Fourteen year old Ivanka, the suddenly ravishing mini-babe who seems like one of those kids from soap operas-4 years old one day, 19 the next-is starting to model [...]
Donald is particularly enthusiastic.
-New York Magazine, December 18th 1995
7 years had passed since John Casablancas had appeared on the cover of New York magazine, declaring his love for underage girls, and Donald and Ivana had made a decision-their daughter, Ivanka, would become a model. Despite a widespread belief that she was too young, too naive, and wasn’t quite aesthetically suited for the industry-Ivanka Trump was nonetheless able to get signed to a major agency, At the tender age of 13, she signed on with the new look department of Elite Model Management- under the tutelage of none other than John Casablancas:
It seems that Monica Pillard, the president of Elite, had been eyeing Ivanka since she spotted her on her father's lap four years ago, when Mr. Trump was a judge of a new-talent contest for the agency.
Mr. Trump and Elite have a longstanding, informal relationship. Ms. Pillard served as a judge in the Miss Universe pageant, which is jointly owned by Mr. Trump and CBS, as is the Miss Teen USA pageant. John Casablancas, Elite's founder, is a friend of Mr. Trump's, and Elite has held events at Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Yes, Donald Trump decided to entrust his daughter to this man. Yes, Casablancas still had his job. He would weather charges of tax evasion, and class action lawsuit-but eventually his past caught up with him. In 2002 he was sued by a former model who alleged that Casablancas had raped her when she was 15, and then forced her to get an abortion. The lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount, and in 2003 Elite model management officially declared bankruptcy.
Despite the fact that Ivanka largely flopped as a model, Donald Trump would continue to brag about her physical beauty, physique, and ostensibly prolific modeling career.
He would also go on to unceremoniously dump Marla Maples, his long suffering mistress having become his reluctant second bride, and shut her down with legal arrangements that both forbade her from saying a negative word about him in public for all time, and ensured she got next to nothing in spousal/child support. Maples agreed to this despite the fact that she had already raised their daughter Tiffany almost entirely on her own. In fact until his presidential run Trump had not shown a modicum of fatherly interest in her life aside from the bizarre speculation-when she was merely a baby-about her future breast size and compliments of her 1 year old legs on Lifestyles of the RIch and Famous. Over a decade later, in one of his few public acknowledgements of her existence, he would smirk as he admitted to Howard Stern that he had urged Marla to abort her.
In the meantime Elite and Ford collapsed under the weight of their scandals-creating a vacuum of talent to cash in on. A a cast of shady characters and playboys were drawn in, eager to capitalize on the power, social status and potential fortune that could be found in the business of beautiful girls.
As Ford lost her grip on power, for better or worse, so died the last vestiges of a honor code within the modeling world. While the one that existed was without teeth, it still marked a change. During this time, the supermodel era also came to an end-no model since has ever dared to suggest that there was a price tag attached to her presence. Modesty-in terms of value and talent-became synonymous with greed and hubris. The fact that models-even supermodels-never gained the riches that were born of their starved bodies and faces didn’t matter. The fact that the largest spoils went to the very men who were caught on hidden camera laughing about raping underage girls didn’t matter. The industry was, like so many others, an unregulated wild west. And into this fray came numerous playboys and would-become kings. Jean Luc Brunel, the unwitting star of the BBC undercover investigation started MC2. Claude Haddad, his co-star, started DNA. Paolo Zampolli, who we will talk about in the next installment, started ID. Michel Adam Lisowski started FashionTV. And Donald J. Trump started Trump Model Management.
All of these individuals and companies are, as it turns out, inextricably linked in ways that leave little doubt of the nature of their business. The fashion industry, as exploitative and morally ambiguous as it is on it’s very surface, is in fact merely the rock that covers an ecosystem of underground creatures beneath. This ecosystem will be explored and laid bare in my next post. This is a story that must be told in layers and parts. It involves oligarchs and diplomats, tax evasion, and trafficking of drugs, weapons, and human beings.
But for now, it is important to explore the surface-because it is the most easily understood, provable, and in many ways it’s the most telling when it comes to the character of the man who wants to be president. And there are a myriad of important questions to ask knowing the facts thus far:
What kind of man seeks out, pursues friendship and business partnerships with a man who is unabashed in his predilection for underage girls? Who openly admits he prefers them young because they are easily manipulated? John Casablancas was “girl crazy”, and proud of it. His reputation was legendary.
