MILAN • Oversized black sunglasses perched on her nose, model Gigi Hadid made her way out of the MaxMara show last Thursday in Milan, pausing to smile for selfies with a few fans. As she moved through the paparazzi gaggle, a bearded man in a wide-brimmed hat and reflective sunglasses grabbed her waist from behind and lifted her into the air.
After a few seconds of hovering in his grasp, during which her sister Bella tried to free her, Hadid delivered a sharp elbow jab to the man's face, perhaps drawing on skills from several years of boxing.
The man ran away, down the Corso Venezia. Hadid tried to pursue him, only to be held back by a member of her team.
This scene was caught on video, and the man in question has identified himself to The Hollywood Reporter as Vitalii Sediuk.
The former entertainment reporter on Ukrainian television who has transformed in recent years into a celebrity gadfly, wrote on his Instagram account: "While I consider Gigi Hadid beautiful, she and her friend Kendall Jenner, have nothing to do with high fashion." He added, "You can call it a manifest or a protest."
Milan showgoers had their own opinions. "She was absolutely right to defend herself," said Ms Laura Brown, the new editor-in-chief of InStyle. "Increasingly, I feel there is less and less regard for personal space in the fashion world and a sense of ownership over models simply because they are in the public eye. She doesn't just exist on Instagram. She's a living, breathing human being."
In 2014, Sediuk was detained by police officers after he tried to hug actor Brad Pitt's legs and hips at a premiere for the Disney film Maleficent. He also caused uproar after attempting to stick his head under actress America Ferrera's skirt at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 and after leaping at reality television star Kim Kardashian as she entered a Balmain show at Paris Fashion Week later that year.
Asked about allegations that he had assaulted Hadid, he told The Hollywood Reporter: "Don't be overdramatic."
Online commenters called out several publications for their framing of the story. Responding to an online headline by the British tabloid The Sun that read, "Gigi Hadid Aggressively Lashes Out And ELBOWS Fan In The FACE After He Tries To Pick Her Up", Rachel McGrath, a reporter for the Huffington Post, posted on Twitter: "Alternative headline - GOOD FOR HER: Gigi Hadid Reacts In Totally Appropriate Way When Random Man Tries To Lift Her In The Street".
Hadid agreed, quoting the posting and adding: "THANK YOU Rachel. To unknown article writer: fan?!!! The ACTUAL fans who were there can tell you what happened."