In the last 20 years, modelling has changed forever – trans, plus size, women of colour, and disabled women have far more visibility, and we seems to be heading into a healthier direction in terms of representation. After two decades full of enormous growth in the model community, there is still one brand that seems to be stuck in the year 1998: Victoria’s Secret.
Every year Victoria’s Secret hosts the biggest lingerie runway show in the world, aired in December. It’s more than just a runway show— it’s a huge event hosted in a different city each year, with multiple performing acts and over two dozen models with numerous outfit changes. There are women who would do almost anything to walk in this show. Once you’ve booked with VS, you’ve quintessentially ‘made it’ in the modelling industry.
This year, we all thought things might run a little differently with VS, as they cast more diverse models, such as Winnie Harlow, a Canadian model with a skin condition called vitiligo. Sadly, we were mistaken. A few days after the show was taped on November 8th in NYC, Victoria’s Secret chief marketing officer Ed Razek did an interview with Vogue magazine. When asked if the show should include plus size and transgender models he stated:
“No. No, I don’t think we should. The show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is. It is the only one of its kind in the world,”
Many fans, (including myself) were so confused after hearing this statement. I had to sit back and really ask myself these questions: Why are plus size and transgender models not considered ‘fantasy material’? Fantasy is a daydream of one’s desires. Essentially, it seems that Ed Razek has slammed plus size women and trans women as undesirable.
Aside from the rampant misogyny plaguing the brand, it’s also coming to more and more fans attention that VS is dangerously unethical. The company has almost zero transparency when it comes to revealing who makes their clothes and what type of conditions their workers are forced to operate within. In fact, next to Forever 21, they were one of the worst offenders in 2017 for not providing information on their supply chain practices, according to babe.net.
As Razek also stated, the VS show is the only one of its kind in the world. Granted, that’s true. The only problem is: there isn’t only one kind of woman. More than 68% of women are considered plus size and 1.2 million women identify as transgender, and that is just in the United States. Since this is the only lingerie runway show of its kind in the world, shouldn’t it be used to reflect the reality of womanhood, seeing as though we have hardly any other major lingerie runways to explore this on?
I wasn’t the only one pondering these exact questions. Many transgender and plus size women took to social media to discuss the Victoria’s Secret controversy. Gigi Gorgeous, a YouTuber who is also a transgender women, made a video expressing her disappointment in the brand. She explained how the brand held a special place in her heart since the first ever bra she bought after her breast augmentation surgery was from Victoria’s Secret. Now, she can’t even see herself stepping into another VS store because she does not feel accepted by the brand.
After a few days and thousands of negative responses, Razek made a public statement on the brand’s twitter account, which stated:
”To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model in our show. We’ve had transgender models come to castings… And like many others, they didn’t make it.”
This apology seemed very unclear – and very insincere. Since the company was receiving so much backlash, it appears they’ve done what Logan Paul or PewDiePie might do – they offered a quick, thoughtless apology in an effort to avoid losing cash or customers. Although Razek addressed the ‘trans issue’, he failed to apologise to the plus-size women he body shamed. It’s a big middle finger up to any woman above the size of a VS model. It was only a few days after this tweet that reports began flooding in claiming that Jan Singer, the company’s CEO, had resigned after only two years with the brand. It seems that the culture shift has proved just too much for the weakening brand.
Their views each year for the glam show have been collapsing, while their sales are dwindling. They even hit a new low in 2017 when their audience shrunk by 32 per cent.
Even though some fans may appreciate the apology, it still doesn’t change what was originally said and for many of us, it won’t change our opinion now on this brand.
For now, to show our solidarity with the women who have been shamed, we can stop pumping money into the dated brand, find alternative lingerie, and wait and see the VS angels fall from grace.
Your move, Ed Razek.