American Apparel's Attempt to Make Over Sexist Reputation Just Backfired

A casting call asking for 'real models' is making the rounds on social media.

(Photo: American Apparel/Facebook)

Mar 24, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

American Apparel is attempting to make over its racy image, but a new casting call has the embattled brand's own models speaking out.

Model Jessie Andrews, who has posed for American Apparel in past campaigns, tweeted a casting call notice she received in an email from modeling agency Photogenics Media: "Real models. Not Instagram hoes or thots," the call read.

For the uninitiated, "thot" is another derogatory word for women that's synonymous with "whore." Andrews slapped back at the casting call, citing it as a perfect example of bullying. "I'm really disappointed in the new [American Apparel] CEO," she tweeted.

(Jessie Andrews/Twitter)

Paula Schneider pledged to reform American Apparel's rep when she took over in January, amid slumping sales and a slew of sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits. The company's brand makeover has been widely reported and comes after years of scandal-plagued headlines, thanks largely to ousted CEO and founder Dov Charney's alleged behavior, including masturbating in front of a journalist from now-defunct Jane magazine.

Hiring a woman CEO seemed like progress for a company whose founder had been repeatedly accused of sexual harassment. Under Schneider's leadership, American Apparel debuted a sexual harassment policy that prohibits "discriminatory slurs, or any other remarks, jokes or conduct" that create a hostile or abusive work environment. Schneider also plans to implement socially conscious ad campaigns that address gay rights, bullying, or women's equality, she announced to dozens of media outlets earlier this year. Her tenure has already been marked by controversy: American Apparel appeared to have airbrushed models' nipples and pubic hair from the photographs on its website, several writers pointed out last week.

The casting call suggested that American Apparel would no longer be photographing the amateur models and retail employees who have come to epitomize the company's cheeky print advertisements and billboards, in which sexually suggestive images are paired with modest biographies such as "Meet Alex. She's a recent high school graduate with a Minnesotan farming heritage that goes a couple hundred years back."

Following the casting call's release on Twitter, the company posted to its Facebook page: "This is American Apparel, always has been and always will be. We love all of our models, all shapes and sizes."