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NYT Report Shows Culture of Sexual Harassment at Victoria’s Secret

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  • The New York Times published a report accusing executives at Victoria’s Secret of inappropriate behavior including touching models over their underwear, asking them to sit on their laps, and making crass comments.
  • Some of the women who complained believed they were punished for speaking out.
  • Victoria’s Secret recently made headlines because Leslie Wexner, an executive and major player in the NYT report, was associated with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein allegedly pretended to be a Victoria’s Secret recruiter to lure in aspiring models.
  • This report also comes at a time where Victoria’s Secret’s future looks unclear. The company recently canceled its famous fashion show, and critics have been slamming its outdated depiction of women.

Allegations in NYT Report

Regular instances of sexual harassment by top executives have dictated the culture at Victoria’s Secret, a new New York Times report alleges. 

The Times spoke to 30 people as part of their investigation, which was published Saturday. The allegations focus on two men. The first is Leslie Wexner, the founder of Victoria Secret’s parent company, L Brands. Ed Razek, the other man involved, was an executive many viewed as a proxy to Wexner. 

According to the report, Razek would hold his position over models’ heads. One model told the Times that his attitude exuded toxic masculinity and conveyed a message that said: “I am the holder of the power. I can make you or break you.”

The Times’ report alleges that Razek asked models dressed only in their bra and underwear for their phone numbers. He would also urge them to sit on his lap and offer to take them to private dinners.

In one specific instance, he was allegedly watching a fitting for supermodel Bella Hadid, who was being measured for underwear for the famous Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show to make sure the garments cleared broadcast standards. 

“Forget the panties,” the Times’ sources allege Razek said to Hadid. He then said that the real question was if the network would let her go “down the runway with those perfect titties.”

At that same fitting, the report also says that he placed his hand on a model’s crotch, over her underwear. 

The report said that several HR complaints were made against him with stacks of examples. The women complaining, however, were the ones who found themselves in the most trouble. In one case, a PR employee said that Razek verbally berated her in public. She complained, but to her knowledge, nothing was done and she soon quit. Another employee who complained about his behavior was put on administrative leave one day after lodging her concerns.

One model, Andi Muise, told the paper she felt she was being punished for rejecting Razek’s advances. Back in 2007, when she was 19, he invited her to dinner. She accepted thinking she could form a meaningful, professional relationship with him. On the way, he allegedly tried to kiss her and kept persisting after she refused.

She said this kind of behavior continued over email, where Razek would say he wanted to move in with her or take her “someplace sexy.” Muise told the Times she stayed polite while communicating with him, but when he invited her to come to his home for dinner, she said the idea made her uneasy and did not go. Not much later, she found out that after walking in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for four years, she was not being invited back. 

The Modern State of Victoria’s Secret

All of this comes as Victoria’s Secret’s future, for a multitude of reasons, sits at a crossroads. In terms of leadership, Razek left L Brand back in August and Wexner could soon follow. The Times claimed that he is considering his own retirement and selling the giant lingerie brand.

The company itself has also seen better days. Due to declining ratings and sales, they canceled the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 2019. The event used to be a cultural staple of the fashion industry, with many models aspiring to walk its runway.

Many blame this downfall on the company’s idea of what women should look like. While body inclusivity and positivity has grown more mainstream, Victoria’s Secret still uses tall, thin models. Their hypersexualized image caters to a male fantasy of women. 

Both Wexner and Razek played a huge part in keeping that image. According to the Times’ report, when Wexner was pressed about embracing different body types he said, “Nobody goes to a plastic surgeon and says ‘make me fat.’”

Meanwhile, companies like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty show diverse women and bodies in its advertising. While that brand has risen to success with this messaging, Victoria’s Secret has not kept pace.  

This is also just the latest scandal to involve Victoria’s Secret. The brand made headlines in 2019 when it was learned that convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was a friend and adviser to Wexner.

According to the report, Epstein lured in aspiring models pretending to be a Victoria’s Secret recruiter. In at least two cases, he assaulted the women he brought in. The report claims that Wexner, who was close to Epstein at the time, knew this was happening and did not act on the complaints. 

Responses

A spokesperson for Wexner declined to speak for the Times. Razek denied the allegations, though he did not get into their specifics. He told the paper what was being reported was either untrue, misconstrued, or out of context. 

“I’ve been fortunate to work with countless, world-class models and gifted professionals and take great pride in the mutual respect we have for each other,” he said in an email to the Times.

L Brands released a statement of their own. It was obtained and published in full by NBC in Columbus, Ohio.

“We can assure you that the company is intensely focused on the corporate governance, workplace, and compliance practices that directly impact our 80,000 associates around the world, nearly 90% of whom are female,” the statement said. “We regret any instance where we did not achieve this objective and are fully committed to continuous improvement and complete accountability.”

See what others are saying: (NBC 4) (USA Today) (Fortune)

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Florida Cracks Down on “Vaccine Tourism”

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  • Florida is now requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 
  • The state has been hit with “vaccine tourism” as many people, predominantly wealthy individuals, fly to the state from other parts of the U.S. and abroad just to get the shot. 
  • So far, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses administered in Florida went to out-of-staters, though it is unclear if all those people were tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents.

Florida Requires Proof of Residency

Florida is cracking down on “vaccine tourism” and requiring that people show proof of either full-time or part-time residency in the state in order to get a COVID-19 shot.

Previously the state was allowing anyone 65 and older, including non-residents, to get the vaccine. This resulted in people flying to the Sunshine State from across the U.S. and abroad just for the purpose of receiving it. 

According to state data, nearly 41,000 of the 1.3 million doses Florida has administered have gone to out-of-staters. It is unclear if all these out-of-staters are tourists or if this figure includes some part-time residents. 

Now, people must show a form of identification like a driver’s license or mortgage payment to receive it. Exceptions will be made for healthcare workers. 

Vaccine Supply Continues to Be Limited

Wealthy people in particular were quick to schedule travel plans to Florida for this reason. According to the Wall Street Journal, there was an influx of Canadians booking private jets to Florida. Some were looking to book flights there and back on the same day, leaving just enough time for them to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Meanwhile, people in Florida and across the country are waiting in long lines and struggling to book appointments on glitching websites to get their shots. Vaccine supply continues to be incredibly limited and not everyone in high-risk groups have received them.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said this rule is not made to impact snowbirds, people who live in Florida during the winter to escape cold weather up north. 

“They go to doctors here or whatever, that’s fine, DeSantis said, according to CNN. “What we don’t want is tourists, foreigners. We want to put seniors first, but we obviously want to put people that live here first in line.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (Travel + Leisure)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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