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Conversations with Chanel Richards

Toronto – “Coco Chanel was an escort,” Chanel Richards, an escort in Toronto, is telling me. “A gentleman put money up to get her started in the perfume and dress industry. She was such an incredible designer that Eva Gabor and all the big movie stars were going to her boutique to get fitted by her. When they found out she was an escort, they wouldn’t go anymore. It was all over the news It was everywhere.”

So Chanel, or Sexy Chanel as she calls herself, certainly sees the irony of the Chanel perfume company now coming after an escort simply because she happens to own a url –, they want to have but never thought to register.

And, because of that, Chanel Richards has been harassed with threatening letters and anonymous knocks on her door.

“I wish all of this would just go away,” Richards sighs. Her drama with Chanel perfume, particularly its law firm Ogilvy Renault, has been going on for a year. “They’ve even gone as far as knocking on my door,” she says. “It’s unbelievable.” Though she wouldn’t answer the door and discovered later, via the mail, that it was a cease and desist, Richards is confused why some big company would resort to bullying tactics over the issue of a url which she owns legitimately.

Richard’s story goes back about 15 years ago when she was a single mother and looking to make money to survive and pay her bills. “I was a masseuse at the time,” she explains. “Then I became an escort about two years ago. By boyfriend said to me why just be an escort, be the best and go upscale. I spent the money and hired a professional photographer. I decided to go all out with my website.” Richard’s website being

Richards for years went by the name Hazel. She didn’t seem to have a problem with it, but clients consistently pointed out to her that she was adopting the name of a TV character who was an old woman. “Stop using the name Hazel, they told me. I had no idea what TV show they were talking about,” Richards laughs. “Though I liked the name, after hearing that from six different people I decided to change it. The guys kept saying I was sexy. But Hazel wasn’t sexy enough for me.”

When her clients kept telling her how nice she smelled, that’s when Richards adopted her new name. “I put two and two together and called myself Sexy Chanel. That’s where it all started.”

Richards explains that it was her website’s marketing concept to have her standing beside a perfume bottle. “I paid someone to design it,” she said. “I told him to draw a perfume bottle but not the exact perfume bottle that Chanel uses. I wanted the perfume bottle to represent that I smelled good, that I’m clean and upscale. I wasn’t selling perfume. I wasn’t trying to give the connotation that I’m as classy as Chanel perfume or I wear it or that I give Chanel perfume as a gift. Nothing like that.”

Richards’ thought after seeing the website was, in her mind, wondering if it was going to draw attention from the Company. “I never thought that they’d bother me,” she said. “I never thought they would. I can’t seem to get them to go away.” Richards says the rift has affected her business. “They’ve ruined my business with the harassment for a year.” With all that being said, Richards laughs about going on some religious kick. She began studying the Kabalah a few months ago not even making the connection with Madonna.

Richards’ overall beef with the company is that she’s not just going to cough up a domain name because Chanel Perfume is resorting to hissy fits to grab it from her. “I’m not going to hand it over to them for free, no chance” she states. “Is this some kind of a joke? In a year they have not made an offer to me.”

According to Richards, one offer put on the table required her to make a name change to Chanelle, along with setting up a new website and changing the perfume bottle slightly. She did those things. And, according to her, Ogily Renault approved them. “Then they said we’ll see what our client wants to do.” Richards is of the opinion that the company now just wants to grab the url because it has a Sexy Chanel campaign possibly in mind.

“They want to expand their line on my concepts,” she surmises. “They only wanted this when they saw what I did with it. That’s what I think. Part of their strategy is probably to bully this out of her because she doesn’t want to go to court and she’s going to get scared. We did have a standoff for about two or three months. I didn’t register with the double-l until the day they showed up knocking at my door. They’re seeing that. They’re thinking all we have to do is scare her; next thing is she’ll hand over the domain name.”

From the mental anguish standpoint, Richards says when you have someone knocking on your door and threatening you, as it was in her case, her confidence and self-esteem became jeopardized. “I had so much confidence and courage in doing my dinner dates in showing my face,” Chanel says. “After that I blurred my face [on her ads] and started to hide. I started to think how do I know that they’re not going to send someone to see me so they could use it against me in court. I started to get paranoid. They put me in a terrible state and I’m just starting to come back out of it.”

