The exclusive Maxim Super Bowl Party promised to be a lavish, celebrity-filled affair befitting ticket prices that ranged from $750 to $21,000.
Celebrity guests in attendance included NFL stars Travis Kelce, Cameron Jordan and Josh Norman, musical artists Cardi B and Post Malone, rap trio Migos and music producer Marshmello.
But for the unpaid promotional models invited to attend in exchange for red carpet exposure (which some never got), it turned out to be a nightmare experience.
The venue was a "dingy," overcrowded warehouse-style building in the North Loop – a late alternative to the 31,000-square-foot "superdome" promised – with port-a-potty bathrooms, limited seating, minimal security and "swag bags" containing only nicotine vapes, two models who attended told GoMN.
The coat checking was a fiasco, with KARE 11 reporting earlier this week some waited as long as an hour to get their belongings back, while others reportedly had their coats and keys stolen.
All of that might have been bearable for the models, however, were it not for the sexual harassment.
'He groped me, and then he choked me'
It's a given that a Super Bowl event associated with men's magazine Maxim would ensure a plentiful supply of young, attractive models.
But according to two who have posted about their experiences on Facebook and spoken to GoMN, their presence was seen as an invitation for groping by men who had paid thousands to attend.
Minneapolis-based Felicia Jo Cluraghty says she was invited to a party she assumed would be "highly publicized, classy and over-the-top," but what she got was "a dirty venue" and "a terrible check-in as absolutely NOBODY knew what was going on."
While distinctly unimpressed by the venue and organization, the most terrifying part of her night was yet to come, as she explains in her post.
"My drinks were almost pure alcohol leading to many of the sleezy [sic] older men and the models to become heavily intoxicated. While I understand I among many beautiful models were invited to attract men (this is Maxim Magazine, I’m not oblivious), these men must have been under the impression that since they spent upwards of $3000 to get a dingy VIP table, they had free reign to grab at and sexually harass every women that walked by.
"I know many of these models were looking at this event as a professional networking event as it has been in the past. This wasn’t the case. At one point in the night, a guy grabbed me from where I was standing, attempted to shove his hands in an area they don’t belong and then held his arms down over my throat, choking me. Luckily a girl saw this and grabbed me. He was then long gone when I turned around."
She told GoMN she tried finding someone to report the man's actions, but security at the event was minimal.
"It took me a while to find anyone," she said. "When I finally did, they couldn't do anything since I couldn't identify him."
Minneapolis police did respond to the event following complaints of theft and disorderly conduct.
"There were no reports of a sexual nature reported to us," spokesman John Elder said.
'I had my body grabbed all over'
Cluraghty's experience was echoed by Toronto-based model Molly Rennick, who expressed similar dissatisfaction with the way the event was run and had her own tales of sexual harassment.
She said the models at the event were treated like "objects" and "bait to get men to spend thousands on tickets."
"I personally had my body grabbed all over," she told GoMN. "Men would walk by and squeeze us, try to grind us, feel us, pet our hair, and ask us if we wanted to go back to their places with them or if we had boyfriends.
"I saw many girls have the same things happening to them. They felt because they had the money to buy an overpriced ticket, they had the right to grope us."
Rennick said some of the worst offenders were men who were staffing the party.
As well as the groping, Rennick says many of the models were not allowed to walk the red carpet and have their photos taken, "which is the main reason most of us went."
Their experiences come amid a wider backlash against historic sexual harassment and assault of women and men by the rich and powerful, which has gone international via the #MeToo campaign.
"You would think after the #MeToo campaign people in this industry would be a LOT more careful and know better than to be grabbing and feeling up young models at a party, and pressuring them with their power, 'if you do this, I'll help your career.'," Rennick added on Facebook.
As for those who have responded to her saying "It was Maxim, what did you expect?" she had this to say.
What about the organizers?
While Maxim-branded, the event was actually operated by a California-based company, Karma International.
It describes itself on its website as a "private membership organization for exceptional people to connect socially and professionally," and has a multitude of events plan for the coming months in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Mexico and Houston.
GoMN asked Karma to comment on the models' experiences on Monday evening, and as of Thursday has not received a response.
We have also requested a comment from Maxim, again with no response. This story will be updated should we hear back from them.
But in comments on Rennick's initial Facebook post, a woman apparently involved with the event called her a "hypocrite" for choosing a photo taken at Maxim as her profile picture, before posting the following threat to Rennick's modeling career.
"I work for the production company. Love Karma, love the team at maxim [sic]. I’ve been producing events and in the entertainment business for a long time. I would be careful what negativity you put out there. Could potentially be detrimental to your career... you never know who’s looking."
"The experience is what you make of it," she later added. "You received a free ticket. No one is forced stay. I can understand that you were put off by the party, however, representing maxim in the profile photo(which is a very nice photo by the way) and then proclaiming disgust for the event, is a bit hypocritical. That’s all."
If you were at the party and witnessed any sexual harassment, get in contact with us at firstname.lastname@example.org