn’t even make this list of the top 10.
Icky Interpersonal Relationships
Trump met his third wife, Melania, “through” Trump Model Management, though details of how they met have always been hazy. The agency got Melania her first cover shoot, for British GQ, while she was dating Trump in 2000. It featured her nude and in the cockpit of one of Trump’s planes.
In 2004, The NY Sun did a profile of TMM. The description is rough in light of recent events: “True Trumpologists know the model agency is only a tiny part of Trumpland financially, but his agency best evokes a big Trump theme—sex sells.”
Icky Model Scouting
Trump Models can be “scouted” as young as 14, and no, there have never been male models at TMM. In a creepy story that Kate Upton told to Jimmy Kimmel back in 2012, a “model scout” approached her while she was leaving a horse show.
According to Donald Trump’s financial disclosure filed by his campaign in May, he earned $2 million from the company and owns an 85 percent stake. In recent history, many models have come forward saying they barely made any money at TMM due to high fees charged by the company and taken out of paychecks.
Jamaican-born model Alexia Palmer was signed with TMM for three years and was promised that she would work full-time. But, in a lawsuit filed earlier this year, Palmer stated that she earned only $1,100 during the entire three-year period. The agency took over 80 percent of her earnings and charged it off as “fees and expenses” while managing to book her only 21 photo shoots. In the suit, these “fees” also include Alexia’s cell phone, makeup, and a car service, all things she was told she “needed.” TMM also filed an H-1B visa and told government officials she would be making at least $75,000 a year. Under her H-1B visa, Alexia was also not permitted to sign with any other modeling agencies if she wanted to remain in the U.S.
In case you’ve forgotten, Trump is a vehement opponent of H-1B visas. “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions,” Trump’s website says. Alexia Palmer’s suit was dismissed earlier this year.
Icky Immigration Violations
Most recently, Canadian model Rachel Blais and two other anonymous former Trump models detailed their experiences working with TMM to Mother Jones in a report posted in August. The anonymous models explained that they lived in the U.S. with promises of getting work visas but never saw them. “Two of the former Trump models said Trump’s agency encouraged them to deceive customs officials about why they were visiting the United States and told them to lie on customs forms about where they intended to live,” the report noted.
Icky Living Conditions
The living conditions of the models, for whom rent was deducted from their paychecks, was also, for lack of a better word, deplorable. According to the former models, TMM housed its talent in a tiny apartment in the East Village. When Blais lived in the apartment, a Trump Model Management representative had a bedroom to herself, while the models—sometimes 11 or more—lived in bunkbeds in the basement. “The apartment was like a sweatshop,” said one anonymous model. Financial statements by the models in the Mother Jones piece corroborate Alexia Palmer’s wages. The models reported being charged between $1,200 and $1,600 a month to rent their bunkbeds.
After these reports broke in August, Senator Barbara Boxer called for a probe by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services into Trump’s modeling agency. “I am extremely concerned by the claims levied against Trump Model Management and ask that you open an investigation into the company’s employment practices. I hope you will make clear that immigration and labor violations like these will not be tolerated,” Boxer wrote.
Ronald Lieberman, executive vice president for management and development at the Trump Organization, responded in an interview with Bloomberg. Though he said he “couldn’t speak to the past,” he said that things at TMM have improved and “every girl has what they need to work.” FYI, Mr. Lieberman calling grown working women “girls” tells us a lot.