Did you ever get a letter from a Trumpy-the-Clown attorney threatening a law suit? I guess the really classic ones are the ones from ultimate sleaze bag Roy Cohn but he's sitting on Satan's dick now so the one I got a week or two ago was less collectible. They're suing me for writing about accusations that before she was married to Herr Trumpf, Melania wasn't just using her bod for modeling. They're suing the Daily Mail (for $150 million) as well and at least a few other blogs besides DWT. The letter they sent me is a mess and my laywer laughed at it when I read it to him and told me to throw it in the garbage. I decided to keep it, perhaps use it to as a kind of premium to raise money for the Blue America candidates, something like that.
Meanwhile, though, some of the imported women Trump didn't marry who worked at Trump Model Management have testified that Trump used them despite the fact they were here in tourist visas that wouldn't allow them to work– a similar story to the one that circulated about Melania, which she denies. Mother Jones reported that, although Trump makes millions renting out his models, some of them “say they barely made any money working for the agency because of the high fees for rent and other expenses that were charged by the company.”
Canadian-born Rachel Blais spent nearly three years working for Trump Model Management. After first signing with the agency in March 2004, she said, she performed a series of modeling gigs for Trump's company in the United States without a work visa. At Mother Jones' request, Blais provided a detailed financial statement from Trump Model Management and a letter from an immigration lawyer who, in the fall of 2004, eventually secured a visa that would permit her to work legally in the United States. These records show a six-month gap between when she began working in the United States and when she was granted a work visa. During that time, Blais appeared on Trump's hit reality TV show, The Apprentice, modeling outfits designed by his business protégés. As Blais walked the runway, Donald Trump looked on from the front row.
…Each of the three former Trump models said she arrived in New York with dreams of making it big in one of the world's most competitive fashion markets. But without work visas, they lived in constant fear of getting caught. “I was pretty on edge most of the time I was there,” Anna said of the three months in 2009 she spent in New York working for Trump's agency.
…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. Anna said she received a specific instruction from a Trump agency representative: “If they ask you any questions, you're just here for meetings.”
…Fashion industry sources say that skirting immigration law in the manner that the three former Trump models described was once commonplace in the modeling world. In fact, Politico recently raised questions about the immigration status of Donald Trump's current wife, Melania, during her days as a young model in New York in the 1990s. (In response to the Politico story, Melania Trump said she has “at all times been in compliance with the immigration laws of this country.”)
Kate, who worked for Trump Model Management in 2004, marveled at how her former boss has recently branded himself as an anti-illegal-immigration crusader on the campaign trail. “He doesn't want to let anyone into the US anymore,” she said. “Meanwhile, behind everyone's back, he's bringing in all of these girls from all over the world and they're working illegally.”
Now 31 years old and out of the modeling business, Blais once appeared in various publications, including Vogue, Elle, and Harpers Bazaar, and she posed wearing the designs of such fashion luminaries as Gianfranco Ferré, Dolce & Gabbana, and Jean Paul Gaultier. Her modeling career began when she was 16 and spanned numerous top-name agencies across four continents. She became a vocal advocate for models and appeared in a 2011 documentary, Girl Model, that explored the darker side of the industry. In a recent interview, she said her experience with Trump's firm stood out: “Honestly, they are the most crooked agency I've ever worked for, and I've worked for quite a few.”
Freshly signed to Trump Model Management, the Montreal native traveled to New York City by bus in April 2004. Just like “the majority of models who are young, [have] never been to NYC, and don't have papers, I was just put in Trump's models' apartment,” she said. Kate and Anna also said they had lived in this apartment.
Models' apartments, as they're known in the industry, are dormitory-style quarters where agencies pack their talent into bunks, in some cases charging the models sky-high rent and pocketing a profit. According to the three former models, Trump Model Management housed its models in a two-floor, three-bedroom apartment in the East Village, near Tompkins Square Park. Mother Jones is withholding the address of the building, which is known in the neighborhood for its model tenants, to protect the privacy of the current residents.
When Blais lived in the apartment, she recalled, a Trump agency representative who served as a chaperone had a bedroom to herself on the ground floor of the building. A narrow flight of stairs led down to the basement, where the models lived in two small bedrooms that were crammed with bunk beds– two in one room, three in the other. An additional mattress was located in a common area near the stairs. At times, the apartment could be occupied by 11 or more people.
“We're herded into these small spaces,” Kate said. “The apartment was like a sweatshop.”
Trump Model Management recruited models as young as 14. “I was by far the oldest in the house at the ripe old age of 18,” Anna said. “The bathroom always smelled like burned hair. I will never forget the place!” She added, “I taught myself how to write, 'Please clean up after yourself' in Russian.”
…Employers caught hiring noncitizens without proper visas can be fined up to $16,000 per employee and, in some cases, face up to six months in prison.
The three former Trump models said Trump's agency was aware of the complications posed by their foreign status. Anna and Kate said the company coached them on how to circumvent immigration laws. Kate recalled being told, “When you're stuck at immigration, say that you're coming as a tourist. If they go through your luggage and they find your portfolio, tell them that you're going there to look for an agent.”
Anna recalled that prior to her arrival, Trump agency staffers were “dodging around” her questions about her immigration status and how she could work legally in the United States. “Until finally,” she said, “it came to two days before I left, and they told me my only option was to get a tourist visa and we could work the rest out when I got there. We never sorted the rest out.”