Ivanka Trump at a modeling shoot, age 14
Imagine, for a moment, that John Casablancas was doing this type of thing with boys of the same age. Imagine he was inviting young teenagers to his private office, having them strip down to near or complete nudity, inspecting their bodies, talking about how he thought they were sexy, sending them off to Europe to get them “broken in”, and falling in love with them. The ages of the girls he preyed on is not all that far off from the ages of the boys that Jerry Sandusky abused, and we all readily acknowledge that’s wrong. Joe Paterno was widely-rightfully-condemned for turning a blind eye to what was happening. But when it’s 14 year old girls? Why does anyone, including Trump, who continued to do business with him get a pass? And why is this the first time, to my knowledge, that Trump’s association with John Casablancas has even been questioned in the public sphere?
And for that matter-What kind of man throws his 14 year old daughter into this den of wolves? Plausible deniability isn’t going to work on this one-Donald Trump knew about the state of the industry, he knew that it was a cesspool of drug abuse and sexual exploitation. Why would he sign his underage daughter with, of all people, John Casablancas? Anyone who was tangentially connected to the modeling industry was well aware of the scandals that plagued him-his relationship with Stephanie Seymour, his unrelenting desire for young girls. And furthermore, they KNEW that Casablancas’ attitude was far from an outlier, that in fact the industry was rife with people exactly like him, and hopelessly corrupted by their influence. This was not obscure knowledge-it was a subject of a national broadcast. It was an industry wide embarrassment. It was a front page story.
Donald Trump knew the reputation of Elite, he knew the reputation of the industry, he knew that it was a ripe hunting ground for young, impressionable girls. He knew that drugs were rampant and frequently pushed on “models” as they were hired under the guise of “entertainment” of “guests”-in fact, he admitted as much when asked about it in this New York Times Interview:
''This is an interesting case,'' he said over his speaker phone, which was not on a boat but rather in his office. ''I am only modestly in favor of this because I understand that that life is a very fast life, and at that age it is always a risky proposition.'
So what did Trump do? Did he recoil in horror? Did he disavow any further dealings with these people?
If you as a parent knew all of this about the fashion industry, modeling in particular-what would you do if your child, 13 at the time, announced that she wanted to become a model? By all accounts it does not appear that Ivanka was even the driving force behind the decision to start modeling. In fact reading old profiles of Trump, it’s abundantly clear that both he and Ivana were excited and invigorated by the prospect of their little girl being on the catwalk and in the pages of Vogue. They promoted her tirelessly-especially Donald. He bragged to anyone who would listen about how beautiful Ivanka was, often remarking on her body. He sought affirmation from others when he asked if they (including a judge for MIss USA and others) thought his daughter was “hot”. Trump is invested in this idea of his daughter as sexually desirable. I suppose it lends credence to his superior genes theory, in a way. But even a eugenicist would be able to talk about their progeny in a way that doesn’t reduce them to their sex appeal. Every father in this country-at least the ones who don’t have some underlying pathology-understand that fixating on your daughters body, her “hotness”, let alone thinking about her sex life vis a vis your own and even “joking” about dating her-is downright bizarre. An outrageous comment, a joke that falls flat-it happens. But this isn’t a one off. This is a pervasive pattern of behavior and a reflection of belief.
Most men do not talk about their daughters in this way. Not when they are adults, not when they are teenagers, certainly not when they are infants as he did when it came to Tiffany and her legs and future breasts. And most fathers care enough about their daughters to not thrust them into an industry rife with abuse, placing them under the control of a man known to take advantage of his underage charges. This is the basic criteria for being a decent human being, and the bare minimum to be a competent parent-you don’t expose your children to this. You protect them from it. Donald Trump is apparently incapable of even rising to that most basic standard of decency.
In fact, many, many people and many companies decided not to work with Casablancas at all after his private behavior became public. Whether it was a moral stance, or a business decision, they determined he was toxic and should be avoided at all costs. Many people were able to see that associating with Casablancas would not reflect well on their character, and that any young woman they put in his presence would be at risk.