In July 2021, in Victoria’s Secret store located at Short Hills Mall, New Jersey, a white woman, identified as Abigail Elphick, was caught on camera trying to physically assault a Black Nigerian woman, Ijeoma Ukenta.
The video showed Elphick lunging at Ukenta before crumbles onto the ground and begins crying, throwing tantrums in a manner that showed a mental breakdown.
Although Elphick denied attempting to attack Ukenta, Ijeoma insisted that she was “assaulted and harassed” and further accused the Police and security at the store of doing nothing about it.
Immediately the video of the incident, which was recorded by Ukenta, went viral on social media, Elphick was branded “Victoria’s Secret Karen”.
Ukenta started a GoFundMe, asking for financial assistance to help her hire an attorney in pursuing a lawsuit and raised more than $75,000. Ukenta also posted the video “Karen Goes Crazy Part 1,” on her YouTube channel and got 2.6 million views.
Ukenta filed a lawsuit against Elphick, Victoria’s Secret, the mall and its security company, arguing gross negligence, slow response and treatment as the antagonist rather than a victim of a fellow shopper’s attempted assault.
In a recent report, legal findings regarding the incident showed Elphick was disabled with a long history of medical and psychological conditions.
Elphick, 27, lives in a complex reserved for residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her behavior stemmed not from a “race-based” problem, according to a complaint filed by her lawyers, but from fear that being filmed would lead to the loss of her apartment and job, the New York Times reports.
When police arrived, Elphick told an Officer that she feared that the video would be published and cause her to lose her job and her apartment, according to a police report.
She began getting harassing calls and as recently as April contacted police to report that a man who referred to the Victoria’s Secret video had called her and threatened to rape and kill her, court records show.
“She has a disorder. She has anxiety,” he said. “She had a meltdown. Then the world we live in took over, and it became something entirely different than what it actually was,” Tom Toronto, president of Bergen County’s United Way, which runs the residential complex where Elphick lives, said.
Meanwhile, Ukenta financially benefitted from video. “Why wouldn’t I want to make $ off MY videos if everyone else is,” she wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, two months after the incident.