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Sat Mar 14, 2020, 08:57 AM

Teen models, powerful men and private dinners: when Trump hosted Look of the Year

On 1 September 1991, a large private yacht cruised towards the Statue of Liberty. It was a clear, breezy evening, and from the upper deck of the Spirit of New York, a golden sunset could be seen glinting off the Manhattan skyline. Downstairs, a party was in flow. Scores of teenage girls in evening dresses and miniskirts, some as young as 14, danced under disco lights. It could have been a high school prom, were it not for the crowd of older men surrounding them.

As the evening wore on, some of the men – many old enough to be the girls’ fathers, or even grandfathers – joined them on the dance floor, pressing themselves against the girls. One balding man in a suit wrapped his arms around two young models, leering into a film camera that was documenting the evening: “Can you get some beautiful women around me, please?”

The party aboard the Spirit of New York was one of several events that Donald Trump, then 45, attended with a group of 58 aspiring young models that September. They had travelled from around the world to compete in Elite’s Look of the Year competition, an annual event that had been running since 1983 and was already credited with launching the careers of Cindy Crawford, Helena Christensen and Stephanie Seymour. At stake was a life-changing prize: a $150,000 contract with the world’s then leading modelling agency, Elite Model Management, run by John Casablancas.


Another contestant, who was 15 at the time, also remembers being asked to walk for Trump, Casablancas and other men on the boat in September 1992. She says an organiser told her that if she refused, she would be excluded from the competition. “I knew in my gut it wasn’t right,” she recalls. “This wasn’t being judged or part of the competition – it was for their entertainment.”


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