For nearly eight months now, LGBTQ people in Chechnya, the semi-autonomous Russian region, have faced an ongoing campaign of kidnapping, detainment, torture and murder that has reportedly resulted in 28 deaths (including those of several teenagers). And while some individual activists have raised money to help queer Chechens escape persecution, a New York City modeling agency has planned a sexy 2018 calendar to help raise money for the cause, too. That all sounds great, but a few things about it don’t quite add up.
The “official” story behind the Chechnya butt calendar
According to its website, Collectif TBD Models has begun shooting a calendar entitled “Butt it’s 2018… Why Is This Going On?” It’s being shot by Mexican fashion photographer Balthier Corfi (who has previously photographed sexually fluid male model and Chippendales dancer Nyle DiMarco). The calendar is being produced by Todd Hanshaw, founder of the Collectif TBD Models agency.
The calendar features various muscular men showing off their shapely backsides, and all of its proceeds will go to Rainbow Railroad, a Canadian organization that has helped roughly 40 gay and bi men flee Chechnya.
The official public launch of the calendar is set for Aug. 10, 2017, at 7 p.m. at Rebar NYC, a gay bar in the Chelsea district of Manhattan (which was previously embroiled in controversy surrounding claims of racism during its opening weekend).
Collectif TBD Models’ website is currently selling the calendar for $35, along with five “limited edition, signed, framed and numbered prints of each photograph” for $1,000 (accompanied by a letter of authentication).
Here are images from the Chechnya butt calendar:
Now for the weird, somewhat confusing backstory of the Chechnya butt calendar
Even though Collectif TBD Models is currently selling the calendars for $35 a piece on the web, it’s also concurrently running a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to have the calendar printed — meaning they’re selling a product they don’t yet have money to print.
On its website, Collectif TBD Models describes itself thus:
“… a successful Mother Agency working with new talent. We develop young talent into successful working models. Building their books, teaching them the ins and outs of the business, shooting them in editorials in top magazines and in turn placing them with the best agencies around the world.”
Despite being a “successful Mother Agency” (a term used to describe a group that scouts new talent and helps undiscovered models start their modeling career), Collectif TBD Models has no official website, only a five-page site detailing the calendar project.
The agency also has no real social media presence. Its earliest Instagram photo is from July 13, 2017 (barely two weeks ago), and it almost entirely features shots from the calendar. The agency’s Facebook page was started in January 2016, with only 11 posts and only one picture of an actual model. The rest of the page’s photos are of space sparsely furnished or of merchandise inventory.
The résumé of calendar producer Todd Hanshaw doesn’t mention that he’s the founder of Collectif TBD Models, an odd omission for the founder of a “successful Mother Agency.” It is listed on his LinkedIn account, though, he’s listed as its Managing Director rather than its founder.
Hanshaw also has a complaint lodged against him at a website called Rip-Off Report, alleging that he owes an anonymous complainant $26,000 for a bounced check and undelivered prepaid services.
Is the Chechnya butt calendar a scam?
A single anonymous complaint lodged on a complaint website is hardly proof of wrongdoing. And we’re not saying that the calendar is a scam, necessarily. If anything, the Collectif TBD Models website shows that the photos have at least been taken.
Also, Rainbow Railroad is a legitimate charity. They have worked closely with the Russian LGBT Network — a non-governmental organization that has provided info on Chechnya to the press and human rights organizations — and have received plenty of press about their work.
But the agency’s nearly non-existent media presence raises an eyebrow. Even if it’s just Hanshaw’s neglected and occasional side-project, a modeling agency with hardly any shots of its models seems odd. So does selling a calendar that can’t afford to be printed.
We’ve reached out to Hanshaw and his agency in the hopes of getting some answers. Until we hear back, enjoy the shots above.