This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
Sex and Hollywood have always been intertwined. It's a career that blends work and play and the boundaries are blurry. I've had the head of makeup apply tinted moisturizer to my naked body. I've kissed men on camera who I met less than a minute prior. I've had sound technicians apply microphones to my cleavage and the inside of my thigh, and I've never felt unsafe in those situations. They have been professional and respectful with a gentle awareness of the forced intimacy. And even after this week of women telling their horrible, powerful stories, I still love this industry with my whole heart. But the insidious, seedy underbelly exists and the "grab 'em by the pussy" culture, created by the president himself, is real.
I've been acting professionally for roughly a decade, and, like many women in Hollywood, I have a Harvey Weinstein story. Thankfully, it didn't end like many of the horrific allegations out there.
Hyatt, Toronto, 2007
It was about 2:30 AM at the Hyatt Rooftop during the Toronto International Film Festival, Harvey Weinstein asked me to accompany him to his hotel room. It was 2007. I was in my early 20s, and I was with my best friend, Sara.
Now I wish this story involved me being a contender for some huge role in a Miramax film—it doesn't. I was just a young woman being invited by a very large, older man to follow him to his hotel room during a film festival.
I'll never forget it because it was so hilariously shocking at the time. Knowing what I know now, it lacks all humor. Sara and I were young and excited about Toronto's red carpet parties. I was a fresh out of theater school and eager to rub elbows. His offer lacked any form of social etiquette or human decency. He didn't care about us, but he liked what he saw and it was clear what he wanted. I almost respected his blatant offer because I admire direct communication. And this was as straightforward as they come.
We weren't invited to this rooftop party at the Hyatt, I'll have you know. But Sara and I always found deep pleasure in weaseling our way into exclusive parties that no one asked us to attend. We felt weird at this party. We didn't know anyone, and it was clear everyone sort of knew each other. It was elite Hollywood, but I've always had a knack for being confident in the wrong areas. We drank and befriended some overzealous talent agents who were bombastic and loud (shocking). But it was late, and we were getting ready to go.
Harvey sat on a couch, and Sara and I were directly behind him. I knew exactly who he was. He looked at us and said, "Do you want to come to my hotel room?" We laughed. It seemed like a joke. It was so tacky. He hadn't even asked us for our names. We said we were leaving, and before we knew it, he was out the door with one very tall leggy brunette.
Sara has nothing to do with the industry (she's actually a neurologist now) and was completely appalled by his offer. I, on the other hand, tried to explain to her how "impressive" it was that he had asked us. I was flattered by the most primitive, unsophisticated offer by one of the most powerful men in film.
He's a starmaker, and, despite knowing exactly what his lewd intentions were, the dreamer brain of mine thought maybe, maybe he saw some star quality in me too.
I never saw him again.
[Editor's note: VICE contacted the Weinstein camp about this story. His spokesperson offered no new statements and instead gave the same statement he gave the New Yorker, in which he denied any allegations of non-consensual sex and said that he is in counseling.]
The events of the past week got me thinking about all the times inappropriate, unwanted advances have entered my life and made me feel uncomfortable, scared, and unsafe by men in positions of power. I've been waiting to tell my story. Waiting to become more successful. Waiting to be on a TV show. Waiting to be nominated for something, anything! I wanted to wait so that I could tell my story and not worry about how it might affect my career, the career of a nobody.
But then I realized (after years of therapy), I'm not a nobody. My story matters. And the shame I carried for years because of these predators shouldn't be mine to hold, but theirs.
Hemingway's Restaurant, Toronto, Summer 2005
I loved being a server at Hemingway's, a Toronto bar/institution. I did it every summer while I attended Ryerson Theater School. It was outside on a patio, the people were fun, and I got to chat and make them laugh. I loved it. Until I served a table of businessmen from Los Angeles. Of course, I told them I was an actress, they all seemed like they've heard it before, and I didn't say much after that. They ate, tipped well, and that was that. Just another day at the office.
The next day, I got a phone call at the bar from one of the LA businessmen. He said he worked for a major media conglomerate and needed an assistant and wanted to interview me. I said, "Uhhh, I'm working right now. Can I call you back?" For some reason, he felt uncomfortable giving me his number, but he was willing to call me back at home. I said OK and gave him my number.
We set a time, and when it came, I was prepared with a page of questions and ready to take notes. He called me when I was at home with a number that could not be traced (I tried to after), and this was the offer.
