Recently, supposed fashion designer and model agent Shardz Houranis has been accused by his ex-models of groping and harassing them. This blog post is an opinion on the situation since I was also a victim of the harassment and nastiness. A Facebook page called Say NO to Sanja Fashion was created with the hope of warning young first-time models entering the industry to be weary of people like Shardz. Luckily, after Tia Wright and Dani Dent bravely started to warn people, many girls came forward and told their personal experiences. I worked with Shardz Houranis in 2013 at Trademark Hotel in Kings Cross, Sydney. I was also a freshly faced wannabe model, who had no experience and little confidence. After communicating with Shardz over the phone, he convinced me that I had what it takes, and he would support me. My first fashion show was swimwear, and there were roughly 13 girls who strutted down the runway. Also, all 13 girls were crammed in a tiny back room to get changed during the show. I was told I would receive a bikini worth $150 and $100 worth of drinks. I knew it was unpaid work, but I was happy with a new designer bikini. Unfortunately, I never received the bikini. I had no problems the first time I modelled for Shardz’s fashion shows. I was just another girl in the show who blended into the background. When I arrived, it was immediate to me who the favourites were. I wasn’t one of them. It was my second experience when Shardz noticed me and paid special attention. He started to become overly confident and comfortable, which forced me to question his professionalism. Our conversations were becoming frequent and compelling and quickly became unprofessional. He began making advances via text message with the attempt of organising dates and telling me we were getting married. After my second fashion show at Trademark Hotel, I had a photoshoot the next day that he had organised. I had another two girls who were supposed to do it with me, but one bailed because she had enough of Shardz and his demands and he told me he didn’t want the other girl in the shoot. Luckily, my best friend supported me through the shoot. I had resentment all over my face during the photoshoot, and the photos showed it. I was uncomfortable the entire time and couldn’t emotionally handle Shardz’s demands. When changing behind the set, Shardz would often poke his head around the side to check if everything was fitting correctly. He gave me no notice when he popped his head around, and my reaction was quickly spinning around so he could only see my naked back. Instead of professionally saying: “Is everything okay back there? Let me know if you need some help.” Also, he adjusted me into poses that were convenient for him, which made me even more uncomfortable. After the shoot, he told me I had to drive his new car home. I wasn’t comfortable driving it and told him that I didn’t want to. He came angry and told me I had to. My best friend sat in the back while I nervously drove us back to our accommodation. I felt forced and also felt like I didn’t have a leg to stand on considering he was our only transport. When we arrived, it was only moments before we had a verbal fight about my commitment to him and the shows. I told him that I wasn’t keen on continuing to work with him, and there was absolutely no future with us. I gave everything back to him that he gave me – which included Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses and a snapback from the brand I was wearing; plus everything I wore in the shoot. He also told me I will never find happiness because I always run away from things that scare me (which was in reference to this apparent new relationship he thought we were starting and I was “running” away from it). Finally, after finding my courage and pulling the plug to his crazy ideas, I told him I no longer wanted any part of his modelling industry. At first, he was polite and thanked me, but that wasn’t the end, he finished with an ownership statement of the photos from the shoot telling me I wasn’t allowed to use them because he owned them and he didn’t like them and neither did the designers. I’m uneducated on the laws with this, but the only label that’s in the photos is the photographers. For the last two years I have disliked him and wanted to come forward, but knew I was only one person and didn’t want to cause any problems because I don’t like confrontation. Thankfully the Sydney Morning Herald and A Current Affair have publicised this problem and encouraged, even more, girls to speak up. I wish I did this earlier. I am happy to be able to tell my experiences and have the support from other girls who have been in similar situations.
** Disclaimer: This article is written solely on my personal experiences. All information published has already been publicised by the media and no new information has been added. All information has been accredited for.