Monifah Brown was planning another trip from London to South Florida last week when she said casual messages with a rental condo’s owner took a racist turn.
Giulia Ozyesilpinar, a Miami Beach condo owner who listed her place on both Booking.com and Airbnb, repeatedly sent Brown texts, Whatsapp messages, voice messages and emails calling her the n-word, a monkey and a prostitute. A screen recording shared by Brown with the Miami Herald shows Ozyesilpinar posting Brown’s photo ID online.
Now, screenshots of Ozyesilpinar’s messages have been retweeted more than 11,000 times on Twitter, and Booking.com and Airbnb have removed her condo listings.
“I just hope people know to stay away from her property and to stay away from her,” Brown said.
Ozyeslpinar contends Brown provoked her reaction and has manipulated their digital exchanges, comparing her to the actor Jussie Smollet, who was arrested for fabricating a racist attack before charges were later dropped.
Ozyesilpinar claimed Brown started it by using fraudulent credit cards and sending her insults first. She provided the Miami Herald with her own screenshots that she said show Brown calling her a cracker, threatening her and insulting her mother, who died from cancer.
“Madam, if you insult me, I’m going to insult you back,” Ozyesilpinar told the Herald.
Brown, a 24-year-old events coordinator from London, and a group of friends were going to enjoy Miami Beach in September. On Wednesday, she found an availability at the Ocean Five Condo Hotel and immediately booked it because it’s on Ocean Drive, which is “the ideal place to stay,” she said.
Brown and Ozyesilpinar began communicating about how Brown needed to update her credit card information and have the booking paid for by Friday. The bill, according to an email supplied by Ozyesiplinar, came to $8.522.64, including tax, for 21 nights for four people.
When Friday came, Ozyesilpinar messaged Brown that the credit card information was still not working. The five-hour time difference between Florida and the United Kingdom didn’t help. Brown was at work so she could not respond to the messages, she said.
Ozyesilpinar messaged Brown, “You acting with lies gives a very very bad picture for all of the black people please try to act like a lady and be a very good representation of black people and not a lying untrustable person giving bad name to black people.”
Brown later responded to Ozyesilpina on Whatsapp, telling her she no longer wanted to stay at the condo and that she will contact Booking.com about the messages.
“Thank you so much for showing your true colours. I suggest next time you learn to have some class like this ‘black woman,’” Brown said in the message. She ended with a kissing face emoji and “racist b****.” Ozyesilpinar responded by calling her the n-word and a prostitute, according to the screenshots.
It didn’t stop there. Brown said Ozyesilpinar continued to harass her over the weekend with photos of monkeys and voice recordings of her making ape noises, playing jungle-themed music and calling her racial slurs.
Ozyesilpinar went as far as to post a YouTube video of Brown’s photo ID, which included the British woman’s full name and home address, next to a photo of an ape. By the time YouTube removed the video for violating its rules, Brown said several people (who she assumes to be Ozyesilpinar’s friends) messaged her racist messages as well.
Ozyesilpinar, in a conversation Tuesday with the Herald, acknowledged she did call Brown the n-word and a monkey while insisting that she is not a racist because she has black friends, voted for Hillary Clinton and rents to Nigerians.
She also said she posted Brown’s photo ID on her public Facebook account.
“She is a f***ing monkey,” she said. “Let me repeat, that is my freedom of speech.”
Ozyesilpinar also posted photos of two female reporters from the New Times and the Independent in London, which covered the story as well. She also told the Miami New Times she has black friends, voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton and that some of the messages were fake. (The screenshots Bennett posted on Twitter include Ozyesilpinar’s phone number.) New Times quoted her as saying she doesn’t regret calling people of color “monkeys” and said “being racist is not illegal.”
Brown said she has traveled to South Florida to vacation and visit family about 10 times and had never before had an issue using Booking.com. Brown called Booking.com twice to have Ozyesilpinar removed from the site and provided the messages as proof. Both times, she said she was told the service could not remove the listing.
Her friend, 21-year-old Moesha Bennett, decided to take matters into her own hands and posted the ordeal on Twitter, tagging several news outlets and rental websites. After that posting began to go viral, Booking.com responded with a tweet that the listing would be removed.
“It makes you feel like you literally can’t get nowhere unless you have social media behind you,” Brown said. “I felt like they didn’t even care about the racist comments.”
Bennett said she figured Booking.com would take action after she called out the company on Twitter, but she did not expect to receive thousands of retweets overnight. The Miami Beach getaway would have been Bennett’s first time in Miami. For now, the trip is canceled and Bennett isn’t sure if she ever wants to come.
“She just needs to be out of business,” Bennett said. “I’m so shocked, I hope this isn’t a reflection of what Miami’s really like.”