Ex-model is one of three women accusing the model scout and friend of Jeffrey Epstein
Thysia Huisman had just turned 18 when, late one evening in September 1991, she arrived before the door of an imposing apartment building on avenue Hoche in central Paris carrying a small backpack and three photographs from her portfolio.
A young would-be model from Leiden in the Netherlands, she was impressed, but also alarmed. It was very grand, she says. A vast, grand apartment, right by the Arc de Triomphe. Fancy furniture, paintings on the walls. But it was his home.
Not long before, Huisman had met Jean-Luc Brunel in a chocolate shop round the corner from Models Office, the Brussels agency that had just begun to represent her. Its owners, Pierre and Marielou Eggermont, had said she must see him.
He was in his mid-40s and a charmer. He said: Youre unbelievable. Youre stunning. You must come to Paris, right away. I can make you a star, says Huisman, now a TV editor-in-chief, sitting in the kitchen of her home in a neat new suburb of Amsterdam.
Her agents were sure: Brunel could launch her. Karin Models, his agency, had done it before and would do it again: Monica Bellucci, Sharon Stone, Christy Turlington, Jerry Hall, Milla Jovovich all, Brunel has since claimed, owe their careers to him.
So Huisman, 46, went to Paris. She was so special that she was to stay in his apartment, Brunel told her. But within a week she had left, because on her fourth or fifth night, she says, Brunel who has been accused of supplying the late Jeffrey Epstein, his close friend, with underage girls spiked her drink and raped her.
Allegations of misconduct against Brunel date back decades, but he has faced no action. Huisman and two other former models have told the Guardian they were sexually assaulted by Brunel in the 1980s and 1990s in and around Paris, where he was a power player in the global fashion industry.
Brunel and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment. In a 2015 statement, Brunel vehemently denied involvement directly or indirectly in Epsteins crimes. I strongly deny having committed any illicit act or any wrongdoing in the course of my work as a scouter or model agencies manager, he said then.
But from the first evening Huisman met Brunel, she says, relating the events of 28 years ago with calm but clearly painful precision, the Frenchman was coming on to me. Really flirting. Like in a jokey way on one level, saying I was so lovely, that wed get married one day. But then also more menacing.
So when I asked where I was supposed to sleep, he said: Oh, my bed, of course. One time, later, he came into the closet where I was, locked the door behind him, and told me: You know, one day were going to have sex. I kept him away, made a joke of it, told him he was too old for me, and too short. A short, old Frenchman.
But Huisman felt deeply uncomfortable. There were lots of other girls there, some I recognised from magazines, she says. Maybe half a dozen. Young girls, certainly some underage, from Czechoslovakia, Russia, Yugoslavia. They looked sad. And these older, much older businessmen. It was obvious they were sleeping together.
Part of her wondered whether this was all simply normal for the fashion industry. Part of her realised it could not possibly be right. And part of her thought: I want to be a model, the whole world awaits, and this man can make it happen. I just have to be careful. Not drink. Stay in control. Keep focused. I thought I could handle it.