Numerous models have come forward with stories of alleged sexual assault by alleged skeezoid monster Terry Richardson, and one of the creepier similarities between their stories thus far has been the presence of an older female assistant/cheerleader who allegedly encourages the models and convinces them everything is OK, even when the situation is very far from OK. Now Vocative’s Elizabeth Kulze has tracked down the assistant and confirmed she is stylist Leslie Lessin, and her involvement only makes his alleged sexual assaults that much creepier.
Lessin was identified by models Charlotte Waters and Jamie Peck, who was one of the very first models to write about her experiences with Richardson in this brilliant essay for The Gloss.
Both Waters and Peck told Vocative that Lessin was like a cheerleader during their photoshoots with Richardson.
“I remember Lessin as being very gung ho about everything,” Peck said in an interview with Vocative. “She was encouraging me the whole way, like isn’t this fun? Isn’t this cool? Everything is A-OK.”
“It seemed like they had done this a million times,” Waters said.
Both models said Lessin handed them a towel to wipe off when Richardson was done, and Waters said Lessin insisted on riding home in the cab with her.
“She kept telling me that I was a really strong girl, and that I’m really cool, and that it’s so good that I can handle that sort of thing,” Waters said. “Looking back it was obviously her attempt to make me feel like what I did was a good thing and what happened wasn’t bad.”
Like Richardson, Lessin seems to be very successful in her chosen career. According to Vocative, she and Richardson have collaborated for at least a decade, and her portfolio includes Harper’s Bazaar covers, the Pirelli calendar, and work for Levi’s, Nike, Carolina Herrera, and more. Like Richardson, she’s worked with huge celebrities including Miley Cyrus, Cate Blanchett and Jessica Alba.
Somehow, Lessin’s involvement makes these allegations seem even seedier and more disgusting than they already were. It all seems so orchestrated, like a well-oiled, allegedly predatory machine. There were five years between Peck’s encounter with Richardson and Waters’ experience with him. How many more shoots did Richardson and Lessin do with models who have not yet come forward?
Lessin’s role in these alleged assaults confounds us. We can at least sort of understand Richardson’s motivations. It doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine why an allegedly creepy 48-year-old man would want to allegedly pressure models into giving him hand jobs or letting him jerk off into their eyes. We can’t even begin to wrap our brains around what would motivate a grown-ass woman to stand around and watch this happen to girls fresh out of high school, hand them towels, and chat away as though everything were completely normal.
This story continues to disgust us and makes us want to head over to The Representation Project, where we can tweet at some of the brands that hire Terry Richardson about how unhappy their association makes us.