Gary King has been accused of sexual misconduct by a former staffer on Bravo’s hit Below Deck Sailing Yacht.
Samantha Suarez tells Rolling Stone that she joined the Below Deck franchise in the makeup department back on Season 10 before working closely with Gary King on Season 4 of Below Deck Sailing Yacht, which just wrapped airing a few weeks ago. She is accusing the reality star of trying to force himself on her while the show was in production in Sardinia, Italy last year.
According to the exposé, Suarez, 27, claims to have assisted the talent manager with “day-to-day tasks” including “making sure cast members were sequestered in their hotel rooms and didn’t bump into each other.” The crew was staying at the DoubleTree by Hilton Olbia-Sardinia for the duration of filming—where confessional interviews with the cast were also filmed—and the cast would also stay there on “dark days” of production (ie. no filming) and this is where the alleged sexual misconduct is said to have taken place.
On one “dark day” in July 2022, Suarez alleges that the cast had been plied with alcohol while filming confessional interviews and she accompanied Gary King back to his hotel room post-filming. “There is no limit to alcohol consumption whatsoever, which I think poses a really big problem,” she told Rolling Stone.
Sexual misconduct allegations hit Below Deck
According to the report, Suarez was having difficulty managing Gary, who was attempting to reach other cast members and sneak into their hotel rooms to hang out which again, is strictly forbidden by production considering this is a reality show. Here’s where things get really dicey.
From the Rolling Stone report:
Suarez says when King asked her not to leave she joked with him that she would sit outside of his door to make sure he wouldn’t leave his hotel room. According to Suarez, King then suggested she get in bed with him and repeatedly asked her not to leave his room even though she says he was aware that she was in a relationship with someone else. After a few minutes, she insisted she had to leave and help other cast members, telling King she would return later to drop off snacks and water. She says when she went back to King’s room with a case of water bottles and a bag of snacks, she knocked on the door and King answered the door in his underwear. She says she asked King to take the case of water out of her hands and he continued to ask her not to leave his hotel room.
Suarez again claims that Gary wouldn’t let her leave his hotel room. “I was like, ‘I have to go — I need to go bring other people water and food,’ and he’s like, ‘No, no, please,'” she recalled. “So I stepped into the room to set the case of waters down and again, he’s repeating, ‘Don’t leave,’ and I was like, ‘I have to go, I’m not staying.'”
At this point, Suarez says that this is where the sexual misconduct occurred.
When she turned toward the door, Suarez says King came up behind her, grabbed her, pressed her against his body, and refused to let go of her even though she says she tried to kick and elbow him to get him off her. She says she managed to get out of his grasp and went to open the door to leave. Then she says King slammed the door shut from behind her.
“At that point, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was freaking out,” Suarez said. “It just happened so fast.” Suarez claims to have received a phone call from the talent manager at this moment, which allowed her to make an exit.
Incident reported to production
According to the Rolling Stone account, Suarez immediately told Below Deck producers about the alleged sexual misconduct with Gary the very next day.
The next day, she says a co-executive producer reached out to her and they had a conversation about what happened. After Suarez spoke with the co-executive producer she says she had another meeting with him, executive producers Courtland Cox and Vivian Choi, as well as the show’s talent manager. She says she told the producers she didn’t feel comfortable being around King, she didn’t want to do his hair or makeup, and she didn’t want to be alone with him or in the same room as him. She says Cox apologized to her and said the producers would have a conversation with King, assuring Suarez that King would be fired from the show if any other incidents occurred. She says the next day producers removed King from the hotel where the rest of the cast and crew members were staying and for the rest of the “dark days” during filming, he was instructed to sleep on the boat.
According to Suarez, the production company assigned an HR representative to the situation and she ended up returning to the set to finish off the remainder of Below Deck Sailing Yacht Season 4. Producers even offered to fire Gary over the behaviour but it never ended up happening after Suarez indicated they seemed to be putting that decision on her.
The article includes additional allegations of sexual misconduct, with a separate crew member reporting that they saw Gary King inappropriately touch a female cast member on multiple occasions while the show was filming and he was inebriated.
“Nobody knew how to handle [my situation] and I think that’s why it was handled so poorly, because nobody knew what to do or what the right thing to do was,” Saurez explained. “I was told there weren’t any protocols and the only thing was to reach out to HR but even then, nothing was really happening.”
Bravo releases a statement
Below Deck star Gary King declined to comment for the Rolling Stone article but Bravo did release a statement in response to the story: “Bravo is committed to maintaining a safe and respectful workplace for cast and crew on our reality shows. We require our third-party production companies to have appropriate workplace policies and trainings in place and a clear process on how to report concerns. The concerns Ms. Suarez raised in July 2022 were investigated at that time and action was taken based on the findings.”
51 Minds, the production company behind Below Deck Sailing Yacht, also provided a comment to Rolling Stone: “51 Minds is committed to providing an environment in which every member of the casts and crews on our productions feel respected and, most importantly, safe. 51 Minds provides mandatory harassment and sensitivity training for every series it produces at the outset of each new season and lays out a clear process on how and to whom to report any questionable activity.”
“With any complaint filed, a timely investigation is launched and, based on the findings, appropriate actions are implemented to ensure the safety of our cast and crew, up to and including termination. With regard to the incident reported by Ms. Suarez involving Mr. King, the case was investigated and reviewed as soon as it was submitted, and production acted accordingly based on the results.”
As the article indicates, Gary King has been invited to attend BravoCon 2023, set to take place in Las Vegas this November. He is also returning for Season 5 of Below Deck Sailing Yacht which has already wrapped production. Suarez, for her part, says she was not invited to participate on another season of the show after reporting the incident.
This is a developing story. We’ll keep you posted…