TAMPA — Three models are accusing a local strip club of using the women’s images on social media promotions without their permission, creating the false impression the women endorse the business.
Models Jessica Burciaga, Eva Pepaj and Leilani Dowding say in their lawsuit that the Tampa Gold Club used their pictures and refused to stop, even after being sent a cease and desist letter from their lawyer in December demanding that the club stop using their images and pay almost $90,000 before a lawsuit and suggesting at least $765,000 in damages should a suit be filed and not settled within a specified time.
The lawsuit is similar to a suit filed in November by 16 models against Caliente Resort and Spa, a nudist destination in Land O’ Lakes. That lawsuit is still pending in U.S. District Court in Tampa.
The women are described in the lawsuit as successful in their professions and protective of their reputations.
The lawsuit says the Gold Club “gained an economic windfall by using the images of professional and successful models for defendants’ own commercial purposes, luring and enticing patrons worldwide to view the images and visit its strip club, without having to compensate the models a single penny for such usage. Plaintiffs, however, sustain injury to their images, brands and marketability by shear affiliation with Tampa Gold Club and the type of establishment.”
The suit describes this as “economic piracy — the lost commercial opportunity to bargain for and decline Tampa Gold Club’s proposed usage.”
It says the club went further and posted “misappropriated and altered images on their social media outlets ... next to or in very close proximity to photos reflecting explicit and lewd imagery.”
The images are “unsettling and disturbing,” the suit says. “But, when posted and presented in conjunction and in close proximity with the unauthorized use of plaintiffs’ images, they are offensive, insulting, humiliating, demeaning, and damaging to each model’s reputation, marketability and brand.”
According to the suit, Burciaga has business ventures including an online women’s clothing boutique. The suit says she “won Stuff Magazine’s ‘Neighborhood Knockout’ contest, appeared as a ring girl
in EA Sports Fight Night Round 3 video game, was a Playboy Playmate, and was featured in Maxim, Import Tuner, Modified Magazine, Performance Auto & Sound, Show Latina, and Lowrider Magazine, among others. As an actress, Burciaga has appeared as herself in several episodes of The Girls Next Door reality TV series.”
Latin Times described her as “JLo’s Doppelganger.”
Pepaj, the suit says, “has appeared in numerous print and media advertisements, including a national Diet Coke TV commercial and in advertisements for Oil of Olay, Fruit of the Loom, Kohler and Coca Cola. As an actress, Pepaj has had a lead role in The Hand Off, Interior, Leather Bar, and The Romp.”
The suit says Dowding is “a British glamour model, actress, and reality television personality. She started her modeling career in 1998, at just 18 years of age when she enrolled and won the Miss Great Britain competition. Later that same year, Dowding traveled to Hawaii to become the first woman of Asian descent to represent Great Britain in the Miss Universe pageant.
“The following year, Dowding appeared as a ‘Page 3’ girl in the British newspaper, The Sun. In 2003, she was rated #89 on the FHM’s Sexiest Women in World list and posed for Maxim Magazine in its December 2011 issue. Dowding has also guest starred on several television shows including Faking It Celebrity Wrestling, Celebrity Fear Factor, The Weakest Link, and Tough Love Miami.”