Eighteen years old and at a top model agency in New York. It should be a dream come true for Natasha, but instead she must choose: watching from the side-lines or submitting to her sexually predatory agent – and his friends. Will it be the agency sofa or the casting couch?
When Natasha meets her old model agent, Tina, for a coffee after three decades she is experiencing memory lane, but not this trip. Tina wants Natasha to share her story with a journalist.
In 1986, Tina introduces an eighteen-year-old Natasha to Lucien at a casting in her London agency. Lucien wants her and Simon, another of Tina’s models, to go to New York and supplies them both with one-way tickets. Natasha is over the moon. Tina says he is a top agent and this is a career-making opportunity. However, when she arrives, she quickly realises that this opportunity comes with strings. On her first day, Lucien makes it clear that Natasha must have sex with him if she wants his help. Natasha refuses, and is relegated by Lucien to the couch in the agency’s reception to “lose weight” until she is ready to comply. From there, Natasha watches Lucien and his friends exploit a succession of young girls, and endures Lucien’s insults and threats. Days pass, but still she sits on the sofa. Then Tina arrives. Surely Tina will help. Thirty years later and Tina is offering Natasha another opportunity: this time to expose Lucien. But how come that does not feel right?
Couch is a mature view of the root causes of institutional sexual predation that also holds true for other forms of institutional exploitation and discrimination. It paints a horribly fascinating picture of an abuser and his victim. But the story’s most relevant and difficult questions come from the reactions of the people around them – “ordinary” people like you and me who are trying to succeed in a very tough and competitive industry.