(KTLA) – Two women who are models and social media influencers say they were denied entry into a popular Los Angeles nightclub because of their size.
Ella Halikas said a bouncer told her and fellow “curvy” model Alexa Jay that they couldn’t follow their friends into The Highlight Room in Hollywood.
“(Alexa) asked him, ‘Hey what’s going on? I’m actually with that party you just let in,’ and he said, ‘I know,’ and looked her up and down and said, ‘Not tonight,’” Halikas recounted.
The women shared their story on social media and said it has resonated with women all over the country who have experienced similar discrimination.
“We’re tired of playing safe. We’re tired of just letting this happen and not speaking up about it,” Halikas said in an Instagram post.
“It was so dehumanizing,” said Jay. “It was like we were being looked through. If you experienced any type of discrimination like this, you know exactly how horrible and disgusting it feels, and we are no longer letting this fly.”
The women believe this problem goes beyond one nightclub. Halikas said she has received thousands of messages from other plus-sized women sharing similar stories of being turned away from bars and nightclubs.
“One of my plus-sized friends went to a club in New York City and they said, ‘Everyone else can come in,'” said Halikas. “They let in all her thin friends, got to her and said, ‘You can’t get in.’ She asked, ‘Why?’ and he goes, ‘If you want to come in, pay $4,000.'”
Halikas said her career as a model had put her on runways and on the pages of Sports Illustrated magazine, but it still didn’t stop her from being turned away.
“It felt like we were alone,” said Halikas. “It felt like we were plucked out of a crowd, and I just felt like we need to share this because it’s not about us not getting into the Highlight Room. We don’t care. It’s the bigger picture of how many girls face this every single day. It was discrimination — 100 percent.”
The Tao Group, operators of The Highlight Room, responded to the incident by saying:
“We are aware of Ella and Alexa’s experience. The doorman on this particular evening worked for a third-party promotion company and we’ve removed this individual from the door effective immediately. We have made several attempts to resolve the issue directly with Ella and Alexa and even scheduled a meeting within days to address their experience which they unfortunately cancelled. Our company does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We are always appreciative of feedback on our operations and continue to work on how to improve our guest experience.”
The women say they’re open to meeting with the Tao Group, but say they don’t believe just firing one doorman is enough. They’re hoping to work on systemic change in the industry while inspiring and empowering other plus-sized women.