Jael Strauss, a former America's Next Top Model finalist, has filed an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against two men, including her former talent agent, who allegedly published racy photographs of her without her permission.
According to the lawsuit, the pictures were taken when Strauss was 16 and ended up in a book called Beautiful: Nudes by Marc Baptiste. Some of the shots that originally ended up on the cutting room floor were posted on the Internet and their distribution was enhanced once Strauss made it onto the hit CW reality series, the suit alleges.
Baptiste, who is also responsible for the 2003 tome Intimate: Nudes by Marc Baptiste, photographed Strauss in 2000 at locales in Inglewood and at Malibu's Surf Rider Beach. The Detroit native was as naked in some of the shots as Heidi Klum nude in Arena magazine.
Strauss, who finished fifth earlier this year on Top Model's eighth cycle after Tyra Banks decided that her looks couldn't compensate for her brash personality, alleges that her ex-agent, Christopher Donahue, allowed fellow plaintiff Baptiste to take erotic photos of the then-teenager and then signed off on the book without asking for permission from Strauss' parents.
Also named in the suit are the Millennium Agency, where Donahue works, and Rizzoli/Universe. Strauss is seeking unspecified restitution, as well as punitive and compensatory damages.
In addition to invasion of privacy, Strauss claims that she wasn't paid for the use of her pictures and is also suing for theft of image and unjust enrichment. The aspiring catwalker also accuses Baptiste of trying to seduce her after a photo session."During the shootsâ€¦Baptiste offered Jael alcohol, allegedly to calm her nervousness and to relax her," the suit states. "On returning from the shoot in Malibu to Jael's residence, Baptiste inquired whether Jael would like to have sex with him. She declined."
The book's publication and the unsolicited Internet presence have "damaged [Strauss] in the beginning of her entertainment career and caused severe damage to her public image," court documents state.
Strauss, whose time on America's Next Top Model was jolted by news that a friend had died of a drug overdose and by the usual fights with her fellow competitors, had to pose nude, albeit covered with makeup and ice cream, for one of the would-be cover girls' weekly photo shoots.
After she was booted from the show, Strauss did say that she didn't mind posing in the buff.
"I loved it," she said. "I totally strive to be fearless. I am not uncomfortable with my body. People should not be uncomfortable with their bodies and learn to be free."