Since the #MeToo movement started in 2017, much of it has played out on social media, with many purported victims of sexual harassment and abuse sharing their stories online.
But whereas Twitter and Reddit were the platforms of choice for survivors in 2017 and 2018, fashion industry watchdog Diet Prada recently harnessed the power of another platform — Instagram — to call out two photographers for alleged inappropriate sexual behavior.
Photographers Come Into Focus
On July 22, Diet Prada posted to Instagram screenshots from Los Angeles model Sunnaya Nash, who was accusing photographer Marcus Hyde of predatory behavior. Nash shared multiple screenshots on July 21 of what she said is a direct message conversation with Hyde — famous for working with stars like Ariana Grande and Kim Kardashian. In an Instagram screenshot of a conversation with Hyde’s account (@marcushyde), the photographer appeared to request nude images of the model prior to arranging a shoot; he said the shoot would cost $2,000 if she didn’t send the photos.
After Nash’s post was shared by Diet Prada, other models who had worked with Hyde came forward with similar allegations of sexual misdeeds on his part.
In the wake of the allegations, Grande and Kardashian have both condemned Hyde. They also used Instagram to share their criticism of the photographer, writing posts on their “stories,” the platform’s 24-hour-long image-sharing feature, that addressed the allegations.
Hyde’s Instagram has since been taken down due to violation of the company’s sexual solicitation policies, as reported by WWD; he has not publicly commented on the allegations.
Fendi, which has worked with the lensman in the past, told The New York Times it would not employ him going forward.
Instagram + Fashion
Given its emphasis on visuals, Instagram has long been the go-to social media for fashion, both when it comes to brands and influencers. With 1.5 million followers, Diet Prada has grown to become a highly influential account within the industry, though it is not known for its coverage of sexual conduct. It started out by unveiling alleged copycat designs and continues to focus on that issue.
“The most important thing [on social media] is the ability to build an audience around shared interests,” said Dustin Kidd, associate professor of sociology at Temple University. “The social movement possibilities are generated by creative users who find ways to use the platforms in ways they weren’t designed for.”
Diet Prada’s initial post about Hyde has led to similar claims of misconduct targeted at another photographer, Timur Emek, who has worked with Victoria’s Secret and snapped Fashion Week street style for Getty Images. Emek has not publicly addressed the allegations, and according to Diet Prada, Instagram has deactivated his account due to Community Guideline violations.
One post accusing Emek of sexual misconduct originated from Haley Bowman, a model and production designer who shared her story with Instagram followers.
In an interview with FN as well as on her Instagram account, Bowman accused Emek of assaulting her in a hotel room when she was 19. She said she came forward after seeing DP’s “super triggering” posts about Hyde. It’s thanks to Diet Prada, she added, that her story gained traction. In light of the allegations, she said, Getty Images informed her of its decision not to work with Emek going forward. (Getty has not responded to requests for comment.)
“This probably wouldn’t have gone past my, at the time, 9,000 followers [if Diet Prada hadn’t shared it ],” Bowman explained. “Diet Prada has a huge following, and that reaches people.”
It’s not just the total follower count that makes Diet Prada so impactful; it’s also who sees the posts. The account, which is run by Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, has become a must-follow for members of the fashion elite, from designers and journalists to supermodels. Though since the account entered into new territory by taking on #MeToo, it has received many times its typical post engagement, according to Instagram consultant and marketing specialist Emelina Spinelli, with 15,000 comments to its usual 300-1,500 and a whopping 300,000 combined likes.
“[The high engagement] shows how important this topic is to their followers (as it should be),” Spinelli said. “Also, the movement will grow more and more because the content is continually being shared and spoken about. I think creating social movements comes down to presenting the material in a way the audience prefers, on a platform they prefer.”
“Diet Prada is finding the right place for itself finally. Beside being helpful, it’s [having a] strong effect and reaching more people,” said Deniz Tekin, a model who came forward with accusations against Emek after seeing Bowman’s post. “I hope this time it’s going to be a big lesson for every side of this industry and that no one forgets and forgives.”
Social Media and #MeToo
When it comes to online user preferences, Instagram has historically been “more about how much fun people have,” said Lydia Manikonda, an Arizona State researcher who has studied social media’s usage. In contrast, Twitter tends to be a place to post about topics like politics, she added.
Further, while Twitter and Facebook allow for the opportunity to share images with captions, those posts are primarily text-based — whereas Instagram is all about the visual. Thus, Diet Prada’s harnessing of Instagram for a #MeToo reckoning goes against the trend of “tweeting the mind and Instagramming the heart,” which Manikonda and her colleagues observed in a 2016 study.
If Instagram is being repurposed for this current movement, it’s not the first time a social media platform’s usage has changed.
“Social media really played a key role in order make [the #MeToo] movement vital,” Manikonda said. “Over the past couple years, Twitter has been mostly seen as negative. We saw in the #MeToo movement that [Twitter] was mostly positive, and it was really surprising.”
“As the rules of the platforms change over time, the users are also scrambling to find new ways to use the platforms,” Kidd added. “None of these platforms were designed for social movements — that [was] created by users.”
Since its initial post about Hyde, Diet Prada has said that it has received emails and direct messages in spades, with additional accusations brought forth about Hyde, Emek and others.
Model Jade Warnes also came forward to tell her story: “When I saw Diet Prada’s posts about Marcus Hyde, I immediately thought about my experience with Timur. Almost immediately after I read the post, I messaged Diet Prada with my story and included screenshots,” said Warnes, who claimed Emek pressured her into taking nude images when she was 17. “It’s made me feel so much more empowered.”
Early 2018 saw a string of allegations against famed fashion photographers, including Mario Testing, Bruce Weber and Patrick Demarchelier, but these claims were primary driven through traditional news media, namely The New York Times and The Boston Globe. This effort by Diet Prada has reignited the #MeToo conversation in the fashion world for 2019 and provided an outlet for victims, often in real time.
Bowman told FN that her inbox has been flooded with hundreds of messages from people from around the world reaching out to share their stories.
“I can only hope that this is going to continue [to increase] the amount of people who come forward,” she said.
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