What strikes Richards as strange is the fact that Chanel Perfume now wants both urls. “Can you imagine? They approved me changing it over to ‘Chanelle’.”

Now the company, from what she’s saying, is telling her that she can’t run her website under the name, Chanelle, either. “This is unbelievable.”

Because she got a blank statement of claims, Richards first operated under the premise that maybe this was some kind of scam artist at work. “But I’ve actually talked to the lawyers in Montreal,” she said. “And Ogily Renault are definitely Chanel’s lawyers. They’re pretty serious with the threatening letters that they’re sending me.”

Richards tried hiring a lawyer about two weeks ago. “I saw him on the Toronto Escort Review Board,” she explains. “There was a lawyer on their advertising. He was a criminal lawyer so I went to him. I figured he would do it pro-bono and take my 33% from what settlement he gets. I wanted him to negotiate with Chanel and make an offer for my domain name. He was such an idiot. It’s kind of funny that he represents escorts from a criminal aspect but he surely has no respect for them. He acted as if I was making this whole, entire thing up!” Richards fired him after five days.

“At the time I told him let’s send out a press release. I wanted the press release to say something to the effect that a multi-million dollar corporation is trying to steal from it’s rightful owner and that it was available for sale. He sent out a press release that said it ‘seemed’ as though Chanel, Inc. is trying to wrestle a domain name away from Ms. Richards. He said Ms. Richards ‘does not feel’ that she has harmed Chanel in any manner. Everything about the press release was full of doubt like he didn’t believe a word I told him. This guy is in court representing escorts from a criminal standpoint? Oh My God. I had to get rid of him.”

She couldn’t begin to hire a big gun trademark attorney, Richards admits. “Most of them charge $450 an hour.” However, Richards said she got some free consultation on the case. “Obviously I know I have to change the shape of the perfume bottle.” According to what Richards was told, if she had a daughter and named her Chanel, that was fine. But if the daughter started a business- any kind whatsover- Chanel would go after her.

“The lawyers told them that Chanel was so big that the general public could possibly think that Chanel had branched off and are selling dog food. There’s this huge umbrella that they could still fight under. But I wasn’t selling perfume. It’s me, I’m the product!” Nonetheless, Richards believe, wholeheartedly, that she has a case, primarily because she has been in business for so long.

Richards says the day care bills forced her to find a line of work that could handle them and live in a nice place, besides. “It’s almost inevitable in a sense,” she says. Richards first thought she couldn’t become a masseuse but took a course at a therapeutic spa. “I was terrified,” she remembers. “I put an ad in. My first appointment came in and I didn’t even have a massage table.” Richards did a therapeutic massage but realized the customer wanted more but didn’t make an issue of it.

“I was finished as far as I was concerned but the man looked at me like I was really weird. His mouth dropped open.” That’s when Richards realized that she’d have to add the happy ending to her repertoire.

“It was hard for me to make that transition, but once I did, it was the best thing ever.” According to Richards, after she placed her first ad, she was making $6,000 in a month.

“It was unbelievble for a single mother. It was, like, wow. After I became upscale with Sexy Chanel, I brought in $6,000 a week. Then I went to $10,000 in 24 hours when I went to the states. Richards said she first started charging about $200 an hour but started seeing what US girls were making. “I saw huge 300 pound girls charging $200 an hour,” she laughs. “I wasn’t in the same class as a 300 pound girl with a nasty looking condo with a bed on the floor.” With benefit of her new website, Richards said she upped her price immediately from $200 an hour to $600 Canadian an hour.”The Canadian guys were pissed. But I was the best in Toronto. Every guy in the city wanted to see me and my phone wouldn’t stop ringing.”

At her former price, Richards paints a picture of guys standing in line around a corner. “I couldn’t even order food,” she relates. “It was crazy. I didn’t get any sleep.” Richards told her old regulars that they could still have her at the old prices but that she was upping them for the new people. “But they were still pissed at me.”

Richards says her popularity didn’t sit well among the other girls in the business, hence, she’s being bashed by them on the Internet over the Chanel tiff. “I did expect that, but I put it out there.” And it was on the Internet that Richards saw a picture of the owner of Chanel.

“That man looks pretty serious!” she laughs. “When I saw his face I thought, oh my God, if that man saw my webite he’d be outraged!”



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