Virgin Group head Sir Richard Branson is the latest high-powered man to be accused of sexual impropriety, as a backup singer and songwriter for musician Joss Stone has gone public with claims Branson approached and harassed her during a party on the billionaire's private island.
Antonia Jenae says that she visited Branson's Caribbean home on Necker Island after she and her band played a nearby festival sometime in the summer of 2010. Once there, Jenae says Branson approached her and encouraged her to take off her top. When she didn't, Jenae claims, he fondled her breasts anyway.
According to the Telegraph, who spoke to Jenae, Branson was “trying to convince me to show him my boobs." Then, Jenae claims, Branson “proceeded to ‘motorboard’ my breasts with his face."
Several friends witnessed the incident, Jenae says, and questioned why she didn't put a stop to Branson's antics. "[H]is behaviour was disgusting. I feel like it was sexual assault . . . Everyone was wondering why I wasn’t angry because I’m usually a firebrand. But I was just too shocked.”
Although the Telegraph just published Jenae's account, the accusations actually surfaced just as the wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations began to wash over the entertainment and media industries. Jenae posted about her encounter with Branson as part of the #MeToo campaign back in late October.
Branson, for his part, says he has "no recollection" of the incident. His company, Virgin Group, issued a statement on his behalf.
"Everyone appeared to enjoy their time on the island. Richard has no recollection of this matter and neither do his family and friends, who were with him on the island at the time," the statement read. "There would never have been any intention to offend or make anyone feel uncomfortable in any way and Richard apologises if anyone felt that way during their time on the island."
Joss Stone's father, Richard Stokes, also issued a statement in support of Branson, saying that he was with the band on the island, and indicating that he did not observe any untoward behavior. “Joss and the group had a wonderful afternoon on Necker Island, everybody entered into the party spirit and it was wonderful getting to know Richard and his family.”