Kathy Ireland Opens Up About Sexual Harassment When She Was 17

Supermodel Kathy Ireland is one of the most recognizable and glamorous faces in the industry, but this didn’t prevent her from being the victim of sexual harassment when she was a young, underage aspiring talent.

Now 51-years-old, Ireland — who appeared in 13 consecutive Sports Illustrated covers — talked to ET about the frightening experience when she was only 17-years-old:

“There was an incident where a photographer crossed the line with me. He wanted me to pose topless. I didn’t feel comfortable… he didn’t respect my ‘No.’ He was pushing, and he got a little physical with me and shoved me — so I decked him.”

“I was a child. I was underage. There were people who were professionals who were absolutely unscrupulous child molesters setting up children knowingly what the intentions were of the photographer.”

Kathy Ireland is not the only top model who has unsavory memories of her earlier years in the modeling industry. The very beautiful and famous Kate Moss also said she was exploited as a naive 16-year-old, when she was talked into doing a nude photoshoot. Although this ultimately ended up propelling her career, the incident is clearly not a happy memory for the supermodel. Moss told Vanity Fair she was threatened if she refused:

“I see a 16-year-old now, and to ask her to take her clothes off would feel really weird. But they were like: If you don’t do it, then we’re not going to book you again. So I’d lock myself in the toilet and cry and then come out and do it. I never felt very comfortable about it.”

Kathy Ireland — who did not go through with the nude photoshoot — doesn’t mince words when she speaks of the abuse that exists in the modeling world:

“It was a time when I was surrounded with girls who I shared a model house, apartment with… 12 years old, 14 years old. The coercion that exists is rampant. And a lot of these girls are portrayed as predators themselves. Like ‘Oh, she threw herself at me!’ These are children. They’re not of legal age. They’re not at the age of consent. But these child molesters… they are.”

The former model and entrepreneur has become an advocate for sexual trafficking victims. The disturbing, illegal black market generates an estimated $9.5 billion a year in the US, according to a United Nations report.

Fortunately Kathy Ireland had enough presence of mind to refute the potential abuser — which not many aspiring models at that age can or are willing to do — and went on to become one of the top supermodels in the world.

[Image via Green Giant/Wikipedia]