Earlier in November, the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was filmed in New York. The show itself is a spectacle of bold colours, sexy lingerie, and elaborate wings, with the show often being praised for its innovative and eccentric outfits. However, a constant criticism of the Victoria’s Secret brand is the lack of diversity in the models cast in both the show and in the brand’s advertisement campaigns, with the majority of the models featured being white, cis, and able-bodied. Earlier this year, I wrote an article about the lack of diversity in the casting of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and focussed specifically on the transgender model Leyna Bloom, who went viral after tweeting her wish to become the ‘1stTrans model of colour to walk a #VictoriaSecret Fashion show’. The public’s desire to have women such as Leyna featured in the show is evidence of a greater cultural shift that has been impacting fashion over the last decade, with the social media generation being unwilling to accept fashion and advertisements that no longer reflect the world in which brands are attempting to sell to.
In a recent discussion between Vogue.com and two of Victoria’s Secret’s executives, Monica Mitro and Ed Razek, several comments were made regarding the diversity of Victoria’s Secret models. Whilst Razek did state that the brand has considered including plus-sized and transgender models, this idea was seen as somewhat unnecessary or as a form of pandering, as ‘We market to who we sell to, and we don’t market to the whole world’. Later in the interview, Razek and Mitro deemed the brand’s current offerings as inclusive, stating that they offer sizes ‘30A to 40DDD’, a range smaller than Rihanna’s brand Savage x Fenty who offers bras up to size 44DD.
The part of the interview which received the greatest criticism was Razek’s statements on the possibility of including transgender models in the show, with the marketing executive describing how ‘Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No. I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy’.
In the same article, Razek also claimed that Rihanna was praised for actions that Victoria’s Secret have already made, such as casting pregnant models to walk in their shows. Razek describes how ‘Everybody had the conversation about Savage [x Fenty] having the pregnant model in the show […] And all of these things that they’ve “invented”, we have done and continue to do’, highlighting his belief that Rihanna’s show was directly influenced by Victoria’s Secret. Whilst Victoria’s Secret may have had pregnant models walk for them before, with both Alessandra Ambrosio and Lily Aldridge having walked the catwalk in their first trimester, their pregnancies were not public knowledge at the time and their bodies did not outwardly seem to hold the signs of pregnancy. The admiration of the inclusion of Slick Woods in the 2018 Savage x Fenty show lies not simply in the fact that Woods was heavily pregnant, but because Rihanna included a body type that is often neglected from representation and reflects the immense changes a woman’s body undergoes during pregnancy. Spectacularly, after walking in the show, Woods rushed to hospital to give birth.
After the interview was published, Ed Razek offered the following apology, addressing only the comments made about transgender models:
“My remark regarding the inclusion of transgender models in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show came across as insensitive. I apologise. To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model for the show. We’ve had transgender models come to castings … And like many others, they didn’t make it … But it was never about gender”.
The filming of the show is usually met with some criticism, though this was greatly enhanced following the comments of Razek and Mitro. Notably, popular plus-sized model Ashley Graham reposted an image on her Instagram story claiming ‘real women’ were waiting for the line up to become more diverse. Whilst I agree with Graham’s sentiment on the important of the brand becoming more diverse, the comment made that plus sized women are “real” woman seems unnecessary. All women are women. All women deserve lingerie. The Victoria’s Secret models may represent a miniscule portion of the population, but they themselves are not the problem. Victoria’s Secret are the biggest retailer of lingerie, but until they start representing all women, I think I’d rather shop elsewhere.
This article can be found here: http://cubmagazine.co.uk/2018/04/leyna-bloom-for-victorias-secret/