Renowned photographer Rick Day is accused of sexual assault by two more male models, who are sharing their story with The Advocate.
The Advocate last week broke the stories of Barrett Pall and Kai Braden, two male fashion models who accuse Day, an out gay man who is widely respected in the industry, of sexually assaulting them when they were 19 and 18, respectively.
Now gay twin models Michael and Zach Zakar (known on social media as the Zakar Twins) say they too are victims of Day’s advances. Day is accused of exposing his penis and attempting to force sexual contact during a test shoot in October 2016. The Zakar twins allege the photographer separated them, then attempted to get each to perform a sex act on him, while Day promised he could “make them famous.”
Pall was first to reach out to The Advocate with an accusation against Day, followed by Braden, who was referred to The Advocate. The Zakar twins’ story was first published on Tuesday by Gay Star News, and The Advocate contacted the Zakar brothers to verify facts of that story. The Advocate has been contacted by other models whose stories are still being checked.
This is not the first time the twins have spoken publicly about their experience with Day. They posted a YouTube video in August 2017, called “The Harsh Truths of Modeling,” 10 months after the test shoot took place.
The twins confirm the pseudonyms they used in the video were indeed meant for Rick Day and Ryan Colby, the agent who they say sent them on the shoot. The Advocate reached out to Day to comment about the allegations. He's yet to respond. Day repeatedly opted not to comment about accusations by Pall and Braden either.
“‘I want to test you separately,’” Michael Zakar recalls Day saying when they arrived at his studio, as described in the YouTube video. “I’m shooting on the roof with him and it's innocent at first. He told me to take off my shirt… I’m looking at some of these headshots and they’re really good… so [Day] tells me, ‘I can make you and Zach famous. Stick with me. I’m the one who’s going to make you famous.’ And all of a sudden it gets sexual real fast. He’s like, but if you want me to help you, you have to suck my dick.”
Michael Zakar continues, “He tries to get me on my knees and I’m like, OK, back the fuck up. He takes my hand and then grabs his crotch and he’s like, ‘Yes, we’re going to fuck tonight.’ And I’m like, ‘No we’re not.’” He adds, "[Day] keeps trying to get me on my knees. Keeps trying to pull me closer.”
After the shoot was done, Michael Zakar says, he tried to warn his brother, then went into the bathroom and cried. Zach Zakar says his session began with Day complimenting his hair, before things suddenly escalated.
“He says, ‘God you’re making me so hard,’” recalls Zach Zakar in the video. “I’m modeling and then he pulls out his dick… I try to play it off cool, like honestly I’m not going to make a scene but I was like, 'Oh [Day],' like, 'Ha, that’s funny but like maybe later?' I was trying to play it cool because I was in a situation where I didn’t know what to say.” As the session continued, Zach Zakar alleges Day touched his anus and asked him to perform oral sex. Braden had also told of Day touching his anus against his will, having to push the photographer off him.
The twins add in the video that their “awkwardness” was felt by Day, and instead of causing a scene, they chose to “flirt” their way out of the situation.
The twins say they never received photos from Day. They emailed about the photos but never heard back. The next day, the twins claim they met their agent Colby and told him what happened. They say he responded, “That’s Rick for you.”
Colby tells The Advocate this meeting never took place. However, according to emails obtained by The Advocate, the Zakars were indeed sent to the shoot by Colby, founder of Colby Management, with whom they were freelancing at the time. Colby denies sending the twins to Day, telling The Advocate in the whole “three weeks” they worked together, he booked them for only one shoot.
When asked about the emails obtained by The Advocate, which show an October 12, 2016, note to the twins from Colby's office giving them Day's address for the test shoot, Colby responds that he does not "remember sending that."
The Zakars also told a model friend the story of the sexual assault. "I had just moved back to New York and [Michael and Zach] were visiting for their modeling and career in general," their friend tells The Advocate. Given that the friend works in the modeling industry and fears retribution, the friend asks to remain anonymous. "I remember after one photo shoot they were both so freaked out. They are very silly most of the time, and their energy was so off. Michael mentioned how the photographer attempted to finger him and Zachary mentioned how he attempted some sexual conduct as well. I know they tried to brush it off. But I could tell it bothered them."
Colby says the models shouldn’t be believed. He claims to have met the models twice — once over Skype and the other time in person. After freelancing with the duo for three weeks, Colby tells The Advocate that he dropped them, saying they were doing photo sessions with photographers without his knowledge, an act he says violates company policy. And, in an interview with The Advocate, Colby accuses them of sleeping with other photographers, implying that means whatever Day did was consensual.
"The guys are opportunistic snakes. They want to get a book sold that nobody is interested in seeing. It's trash," Colby says of their book Pray the Gay Away. "They are too sneaky for words and I wouldn't waste my time. They aren't credible with all the stunts they pulled to get ahead and this is one of them. They are desperate for press of any kind because they aren't working."
In response to Colby's claims, the twins tell The Advocate, "We didn’t come into this industry to have sex, we came into this industry to work. If Ryan had those preconceived notions about us, then why would [he] represent us?"
Colby also tells The Advocate he reached out to Day following the twins' accusations. Day apparently told him he "barely remembers" shooting them that day. Colby says he's been sending clients to Day for nearly two decades. In fact, "he just shot one of my new stars last week."
Day reached out to Zach Zakar on Instagram before this story was published. According to screenshots obtained by The Advocate, his memory of the shoot seems clearer than his statement to Colby. “I remember you guys as sweet and as flirtatious as I was,” writes Day. “I am sorry I caused you guys any pain. I was not aware that that was how you left feeling.”
“I never understood how someone could write about how much they enjoyed a shoot,” writes Day, noting an email the twins sent after the session in which they described working with Day as an “absolute pleasure.” Day adds, “I thought everything that transpired was consensual…. It still seems that way to me.”
“I respect that you’re reaching out to us,” Zach Zakar replied on Instagram via direct messages. “But it wasn’t consensual and you know that. Michael wrote the email afterward because you promised us X, Y, and Z. We didn’t say anything because we were young and naïve and wanted to make it big like you proclaimed you could do for us," to which Day replied, “I just want to say I am sorry.”
The Zakars say they chose to come forward — both in the 2017 YouTube video and now to The Advocate — not to harm Day but rather to shed light on the dark side of male modeling.
"Honestly, we're not mad or looking for money/fame," they tell The Advocate. "We're just speaking the harsh truths of this industry. Obviously, we hope Day all the best mentally and physically, he's a very creative person with a beautiful eye for photography. But what he did is not acceptable and this industry needs to stop turning a blind eye."
That same desire to change the industry was expressed to The Advocate by Pall and Braden. Pall said he came forward with Day’s name because of his “lack of responsibility with this experience,” adding that “I refuse to let any predator I know off the hook because no one else should have to experience any form of abuse anywhere.”