In 2004, Elisabetta Tai was a 21-year-old Italian model with big dreams. A month after arriving in Manhattan, her booker gave her an Upper East Side address and told her he had set up a meeting with the man who would be able to get her a gig modeling for the Victoria’s Secret catalog.
“He told me this is one of the most important people in modeling,” Tai told The Post. “He said that this man is in charge of Victoria’s Secret and he’s going to change your life.”
Jeffrey Epstein did end up changing Tai’s life — but not in the way she expected, she said.
Epstein, 66, a convicted pedophile, was arrested last week for sexually abusing “dozens” of minor girls at his Upper East Side mansion and his residence in Palm Beach, Fla. The arrest stems from incidents between 2002 and 2005.
“I rang the doorbell of this incredible mansion, and a butler answered the door,” said Tai, who hails from Padova, a small town near Venice. “It was astonishing. It was a very beautiful house, and I saw about five models walking around as soon as I walked in. I was so excited.”
Epstein and Maxwell
Ghislaine Maxwell, a British socialite with vast connections among the international elite, is in the news this week for her longstanding association to the billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, who has just been charged with child sex-trafficking charges.
A daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell, has not been charged with a crime but has been accused by three women in court papers of recruiting young women for Epstein. Two of them alleged that both Maxwell and Epstein sexually assaulted them.Tai said she was greeted by a woman with “short black hair” who showed her into Epstein’s office. She doesn’t remember the woman’s name, although when The Post showed her a photograph of Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s gal pal, she confirmed that she looked like the same woman who met her at Epstein’s mansion.
Epstein, a financier, was close friends with Ohio billionaire Leslie Wexner, who owned Limited Brands — now L Brands — the parent company of Victoria’s Secret. Wexner was so close to Epstein that both men shared ownership of the sprawling East 71st Street mansion where Tai went for the meeting. The deed was transferred in 2011 to Epstein’s Virgin Islands LLC.
The woman with the short hair introduced Tai to Epstein, who was dressed casually in a shirt and jeans, she said. As Epstein started to ask her questions about her background, she noticed a massage table near his desk.
She said she didn’t think anything of it, and reached for her portfolio to show Epstein her previous modeling work in Italy. Tai had done a few modeling jobs in her native country, “but nothing big, nothing like I imagined I could do in America,” she told The Post.
As Tai talked about her experience in halting English, she said Epstein moved to the massage table and began to remove his clothes.
“I thought he was preparing to have a massage, and that someone was about to come in to the room and give him a massage,” she said.
But Tai said she panicked when Epstein lay down naked on the table and told her to approach.
He then handed her a vibrator, she said.
“I froze,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.
“I just grabbed the vibrator and threw it at his head,” she said.
“I mean, I don’t know where it landed, I just blacked out and then I ran as fast as I could out of the room.”
She was so frightened she didn’t know where to turn to find the front door in the massive house. At one point she said she encountered the woman with the short black hair, who grabbed her and asked her what she was doing.
“She told me that I couldn’t just leave,” said Tai. “She said that this man is important, that he is a friend of President Clinton.”
Tai never told her booker what had happened at Epstein’s mansion.
“I was too scared to tell anyone,” she said. “I was too shy and scared that someone would come after me to blackmail me or maybe worse.”
Epstein, who was an investor in a Manhattan modeling venture, has been accused by prosecutors of using his connections to the modeling company to “audition” girls to give him massages that often ended up in sexual abuse.
“Over the years, it seems Epstein relied on …[the] modeling business to source underage girls for sex,” writes Conchita Sarnoff, an investigative reporter, in her book “Trafficking.”
A former Manhattan-based model agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also alleged an Epstein-Victoria’s Secret pimp pipeline.
“He [Epstein] portrayed himself as the back door to get a girl into Victoria’s Secret. Some of those girls got in,” he said.
He promised the catalog and ad-campaign jobs, not the supermodel fashion-show gigs, he added.
“It was still significant cash for a young model doing the catalog,” said the agent. “They weren’t making hundreds of thousands but they could make about $5,000 a week modeling for the campaigns or the catalog. Not all the girls sent to him got jobs, but a lot of them did.”
Another Manhattan model entrepreneur told The Post that Maxwell was a constant fixture at Victoria’s Secret events.
“They were always these really trashy shows full of rich men in the audience,” he said. “Ghislaine acted as the kind of Nazi guard, telling everyone where they were sitting in the audience and that she had new ‘pop tarts’ which is what she called the young models.”
Epstein’s lawyer, L Brands and Maxwell’s attorney did not return messages seeking comment.
Tai said she was so frightened that she returned to Italy, although she did continue to take on a handful of modeling jobs. She said she never went to the police because she feared reprisals and worried that filing a report would ruin her fledgling career.
Tai told The Post she wanted to tell her story now because of the recent reports of Epstein’s abuse of girls.
“I think it’s terrible,” she said. “I think it’s awful what he did to me, and what he did to those girls. It’s just not right, especially in a young girl.”
Her own run-in had severe consequences.
“It changed me for life,” she said. “I thought I lived in a hateful world. It was shocking to realize that if I wanted to be a model in America, I was expected to work as a prostitute.”