Harvey Weinstein's ex assistant on 'surviving' disgraced producer

British ex-Miramax assistant Zelda Perkins who was the first to break a NDA with Harvey Weinstein says she dealt with him using ‘humour and aggression’ and puts her ‘survival’ down to her ‘lack of ambition’ in the film industry

  • Ms Perkins worked for disgraced producer at London office in her early twenties
  • Signed an NDA in 1998 after claiming he tried to rape one of her colleagues
  • Became ‘accustomed to fending off his advances when he visited the UK’
  • Says lack of ambition and mixture of ‘humour and aggression’ helped her survive

Harvey Weinstein’s former assistant Zelda Perkins has claimed her ‘lack of ambition’ in the film industry and a ‘mixture of humour and aggression’ protected her from ending up like the predator’s other victims.

Ms Perkins worked for the disgraced movie mogul at his London office in her early twenties. She signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in 1998 after claiming the producer sexually harassed her and tried to rape one of her colleagues, Rowena Chiu, in Italy. 

Ms Perkins said she ‘naively’ thought that reporting his alleged abuse to the firm’s family-friendly parent company Disney would result in his dismissal, but instead was warned against speaking out. 

Both women quit their jobs after signing agreements forbidding them to discuss the incident with anyone, including their own family. Ms Perkins bravely breached the agreement to speak out in 2017. 

Speaking to the Guardian, Ms Perkins said finally going public after staying silent for two decades has helped her ‘find herself’.

Harvey Weinstein’s former assistant Zelda Perkins has claimed her ‘lack of ambition’ and a ‘mixture of humour and aggression’ protected her from ending up like the predator’s other victims

She told how she’d become accustomed to fending off his advances when he visited the UK and said he would try to pull her into bed and exposed himself to her when she went to wake him up in his hotel room.

‘Every time he’d leave to go back to America, the relief for having survived was huge,’ she told the publication, adding that she dealt with him using a mixture of ‘humour and aggression’ and felt fortunate she didn’t aspire to become a big player in film.

‘If I had wanted desperately to be working in the movie industry, I would have probably ended up in the position of lots of other women who were his victims,’ she said. 

In February Weinstein was convicted by a New York jury of sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in his apartment in 2006 and raping aspiring actress Jessica Mann in a hotel room in 2013.

Ms Perkins worked for the disgraced movie mogul at his London office in her early twenties. Pictured with him at Cannes in 1998

He was acquitted of the two most serious counts of predatory sexual assault, which each carried a potential life sentence. He was also found not guilty of first degree rape in relation to Mann. In March he was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Ms Perkins admitted his behaviour had become ‘normalised’ to her, but when she did report him she was told there was nothing they could do other than ‘agree some form of settlement’.

‘It was a huge, horrible realisation that ultimately it was about who had the power,’ she said.

‘It would just be two silly girls’ word against Harvey Weinstein. And that realisation was really upsetting.’

Throughout the process Ms Perkins said she and Ms Chiu were ‘made to feel like criminals’.   

In February Weinstein was convicted by a New York jury of sexually assaulting former production assistant Mimi Haleyi in his apartment in 2006 and raping aspiring actress Jessica Mann in a hotel room in 2013

They agreed to a settlement believing their silence was ‘paying him to stop’ – but Ms Perkins admitted walking out of the building with £125,000 each after signing the NDA left her feeling ‘ashamed’ and like she’d ‘failed’. 

When more and more women began coming forward, she said it was upsetting because she felt ‘partially responsible’. 

‘If my agreement had worked, if I had actually done what I had wanted to do, which was go to court and expose him, he would have been stopped,’ Ms Perkins said. 

‘So I thought I had a moral duty to come forward.’

She added that while she was nervous breaching the terms of her NDA could lead to bankruptcy or jail, she was adamant she couldn’t go on keeping quiet.  

In response to the ruling earlier this year, Ms Perkins said Weinstein’s conviction for third degree rape and a criminal sexual act has not solved the problem and the #MeToo movement needs to continue

Once she began speaking out, Ms Perkins said she ‘found her voice’ and no longer felt like ‘the 24-year-old who had been told she was wrong and stupid and to shut up’.  

In response to the ruling earlier this year, Ms Perkins said Weinstein’s conviction for third degree rape and a criminal sexual act has not solved the problem and the #MeToo movement needs to continue. 

She told the New York Times: ‘This does not solve the problem. We can’t all just turn our eyes back to normal life and think everything is OK. 

‘The fight absolutely doesn’t stop here. I think Harvey has become the ogre and the figurehead of this awful situation, but he is not the only one. And I think we have to remember that #MeToo was not about Harvey Weinstein. Tarana Burke did not start #MeToo because of Weinstein.

‘#MeToo has not been finished by him going to jail. And I hope this is the beginning of judges and juries understanding and taking the nuances of abuses of power more seriously.’

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