Arriving in the United States, Anna grew terrified. “Going through customs for this trip was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life,” she added. ”It's hard enough when you're there perfectly innocently, but when you know you've lied on what is essentially a federal document, it's a whole new world.”
“Am I sweaty? Am I red? Am I giving this away?” Anna remembered thinking as she finally faced a customs officer. After making it through immigration, she burst into tears.
Industry experts say that violating immigration rules has been the status quo in the fashion world for years. “It's been common, almost standard, for modeling agencies to encourage girls to come into the country illegally,” said Sara Ziff, the founder of the Model Alliance, an advocacy group that claimed a major success in 2014 after lobbying the New York State legislature to pass a bill increasing protections for child models.
…Nearly three years after signing with Trump's agency, Blais had little to show for it– and it wasn't for lack of modeling jobs. Under the contracts that she and other Trump models had signed, the company advanced money for rent and various other expenses (such as trainers, beauty treatments, travel, and administrative costs), deducting these charges from its clients' modeling fees. But these charges– including the pricey rent that Blais and her roommates paid– consumed nearly all her modeling earnings. “I only got one check from Trump Models, and that's when I left them,” she said. “I got $8,000 at most after having worked there for three years and having made tens of thousands of dollars.” (The check Blais received was for $8,427.35.)
“This is a system where they actually end up making money on the back of these foreign workers,” Blais added. She noted that models can end up in debt to their agencies, once rent and numerous other fees are extracted.
This is known in the industry as “agency debt.” Kate said her bookings never covered the cost of living in New York. After two months, she returned home. “I left indebted to them,” she said, “and I never went back, and I never paid them back.”
…”It is like modern-day slavery” Blais said of working for Trump Model Management—and she is not alone in describing her time with Trump's company in those terms. Former Trump model Alexia Palmer, who filed a lawsuit against Trump Model Management for fraud and wage theft in 2014, has said she “felt like a slave.”
Palmer has alleged that she was forced to pay hefty– sometimes mysterious– fees to Trump's agency. These were fees on top of the 20 percent commission she paid for each job the company booked. Palmer charged that during three years of modeling for Trump's company, she earned only $3,880.75. A New York judge dismissed Palmer's claim in March because, among other reasons, she had not taken her case first to the Department of Labor. Lawyers for Trump Model Management called Palmer's lawsuit “frivolous” and “without merit.”
…Trump has taken an active role at Trump Model Management from its founding. He has personally signed models who have participated in his Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions, where his agency staff appeared as judges. Melania Trump was a Trump model for a brief period after meeting her future husband in the late 1990s.
The agency is a particular point of pride for Trump, who has built his brand around glitz and glamour. “True Trumpologists know the model agency is only a tiny part of Trumpland financially,” the New York Sun wrote in 2004. “But his agency best evokes a big Trump theme– sex sells.” Trump has often cross-pollinated his other business ventures with fashion models and has used them as veritable set pieces when he rolls out new products. Trump models, including Blais, appeared on The Apprentice– and they flanked him at the 2004 launch of his Parker Brothers board game, TRUMP.
Part of Blais' job, she said, was to serve as eye candy at Trump-branded events. Recalling the first time she met the mogul, she said, “I had to go to the Trump Vodka opening.” It was a glitzy 2006 gala at Trump Tower where Busta Rhymes performed, and Trump unveiled his (soon-to-be-defunct) line of vodka. “It was part of my duty to go and be seen and to be photographed and meet Donald Trump and shake his hand,” she remembered.
Trump made a strong impression on her that night. “I knew that I was a model and there was objectification in the job, but this was another level,” she said. Blais left Trump Model Management the year after the Trump Vodka gala, feeling that she had been exploited and shortchanged by the agency.
Kate, who went on to have a successful career with another agency, also parted ways with Trump's company in disgust. “My overall experience was not a very good one,” she said. “I left with a bad taste in my mouth. I didn't like the agency. I didn't like where they had us living. Honestly, I felt ripped off.”
These days, Kate said, she believes that Trump has been fooling American voters with his anti-immigrant rhetoric, given that his own agency had engaged in the practices he has denounced. “He doesn't like the face of a Mexican or a Muslim,” she said, “but because these [models] are beautiful girls, it's okay? He's such a hypocrite.”
The crooked man who owns 85% of this modeling agency agency wants to con people into voting for him to be president of the United States. Incredibly, his polling numbers are close, probably because the Democrats managed to saddle themselves with an incredibly flawed candidate as well. Not one nearly as bad as Trump but, not one inspiring much trust or admiration during the campaign. She's better than he is, though, so get one of these and vote for her if you live in a swing state. And if you have a mother or a sister, a wife, a daughter, a woman friend, if you're a woman yourself… if you have a woman doctor or a woman nurse, a co-worker or neighbor you like, remember what Trump top surrogate, Rudy Giuliani said– without a trace of irony– to George Stephanopoulos on ABC-TV yesterday: “Don’t you think a man who has this kind of economic genius is a lot better for the United States than a woman.” Rogue? Unhinged? I haven't heard Trump distance himself from that sick, idiotic remark. How could he? It's how he– and those around him, including Giuliani– have lived their lives. It's 2016… this isn't how normal people think any longer!
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis