The Dark Side of Online Fame

The bullying and blackmail of model Natalie.

To highlight how easy it is to get targeted by blackmailers as a model, we present the story of our own friend from the model community, Natalie. Here she bravely retells the story in her own words to us. Some names and details have been altered or omitted to protect identities.

H
ello, Treat. My name is Natalie. I’m 22 years old, and I’ve been an amateur model for the last four years.

I really enjoy real life art modeling for college students and photographers and am really excited to be building my portfolio as a model as I go. I have various social media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram, on which I post the photos that I like to share with my friends and with the modeling groups I’m subscribed to. I’m not shy about my nude art modeling, and I like to think that I can set a good example for others to have the confidence to pose for art classes. I follow the TOTM magazine, and I’ve worked with Treat photographer Rob Sloane (your faithful editor) and love what TreatDAO is providing to NSFW content creators, and you could say I have the ambition to set up my own profile soon and learn about NFTs.

“ In May of 2022, I was privately messaged on Instagram by a Dutch man claiming to be from a lingerie company in the Netherlands and proposing I model professionally for them as the featured model on their website clothing catalog.

I was flattered as I hadn’t modeled for a fee before, and this seemed like a break into paying work for me, which would help with my college bills and portfolio. I had visions of Victoria’s Secret and agreed to be paid $40 an hour! I had a green flag when he promptly added me to his Whatsapp and forwarded me the URL link to his site, and I browsed the range of lingerie clothing.

The next step, he told me, to get myself featured as the “main model” and be eligible to be paid, was to participate in a live video online casting where I was expected to walk, pose, and show my “confidence” with revealing lingerie. I said yes to everything, though I experienced my first doubts and a significant red flag when the email he sent for the casting call was flagged by Google Mail as not affiliated with the website owners. Still, I was focused on the lingerie modeling, and my pride told me to do my best and pass this casting call.

The call started, and I could see that the man looked older and not as clean cut, or as Dutch European as his profile picture on Instagram or Whatsapp would suggest. He actually appeared to be darker skinned and possibly of Middle Eastern origin. I walked as he directed, I posed as he suggested, and I wore some sheer nightwear I had with the confidence and comfort I had learned from my art modeling. We concluded the call, and he messaged me that I had failed the casting for not being “sensual enough”. I was dumbfounded. I’m a curvaceous and passionate woman, and I felt I conveyed more than enough confidence to model lingerie for a catalog!

The next day, he contacted me again, offering me his personal training via streaming video calls so that I would be ready (and sensual enough?) to meet the website’s expectations. He suggested a total of six of these tutorials over the coming week. He told me I would be paid for my time during these sessions. I hadn’t told anyone else about this company, the man, or the job -and even though my red flags were at full mast now, I was curious and intrigued and felt that I was still in control. I didn’t realize until much later that he was grooming me and taking advantage of my passion for modeling and gaslighting me about the work and the pay. I asked repeatedly for my payment. After each call, I just heard excuses that it was pending, delayed, or that he had problems with his bank clearing the transfer. Despite my confidence that I was still in control, I found myself excusing the abusive behavior and becoming increasingly vulnerable and sexualized. On the last call, I found myself on autopilot, but afraid, naked, and he was demanding I pleasure myself — a light bulb moment. What the hell did that have to do with a lingerie photoshoot? I ended the call and angrily demanded he provide me with his real credentials and proof that he was the boss of this lingerie company. I also sent an invoice of what he owed me and told him to Western Union or PayPal me the fees. I also told him I wanted to finish this and end my application. I was no longer interested in being their featured model. At first, he tried making more excuses and offered better terms and money. Then he resorted to narcissistic personal remarks about me hurting his feelings by not believing in him. When this failed to get him any more video calls, the mask slipped, and he began the harassment, threats, and bullying against me. He insulted my looks and my personality. Finally, he threatened to upload the videos he had recorded, without my knowledge or permission, from each of our streaming calls. He told me he had already saved a spreadsheet list of my family and friends’ and teachers’ profiles from my Facebook account and would send video links to them unless I continued to entertain him daily for free.

I felt paranoid and trapped. I hadn’t spoken to anyone about this. People would think I had brought this on myself. Who would believe my side of things? My friends would think I was bad, mad, or just sad. I felt totally alone and angry with myself. At night I got more anxious, had cold sweats, and couldn’t sleep at all. Every time I had a Whatsapp message update, my heart skipped a beat. With each text, he kept pushing me to perform for him, completely uncaring about the trauma and fear I felt. My situation then became worse as he told me to recruit other girls for him from my friends’ list and among my college mates to “apply for the lingerie job”. At that moment, something snapped in my mind, and instead of fear, I felt determined to stop him. So on June 24th, 2022, just after my birthday, I deleted all my social media accounts, completely blocked and removed him from my life, and found the courage to speak frankly to my family and to my photography community, including TreatDAO. I’ve now also reported my case, and his details, to the Dutch authorities and Interpol.”

What to do about Cyberbullying?

We at TreatDAO believe passionately in freedom of expression and the right to personal and mental safety online. Even more so for our beautiful community of adult creators and models, whom we work with day-in and day-out and call our friends. You should always expect to be treated with respect and be in control of your content, identity, and privacy. If you are cyberbullied online, it is all too easy to think that nobody will understand you, and there is nobody who can help. Sometimes, society can also make you feel it is your own fault, or an inevitable consequence of being “out there” on social media. That isn’t true. Cyberbullying is a hate crime with hurtful, sometimes tragic consequences, with no exceptions or mitigating factors.

-image courtesy of Nord VPN

If you know the individuals or the group personally, there is a good chance they are acting out of stupidity, immaturity, rivalry, or jealousy and that the issues can be resolved if handled face-to-face. A vast majority of the cyberbullies are already known to the victim, often an ex-lover or disgruntled colleague, so a minor amount of detective work will often help you find out who is to blame and discover the reasons for their behavior before you consider taking things further. If you are concerned that your immediate safety is at risk, always seek legal and law enforcement advice immediately, as they are paid to respect your privacy and protect you and your rights at all times.

Sometimes the best reaction is inaction. The perpetrators are often trolling their victims to provoke an emotional and dramatic reaction, adding fuel to the fire of the gossip and controversy that feeds their cruelty. You can choose not to retaliate to these provocations in the heat of the moment, and instead to take your own good time to think things through and actively ignore the bullies. Often, they will grow bored of the indifference and move on to some other activity (like cow tipping) to amuse themselves — and so forgetting all about you in the process.

When experiencing any type of online bullying, it is really vital to let your feelings out to those in real life you trust. Don’t be a rock; show your feelings, vent your anger to them, cry on their shoulder, or ask them to be constructively critical. Silence is not an option. What you must not do is try and hold it all inside. You also need to avoid the temptation to post about it online and look for support in comments, shares, or likes. Thanks to the anonymity and unreality of social media, people are rarely genuine with their feelings or their loyalty. Disingenuous care and cut and pasted advice (with memes and emoticons) could be just as damaging to your confidence in the short term as bullying has been. Find people in real life who you respect and who will share your thoughts and listen to your point of view without prejudice or judgment. In some instances, the hurt is too personal. You can’t share your thoughts with your own parents or your teachers. Instead, find people who are impartial and mature enough to supply practical advice to help find solutions to the problems.

For more information and support on any of the issues raised, please check out the help pages on the Cybersmile Foundation here: https://www.cybersmile.org/

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