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Terry Richardson Sexually Abused a Model After Trump’s Modeling Agency Dismissed Her Concerns About Him, Lawsuit Says

Terry Richardson.
Terry Richardson sexually abused a model after Trump's modeling agency dismissed her concerns about him, lawsuit says. (Shutterstock)

Sometime in 2004, Minerva Portillo had a meeting with Terry Richardson in his downtown Manhattan studio.

Richardson was one of the most famous fashion photographers in the world, going on to work for the likes of Tom Ford, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Yves Saint Laurent.

Portillo, 22 years old at the time, had just moved to New York from Spain and was excited for the next phase in her modeling career.

Richardson appeared enthusiastic at the idea of working with Portillo, but she left the meeting feeling perturbed, according to a lawsuit she filed Wednesday.

“During their meeting, Mr. Richardson wore nothing but a robe. Ms. Portillo was disturbed by this,” her lawyers wrote. “She tried to keep the meeting professional and kept her distance from Mr. Richardson while they looked through her portfolio together.”

After the meeting, Portillo expressed her trepidation to her agents at Trump Model Management — the modeling agency founded in 1999 by now-former-President Donald Trump — and told them that Richardson had worn only a robe, according to the lawsuit.

They waved away her distress, her suit alleges.

“Trump Model Management dismissed her concerns, telling her that such behaviour was commonplace and that given Mr. Richardson’s prominence and influence in the industry, Ms. Portillo should overlook his behaviour,” the lawsuit claims.

The agents booked a photoshoot with Richardson for that May, according to the suit. When she arrived at his studio, an employee offered a beverage that made her “feel dizzy, disoriented, and not fully in control of her body,” the lawsuit alleges.

During the photoshoot, the lawsuit alleges, Richardson instructed her to remove her clothing before forcing her to perform oral sex on him.

“She tried to push Mr. Richardson away and attempted to back away from him. But she was closely surrounded by Mr. Richardson’s employees, some of whom were cheering,” the lawsuit alleges. “Mr. Richardson had his hand on her head, keeping her in place.”

Richardson and his employees snapped photos while he sexually abused her, Portillo’s lawsuit says.

Portillo had another appointment with Richardson the next day, for a fashion brand, according to the lawsuit. She “attempted to tell an agent at Trump Model Management about the assault,” her lawsuit says, but the agency “insisted that she proceed with the appointment.”

Portillo, Richardson, and other members of the photography crew traveled in a van back to Manhattan from the shoot location. In the van, Richardson “unbuckled his pants, grabbed her head, and forced it towards his penis without her consent” before commanding her to perform oral sex, the lawsuit alleges, also while his staff took photos.

Portillo returned to Spain a week later, abandoning her modeling career, according to the lawsuit.

Richardson has faced numerous sexual assault accusations since the early 2000s and was effectively ousted from the fashion industry in 2017 amid the #MeToo movement. An attorney for Richardson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Portillo’s lawsuit.

Portillo had previously recounted her story in 2017, to Vogue Spain. She brought her new lawsuit in Manhattan federal court under the Adult Survivors Act, a New York law passed in the wake of the #MeToo movement that created a one-year window permitting accusers to bring civil sexual misconduct lawsuits that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations. The window for new lawsuits closes on Thursday.

In addition to Richardson, corporate entities related to Trump Model Management, which stopped operating in 2017, are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Attorneys representing those entities didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit does not identify the particular agents who represented Portillo and booked the meetings with Richardson.

“What happened to Ms. Portillo was foreseeable and preventable, because she had shared her concerns about working with Mr. Richardson with Trump Model Management,” Aleix Cuadrado, a Spain-based attorney representing Portillo in the case, said in a statement.

Richardson published the photos allegedly depicting Richardson’s sexual assault in a photo gallery and a book, and sold at least one of them to a private collector, according to the lawsuit. The photos depict Portillo gripping Richardson’s penis, Portillo performing oral sex on him, and Richardson ejaculating on Portillo’s face while she wears his glasses. Richardson often photographed models wearing his glasses.

Portillo’s lawsuit says she signed a release form for the photos, but that she did not understand what the form said because her native language is not English.

The release form falsely states the photos “do not depict actual sexually explicit conduct,” according to the suit.

Portillo relied on her agents at Trump’s management company to handle release forms for her, the lawsuit says.

“There is a difference between provocative — but consensually made — art, and sexual assault,” Christine Dunn, another one of Portillo’s attorneys, said in a statement. “Ms. Portillo alleges that this was the latter, and Mr. Richardson did not have the rights to distribute the images.”

By Jacob Shamsian

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