A response has been issued by one of the casting directors sacked by Balenciaga following accusations of 'sadistic and cruel' mistreatment of models at a Paris casting. Maida Gregori Boina was accused, along with Rami Fernandes, by fellow casting director James Scully in an Instagram post that said: "I was very disturbed to hear from a number of girls this morning that yesterday at the Balenciaga casting [Maida and Rami] (serial abusers) held a casting in which they made over 150 girls wait in a stairwell told them they would have to stay over 3 hours to be seen and not to leave. In their usual fashion they shut the door went to lunch and turned off the lights, to the stairs leaving every girl with only the lights of their phones to see".
Balenciaga responded swiftly to the incident, confirming that they had discontinued their relationship with Maida and Rami, and had written to the models' agencies to issue an apology to the models, inviting them to share their experiences. The statement concluded by saying, "Balenciaga condemns this incident and will continue to be deeply committed to ensure the most respectful working conditions for the models".
In a statement issued to the Business of Fashion, Maida Gregori Boina has refuted the claims, calling them "inaccurate and libellous". As part of a longer statement, Boina writes, "To directly address these accusations, the models did not wait for 3 hours in the dark, not even one hour. We personally ate our lunch in the casting facility and - without question - we did not lock the models in the stairwell and turn out the lights. That would be completely inhumane". She goes on to commend Balenciaga for taking swift action, but says, "we are saddened to be released from the casting without a discussion of what actually took place," later accusing James Scully of "misrepresented the facts for personal career gain".
Boina's denial stands in stark contrast to the testimonies of models in the comments on Scully's instagram post. Judith Schiltzl, whose agency confirmed to i-D that she was present at the casting, writes, "I was one of this 150 girls waiting in this stairwell ... Just after I saw the casting director screaming at us to go out -- outside, in the dark -- and told us that we are like groupies in a concert, and how incredible and unbearable it was".
Others have commented to say that they have had similar experiences in the past with Maida and Rami. Jelena Salikova, who is represented by Wilhelmina, commented, "Oh [Maida and Rami]. I remember [those] endless hours waiting until they would see us models. Thank you". Ekaterina Kashyntseva, who was previously signed to Premier, writes "Maida! I still remember how we were made to wait for hours [sitting] on the floor they would take our books and not let us leave, if you do leave -- you will be in the black list and never get any job from their clients! Worst people in the industry! Such abusers!!". Former model Mollie Gondi, who was signed to Storm in London and Ford in New York, writes "Maida would request me season after season after season to do the exact same thing. Lock me in a room for 3 hours while everyone panicked, only to never, EVER book me". Tatiana Kovylina, previously signed to Storm and Women, commented, "Thank you! At last! Maida has been abusing girls for years!".
Several male models also commented, with Viva model Michael Armenakis writing, "I remember years ago for the Jil Sander casting [Maida and Rami] would call you there for 15:00 let's say and immediately go to lunch for three hours, it was widely known about but not spoken of because everyone wants the chance for an exclusive or just to walk for such a prestigious brand. They have the power to make models (which they do of course) but abuse that right by treating others as if they are below them. Very glad they have been exposed, along with others of course". Alexander Wolf, represented by M4 in Germany, writes, "Maida and Rami are the worst casting directors I have ever met in my [life]. I waited there from 5 to 7 hours. they keep your book and when u want it back u don't get the job. I hope they get fired from the other clients as well".
High profile industry figures have been vociferous in their support for James Scully on his Instagram post. Messages of thanks and support were posted by a huge number of models, including Helena Christensen, Alana Zimmer, Joan Smalls, Jacquelyn Jablonski, Edie Campbell, Dilone, Greta Varlese, Hollie May Saker, Martha Hunt, Siouxsie Leenaars, Lida Fox, Julie Hoomans, Ari Westphal, Nimue Smit, Katie Moore, Ali Michael and Julia Stegner. James also received supportive comments from creative movement director Stephen Galloway, make-up artist Kay Montano and the President of Next Models LA, Alexis Alex Borges, among others.
Text Charlotte Gush