Former Model Opens Up about Sexual Abuse at Hands of Leading Fashion Photographer

Sunday December 26, 2021
Originally published on December 21, 2021

Former model Barrett Pall opened up about his alleged sexual abuse at the hands of photographer Rick Day to point out how vulnerable models are in the industry.

When he was a freshman at New York University, Pall chose to model to supplement his income thinking the job would come with glamorous perks and big paychecks.

But on his first shoot, which was with Day, he had a rude awakening. "In reality, that's not what it is at all," Pall told Yahoo Life. "I've been very open and honest that on my very first photoshoot, I was sexually assaulted by the photographer."

Pall first told his story on YouTube and to the Advocate in 2018. Since then he has become an advocate for models to step forward and report their experiences with sexual abuse on photo shoots.

"I know that this is not an uncommon situation for most models," he said.

In the Advocate, he joined model Kai Braden in claims of abuse by Day. Two other models, Michael and Zach Zakar, shared similar stories with Gay Star News in 2018.

Yahoo News reached out to Day for comment on multiple requests, but he has yet to respond. There is no evidence that he has ever publicly remarked on the allegations.

At the shoot, Pall (who is no longer modeling) said "Day groomed him by gradually touching him more and more intimately. When Day started to make unwanted sexual advances, Pall said, the shock of what was happening made him freeze," Yahoo News reported.

In an Instagram post from September, Pall wrote: "It's been over 3 years since I publicly shared one (but not all) of my sexual abuse stories from my time in the fashion industry along with @kaibraden, who I'm so grateful for, and sadly nothing has changed. My predator has only grown in popularity since. Former friends have even shot with this photographer just to have new pics for their IG - this is the culture that is being created. It hurts."

He continues with Yahoo News: "There is no one specific way that someone is sexually assaulted or abused. I personally was not penetrated in any way, but I was sexually abused, and I say that wholeheartedly, knowing full stop that is what happened to me. There was no consenting, there was no asking, there was no 'Are you OK with this?'"

His story points out an unwritten rule in the modeling industry that empowers the abuse, citing an "underlying agreement" among models and their employers, "meaning they will do what they have to do in order to book campaigns or work with certain photographers," he tells Yahoo News. "He believes that some photographers take advantage of this."

"I guess this is something that happens, that I'm just going to not talk about and no one will ever have to know," Pall recalled thinking. "I got back to my dorm room and just cried and felt really dark and confused. To be honest, it's something that I still don't like to go back to because something was taken from me and there are pictures. I feel like you see my innocence being taken from me in those pictures."

Models have the disadvantage in this relationship, Pall says, since, as Yahoo News points out, models can be replaced in an instant and photographers are valuable influencers in a model's career, which only empowers the abusers.

"They prey on our silence," Pall said. "I came forward with my #MeToo experience with the photographer Rick Day, and I think it's important to say his name, because he has been protected for so long by this industry and different agents and managers. He is a serial abuser."

In a bombshell 2018 New York Times report, 15 models came forward to make sexual abuse claims against Bruce Weber, the most famous fashion photographer in the industry.

"The men recalled, with remarkable consistency, private sessions with Mr. Weber in which he asked them to undress and led them through breathing and 'energy' exercises. Models were asked to breathe and to touch both themselves and Mr. Weber, moving their hands wherever they felt their 'energy.' Often, Mr. Weber guided their hands with his own," The Times wrote.

The report also cited 13 male assistants and models who have worked with the photographer Mario Testino (a favorite of the English royal family and Vogue), who told The Times that he subjected them to sexual advances that in some cases included groping and masturbation.

Models also don't have any recourse within the industry. "There is no union for models, and agencies and brands are not obligated to step in and protect them on photoshoots. Born out of necessity, the Model Alliance was established in 2012 to provide support, education and encouragement for models to speak up against injustices in the industry," added Yahoo News.

"There is something that's taken from you, and as more people share their stories that are similar to mine, you get to take back a part of your narrative, which is taking back some of your power," Pall said.