Rolling Stone featured MSD’s work on a case involving the treatment of a OnlyFans management company of its celebrity female content creators.
OnlyFans Creators Are Suing an Agency Alleging Exploitation
As the subscription-based platform OnlyFans has exploded in popularity over the past few years so too has a cottage industry of management companies and agencies. One of the most well-known companies, Unruly Agency, is now facing new lawsuits from two influencers who allege that Unruly pressured them into posting sexually exploitative content ad then threatened them when they tried to leave the agency.
In two separate filings, model and lifestyle infuencers Sarah Stage and Jessica Quezada are accusing Unruly Agency of trapping them into exploitative contracts and posting nude and sexual photos without their consent, despite both women telling the agency when they first signed with them that they had no interest in posting such content.
“The fundamental issue is anyone who wants to produce sexual content is absolutely free to do so,” attorney Camron Dowlatshahi of Mills Sadat Dowlat LLP tells Rolling Stone. “But no women should be pressured into doing so, or shamed for not doing so. And that’s essentially what Unruly did to my clients, and is doing to a lot of women.”
Unruly Agency did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Rolling Stone. In a letter to BuzzFeed News, however, a lawyer for Unruly referred to the claims as “blatantly false” and “wildly inaccurate,” claiming Unruly was simply “following [Quezada and Stage’s] direction to solicit clients to purchase their pornographic content.”
In her lawsuit, Stage, who has about 2 million Instagram followers, alleges that she signed with Unruly in August 2020, and that the agency promised it would assign her an account manager to post photos with captions and message with fans, according to her preferences. To that end, Stage says she filled out a client questionnaire stating what she was and wasn’t comfortable with posting, in which she said that she was uncomfortable posing nude or posting sexually explicit content while speaking with fans, saying she’d “like to stick to sexy fitness, and tasteful lingerie/bikini shots” and that she had worked hard creating a brand as a fitness influencer.
“Almost immediately after executing the Agreement and filling out the Survey, Defendants began pressuring Plaintiff to pose for sexually explicit photographs, in blatant disregard of Plaintiff’s Survey responses and its previous conversations with Plaintiff regarding the type of content she wanted to post,” the lawsuit alleges. At a photo shoot, Stage claims, the photographer pressured her to disrobe and “displayed clear favoritism towards the women who were willing to pose nude and produce more sexual content; she goes on to say that a few months later, she discovered that her account manager was posting sexually explicit captions and offering to “rate” a subscriber’s penis in exchange for money. (In a letter to Insider, Unruly countered that “one of her OnlyFans followers requested that she rate a photograph of his genitalia and Unruly asked whether Ms. Stage wanted to proceed,” and when she declined, they dropped it. In court, Unruly denied all allegations.)
The lawsuit further alleges that when Stage tried to get out of her contract, Unruly threatened to sue her, continuing to operate her account without permission until she changed her passwords. According to Insider, Unruly filed a counter claim, alleging breach of contract. They claim they offered to let her out of the contract for a fee, but instead she “broadcast[ed] false claims” to other models “in an effort to persuade them to leave their contracts too and cause Unruly to surrender their claim against Stage.” Unruly argued that it was Stage who pushed for more sexual content.
In her lawsuit, Quezada alleges that she, too, was asked to fill out a branding questionnaire when she first signed with Unruly in August 2020. In her questionnaire, the suit alleges, she specified that she did not feel comfortable posting “nude videos” or anything where “you can see [her] privates under the clothing, and that anything with her in “sheer” clothing needed to be edited. Yet she says Unruly’s account manager at one point posted a photo where her nipples were visible without her consent, and sent subscribers explicit messages without her consent. At one point, Quezada alleges, Unruly asked her to travel three hours to meet a “VIP” subscriber, which she refused to do.
Quezada also alleges that Unruly threatened to sue her when she asked to terminate her contract, continuing to operate her account without her permission. As a result, Quezada “became severely emotionally distressed because of Defendants’ threats and bullying,” the lawsuit alleges. In their letter to Insider, Unruly again said that it was their policy to pass along requests from fans, but that the company “does not pressure nor commit any act that contradict the model’s wishes.”
Founded by influencer Tara “Elektra” Niknejad and Nicky Gathrite, Unruly represents some of the most popular influencers in the social media ecosystem, such as Tana Mongeau and Too Hot to Handle star Harry Jowsey. The agency’s popularity has skyrocketed thanks to the success of OnlyFans, the subscription-based platform popularized by sex workers that has since attracted mainstream celebrities such as Cardi B, Bella Thorne, and Tyga.
Yet the company, as well as its affiliate agency Behave, have been previously accused in lawsuits of trapping clients in exploitative contracts, as well as posting sexualized content without their consent. In 2021, the Daily Beast reported that a former client identified only as Jane Doe was suing the agency, alleging that it had posted an NSFW video of her to her public page without her permission and that they had threatened her with legal action when she tried to leave the company. “These guys are basically pimps,” Jane Doe’s attorney Robert Tauler told the Daily Beast.
Such allegations were echoed by a Dec. 2021 BuzzFeed News piece, in which six creators alleged that Unruly, as well as Behave, sold explicit photos of them without their consent and made it difficult for them to exit their contracts. Unruly told BuzzFeed News through a PR representative that the claims in the lawsuits “are broadly stated and not supported by any evidence,” and that it “looks forward to disproving the claims through the legal process.”
Another lawsuit by former employees of the company allege that Unruly engaged in fraud by encouraging social media managers to pose as models in messages with fans, engaged in wage theft by misclassifying full-time employees as independent contractors. When the plaintiffs complained of such practices, the lawsuit alleges, the company fired them in retaliation.