It was the grab seen ’round the world, when supposed Ukrainian entertainment journalist and celebrity “prankster” Vitalii Sediuk picked up model Gigi Hadid outside the Max Mara show during Milan Fashion Week — and got elbowed in the face for his troubles, as Hadid fought back. Not even a week later, Sediuk was at it again. This time, he lunged at Kim Kardashian in an attempt to literally kiss her famous a** as she exited her car in Paris upon arriving at L’Avenue restaurant.
He defended his actions on Instagram: “I was protesting Kim for using fake butt implants,” he wrote. “I encourage her and the rest of Kardashian clan to popularise natural beauty among teenage girls who follow and defend them blindly.”
Though Kardashian’s bodyguards luckily tackled Sediuk to the ground before he could make physical contact, the question remains: How the hell is this guy allowed to get away with this behavior … and after so many years of physically accosting Hollywood stars? According to one legal expert, it’s in part because the celebs in question haven’t been pressing charges.
“Celebrities initially dismissed him as a rabid fan and were told to ignore him, because otherwise they’d just be playing into it,” Clint Van Zandt, former FBI profiler and president of Van Zandt Associates, tells Yahoo Celebrity. “But I think anyone who’s out there who becomes a victim should immediately file criminal charges. He should be charged and prosecuted immediately. It will make a difference once celebrities do this across the board — they need to say that he presents a potential physical threat, and that threat could be increasing. Every celebrity has a responsibility to the other to respond to this guy.”
Van Zandt says part of the reason that celebrities don’t press charges is that they don’t want to have to deal with the complications that can come along with that, such as making appearances in court. However, the potential threat of Sediuk’s behavior is one Kardashian is reportedly taking seriously. As a two-time victim of Sediuk — he tackled her to the ground during Paris Fashion Week in 2014 — Kardashian is considering pressing charges, according to Us Weekly. The problem is, Sediuk has been charged before … and it hasn’t seemed to discourage him from this behavior.
Since his first appearance in 2011, when he gave Madonna a bouquet of her least-favorite flower (hydrangeas) in hopes of provoking a reaction that would go viral (which it did), Sediuk has been charged and arrested for some of his so-called pranks, but he’s mostly gotten away with it.
In 2013, he was given a suspended sentence for crashing the Grammys stage when Adele went up to accept an award from Jennifer Lopez, who shoved him aside when she saw him coming. He avoided a six-month jail term and was given a lifetime ban from the L.A. Live complex, along with probation, which was lifted in June.
Sediuk’s harshest sentence came in 2014 when he attacked Brad Pitt on the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of Maleficent. Pitt punched him, and he was later arrested and charged on four counts, including unlawful activity and assault and battery. He faced legal prosecution but avoided jail time and was instead ordered to perform community service. Sediuk made the no-fly list, but that ban was lifted so he could attend therapy in L.A. as part of his sentencing. Even his lawyer dumped him over this incident.
Sediuk’s list of celebrity attacks is long. He tried to kiss Will Smith on the red carpet at the Moscow premiere of Men in Black 3 in 2012:
Attached himself to Bradley Cooper’s leg at the SAG Awards in January 2014:
One month later, he went attempted to crotch hug Leonardo DiCaprio at the Santa Barbara Film Fest:
And we can’t forget the time he dove under America Ferrera’s gown at the premiere of How to Train Your Dragon 2 during the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, among other distasteful experiences. The latter was the event that got him fired from his press outlet, Ukraine media channel 1+1, and while he claims to still be a journalist, it’s unclear who his employer is. Sediuk has also expressed interest in becoming a filmmaker.
Even though Sediuk’s behavior is unsavory, Van Zandt says it’s incorrect to label him a stalker.
“What we find when we deal with stalkers is there’s a single interest,” he explains. “This guy isn’t interested in stalking someone; he’s more interested in sharing the spotlight with them by encroaching on their body space. This guy isn’t breaking into their houses — he’s finding an element of fame. This is exciting for him. This meets some kind of social, maybe sexual, need he has.”
Van Zandt spent years working high-profile cases for the FBI and continues to support clients such as corporate officials and celebrities who contend with stalkers and their threatening behaviors. While Sediuk’s approach doesn’t constitute stalking, Van Zandt does point out that there has been an escalation in Sediuk’s attacks — and that could spell trouble down the road.
“Let’s say you take a 12-inch ruler and on the far left side there’s fantasy, and then on the far right side there’s actual contact with the celebrity,” Van Zandt says. “This guy has been moving along the continuum from thinking about it to actual action, and it’s increasing in danger. Whatever he initially did with celebrities, it hasn’t been enough. It’s like psychological heroin — he needs a little more each time.”
Even though Van Zandt says there’s not much a celebrity can legally do ahead of time to prevent Sediuk’s attacks, he does have recommendations for future red carpet events that could be vulnerable to ambush. Using the Secret Service as inspiration, organizers can identify and target Sediuk — and if they can’t block him by denying media accreditation, they can assign a security detail to stay on him so they can be prepared if he makes a move.
But the most important step is to clearly define what the issue has become. As Van Zandt puts it, “He has to be identified for what he is: someone with mental health issues and whose behaviors are getting worse. He has to be dealt with before he hurts someone.”
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.