Powerful men across many industries continue to be called out for sexual harassment and assault, and now a former backup singer for Joss Stone has come forward to say Virgin founder Richard Branson sexually harassed her during a party in 2010.
After performing for the Go Green Festival on the British Virgin Island Tortola, Branson invited Stone and her musicians over to Necker Island, which is owned by the billionaire. Antonia Jenae, who sang with Stone as a backup singer during the concert, was among the guests invited.
At first, the stay at Neckler Island was peaceful enough, Jenae said, with a tour and a few meals. But then Branson made an advance on her, comparing her to a topless Indian statue he had by a pool on Necker Island and asking her to take off her top, she told the Sun. She said she refused, but he persisted in asking her to walk around topless.
“Richard Branson tried to get me to show him my boobs and I said: ‘No!'” Jenae said. “I was wearing a one-piece swimsuit and at the time I was very heavy chested.”
Afterward, Stone’s party was getting ready to leave when Branson made direct contact with Jenae, placing his face in her breasts and “motorboarding” her chest, according to a Facebook post from October. She says everyone there was equally appalled after witnessing the alleged assault.
“He went ‘brrrrrr’ and just walked away,” Jenae told the Sun. “It was surreal, totally out of the blue. Joss and I were like, ‘What the hell was that?!’ Everyone was wondering why I wasn’t angry because I’m usually a firebrand. But I was just too shocked.”
I have to be honest. My eyes are misty as I read #meToo after #meToo. The first time was when I was… like 6 or so,…Posted by Antonia Jenaè on Monday, October 16, 2017
Since then, Jenae mostly kept the incident to herself, only occasionally posting about what happened via Facebook. But she decided to come out about her time with Branson after seeing other survivors talk about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood.
“This needs to stop,” she told the Sun. “I want everyone else to know what Richard Branson did. I don’t want him to do this to anyone else. He is a man in a powerful position.”
Jenae has also defended her allegations via several Facebook posts, arguing that the pain and scrutiny involved in coming out about sexual abuse would prevent her from making any fake accusations. After all, Jenae now has a solo career, and Branson is an incredibly wealthy and powerful businessman.
“Why the ______ would anyone want to be famous for having an old man put his face in your breasts without your permission?” she wrote on Facebook Sunday night. “How is that going to make me successful?”
Virgin Management has since spoken out about the accusation, confirming that Stone and her band were invited to Necker Island back in 2010, but denying the alleged harassment ever took place.
“Joss Stone, members of her family and band were invited to Necker in June 2010. Everyone appeared to enjoy their time,” one spokesman told the Sun. “Richard has no recollection of this matter. Neither do his family and friends who were with him at the time. There would never have been any intention to offend or make anyone feel uncomfortable. Richard apologizes if anyone felt that way.”