The man offered to rent out an apartment in the newly constructed Trump Tower (the irony is chilling) in Toronto for me to live in. I don't remember the amount of money he offered, but it was more than I was being paid as a waitress. He said I'd have to drop out of college (I had one year left before graduating), but that this opportunity would provide much more connections than a BFA.
I asked, "What would my responsibilities be as his assistant?" He said, "Buy presents for people, take notes, make phone calls, and anything…" He paused then emphasized, "anything else that is needed."
I continued as if that was the most normal set of assistant duties, knowing full well what he was implying. Then he dropped another bombshell.
If I were interested in this position, I would need to meet him tonight for a "trial run" at a local hotel. To see if it would be a good match. Physically. Sexually.
My heart sank. I thought he saw my talent. I felt so stupid for thinking this was my chance. He was asking me to be his on-call escort with zero discomfort and wanted to take me for a free test drive, first.
"BUT I'VE STUDIED SHAKESPEARE!!!! I'VE PLAYED CLYTEMNESTRA!" I don't think my demeanor was able to stay strong much longer as my body started to feel weak, my thighs turning to jelly. My voice shaky, I said that I'd need to think about it and call him back. He refused to give me his number again and said he'd call me within the hour. I never picked up when he called, and I cried for a long time after I hung up the phone. For many years since, I've regretted not picking up to tell him how I really felt about the offer, but shock, it can drown you.
At the Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles, 2014
This is the most painful of all my stories. I was at the Chateau with some friends and some agents from one of the most powerful talent agencies in the world. I don't know why we were there, but I know that I was on the tail end of an abusive relationship with a gluten "intolerant" alcoholic who exclusively drank beer (yeah, you do the math), and I wasn't feeling like myself.
I hadn't eaten properly in months, I was smoking cigarettes to avoid crying, and I was hiding from anyone who knew me. I'm at the most famous hotel in Los Angeles with some of the biggest power players, and we're having fun drinking martini after martini.
Minutes turn to hours and suddenly, it's just me and one male agent. I'm drunk. I tell him I need to go home. But he gets me another martini. We drink. We play piano. Then I say that my car is outside, but I'm not going to drive—"Can you call me a cab?" (This was before I started using Uber and Lyft.)
Instead, he gets me a room.
All I remember is walking up to the room, seeing the bed, and passing out face first. I just wanted to sleep. When I wake up the next morning, I'm wearing my T-shirt, my bra, my skirt, and my white sneakers. But my underwear is off.
And he's beside me, completely naked.
I'll never know what happened in that hotel room, but I do know I couldn't have given consent. After, he texted me that he "had a great time," and I begged him to tell me what really happened because the last thing I remember was falling asleep.
Suddenly, he had amnesia.
I had one of my best friend's go and get me a morning after pill, which makes you sick for 24 hours. I spent the entire next day at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, blaming myself for my behavior that got me into this situation. And I spent the next week at my friend's house rehashing what I could have done differently, trying to understand how it unraveled like it did.
The agent called me constantly over the next few days, apologizing and asking if there was anything he could do. I told him to never call me again.
To all the women who have their own stories like these, you are not alone and you matter.
He still works at his super powerful agency. He's one of their top agents. (I am not naming him for both legal and professional reasons.)
And that's just part of my story. I skipped all the times I've been told to show more cleavage or leg, or been asked by a casting director who I didn't know to give him a hug, or the times I've been asked on dates while screen testing for a job by men who are married or the ones offering the jobs. (I have written about some of those experiences here.) Being viewed only as a sexual object chips away at our soul and our self-worth. I became hard and untrusting. I wore clothes that hid my body. My already bad night terrors escalated.
When "grab 'em by the pussy" was justified by people defending Trump's remarks on the news as "locker-room talk," we regressed. It minimized and justified inexcusable behavior and, more important, an indefensible point of view about 51 percent of the population by the most powerful man in the world.
But the days of tolerating being objectified, reduced, and paid too little are over. And the times of people abusing their power are numbered. Our army is ready to fight. This army of voices was created because of an abuse of power that's been systemically tolerated over decades with the excuse being, "boys will be boys."
Well, there's a new narrative in town, "boys will be accountable for their words and actions."
To all the women who have their own stories like these, you are not alone and you matter. Even though it's remarkably easy to be decent—to all the men who have gone out of their way to make me feel safe and comfortable, I thank you. But also know, we need you more than ever. Because in this fight for equality, we need everyone to stand up, shoulder to shoulder with us, and say no more.
Ingrid Haas is a writer and actor based in Los Angeles, born and raised Toronto. She's in love with her one-eyed rescue dog, Pepper, and has an affinity for hats.
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