After weeks of rumblings that high-profile fashion photographers were about to be admonished for sexual harassment, a complaint has been filed against Bruce Weber by model Jason Boyce, who says the photographer forced him to rub his own genitals.
In the filing, Boyce alleged to have suffered from being sexually harassed and discriminated against on the basis of his gender. “Boyce was the victim of ‘casting couch’ practices by the defendants, upon information and belief, are prevalent in the modeling industry, and suffered humiliation, emotional anguish and lost economic opportunities, including the end of his modeling career in New York,” the complaint stated.
First reported by The New York Post Friday afternoon, the complaint was filed in the New York State Supreme Court. In addition to Weber, the 19-page document names Jason Kanner, Soul Artist Management and Little Bear Inc. Kanner is the founder and head of Soul Artist Management, which represented Boyce at the time of the incident in December 2014. Little Bear Inc. is the production company run by Weber’s wife, Nan Bush.
While Weber’s office did not respond to requests for comment, the photographer had addressed the problem of sexual harassment in more general terms a few weeks ago. Asked by WWD about what was believed to be a New York Times story in development about sexual harassment in the fashion industry, Eva Lindemann-Sánchez, producer of Little Bear Inc., said, “Bruce believes everyone should, at all times, be treated fairly, correctly and with respect.”
Boyce’s attorney, Mark Risk of The Bloom Firm, did not respond to a request for comment.
A receptionist at Soul Artist Management said that Kanner was not in the office Friday. Another employee declined comment, saying, “No one can help you,” before hanging up the phone.
In the suit, Risk claimed that as a result “of the discriminatory, harassing and abusive conduct of defendants and each of them, Mr. Boyce suffered.”
The complaint alleges that Weber grabbed Boyce and kissed him on the lips. It also states, “Weber put his fingers in Mr. Boyce’s mouth. Shocked, Mr. Boyce opened his eyes. Mr. Weber told him to keep his eyes closed, and kept his fingers in Mr. Boyce’s mouth. ‘If you just had confidence, you’d go really far,’ Mr. Weber whispered. ‘How far do you want to make it? How ambitious are you?’ Mr. Boyce did not respond.”
Kanner first signed Boyce in 2013. Kanner was said to have arranged a meeting between Boyce and Weber at a Midtown Manhattan jewelry store in December 2014. The 10-minute meeting resulted in Weber wanting to schedule a photoshoot with Kanner three days later. At that time, according to the suit, Kanner allegedly told Boyce, “This is big for you,” Mr. Kanner said. “You have to nail this.”
Born in Oklahoma, Boyce grew up in Northern California and started modeling in 2008. David Todd Management was the first to sign the athletic blonde, before he joined Soul Artist Management. He has appeared in commercials for Target, Amazon and Lexus. He has since switched over to MVA Management, which did not respond to a request for comment. In recent years, Boyce delved into acting, having appeared in the independent film “Unbelievers.”
Weber is the second high-profile photographer to be called out for reports of sexual misconduct in recent months. In late October, Condé Nast International announced that it would no longer be working with the controversial lensman Terry Richardson. Hearst and The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ quickly followed suit, severing ties with Richardson.
“I believe Mr Weber is a photographer of great talent, despite never having worked with him. However, no amount of talent can excuse sexual harassment, therefore if the allegations in the lawsuit are true, the industry should react as it did with Terry Richardson, and do so swiftly,” said Kim Vernon, president and chief executive officer of The Vernon Company, a consulting firm.
“On a more general note, I am afraid there will be more individuals speaking out about similar experiences in our industry. It is important that companies adopt policies and provide training to personnel so they can identify, report, and stop any potential situation where a person is sexually compromised,” she said.
The news of Weber’s alleged sexual harassment and sexual discrimination broke just a day after Def Jam cofounder Russell Simmons permanently stepped down from his businesses. His entrepreneurial ventures included starting Def Comedy Jams, Phat Farm, Tantris, Global Grind and other companies. In light of the allegations against Simmons, J.C. Penney has stopped selling Russell Simmons’ Argyleculture brand.